The Ten Greatest Truths of Team RAAM Racing

By Chris Kostman and Michael Olstad

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, Vol. 4, No. 5, November 1995

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  1. It is true that you will get very little sleep, and in fact, no sleep at all for the first 24 to 48 hours of Team RAAM. A former solo RAAM winner remarked about Team RAAM being a "sleep fest" as he was passed by the lead teams this year. He couldn't have been further from the truth. To put it simply, there is no rest for the weary in Team RAAM!
  2. Admittedly, this may be hard to understand, unless you've been there. But just imagine trying to get any sleep during the short timeframe that your three teammates (or two if one is injured, as often is the case) do their 30 to 45 minutes time trials. Now factor in ALWYAYS moving vehicles, no time to ever stop at a motel or restaurant, and a pace so high that it's nearly impossible to catch back up if you stop your vehicle for more than a few minutes. The result is that you, your teammates, your crew, and your vehicles are constantly rolling and bouncing down the hot, sticky, smelly road, never allowing a moment of peace for some real sleep. Most Team RAAMers get no more sleep than their solo compatriots.
  3. It is true that you will only dream of a warm, relaxing shower during the entire Team RAAM. For the same reasons outlined above, there's no chance for a shower. And don't even think about using the RV's shower. It's either plugged up, being used to wash clothes or dishes, or the RV's water tanks are empty and there's no time to stop for a dump and fill. In 1993, the PacifiCare team had no RV and didn't even have time to stop and do laundry. Clothes were dried, but never washed, at laundramats, then worn again, and again, and again.
  4. It is true that it costs at least $10,000 to do Team RAAM, and that is a shoe string budget. Team RAAMers have to feed, clothe, equip, and transport four riders, not one, plus Team RAAM crews average ten to twenty members and utilize two or three vans, plus one or two RV's. The expenses go up exponentially in the Team RAAM, so be careful with that budget!
  5. It is true that it costs about $25,000 to $35,000 to do Team RAAM if you want to be competitive. Winning budgets have ranged from $10,000 to $100,000, and the average is about $30,000. Just in rough terms, factor in $2000 for the entry fee, $15,000 for bikes and equipment (and that's assuming you can buy at wholesale and get much donated), $4000 for just one RV, $3000 for three mini vans, $4000 for gas, $4000 for food, $2000 for hotel rooms, and you've already spent $34,000. You had better raise at least $40,000 if you want to race in relative style, comfort, and be competitive. (More detailed budgets are available from Kostman Sport Group. Send an SASE.)
  6. It is true that you will have the fastest and/or most memorable ride of your cycling career during Team RAAM. Imagine climbing UP the Yarnell and Prescott grades at 19 mph, changing riders every few miles. Riding at 92% of your maximum heartrate, you have less than 30 minutes to recover between rides. Cresting the top of the climbs, you're still neck and neck with another team. You continue fighting for position in the dark at speeds of over 40 mph as you pass through town. You're going so fast, your support van gets pulled over for speeding. As you await another of your support vans and a fresh rider, your competitors ride away into the distance. Soon, your teammate and a street-legal driver and support vehicle resume the chase, and it's back to racing right at your anaerobic threshold. And so it goes for over five days...
  7. It is true that you will have the slowest and/or most frustrating ride of your cycling career during Team RAAM. Imagine fighting your way into a 25 mph headwind (which, when added to the 20 mph you're riding, equals 45 mph of wind resistance) in a blinding rain storm. You're in second place and thirty minutes back. Ahead, the race leaders have reached a critical point in the race route that takes them in a 90 degree different direction. They're blasting down the race route right now at 30 mph. Before you know it, despite your most heroic efforts, you'ver over a full hour behind. And so it goes for over five days...
  8. It is true that USCF, NORBA, and Tri-Fed racers make great Team RAAM racers. Racers from these backgrounds are used to the rider-unfriendly circumstance of starting a race at full-blown race pace, with no time for a warm-up, loosening out the kinks, waking up, or idle chitchat with crew or other racers. It's just hop on the bike, "warm-up" for 60 seconds, then get the nudge (or push, or tug, or yell) from your teammate to go anaerobic. And since it would be the biggest insult to lose even a nanosecond of the time made up by your teammate during his or her pull on the bike, you always start your own 30 to 45 minute pull with your heartrate maxed out. Soon enough, you'll be off the bike for some 90 to 120 minutes, then back on the bike for another jamming, balls to the wall hammerfest. And so it goes for over five days...
  9. It is true that while Team RAAM is an endurance sporting event, you had better have national caliber time trialing speed if you want to be competitive. Simply put, the intensity is consistently higher in Team RAAM than in any other bike race in the world (key word here is "consistently"). Unlike the solo RAAM, where such variables as sleep needs, injuries, loss of focus, mood swings, hospital visits, and other human variables make the racers yo-yo back and forth across the country, Team RAAM is pure horsepower and strategy from start to finish. If you don't have both, you're off the back, NEVER to make it up, before leaving California.
  10. It's also worth noting that both you and and your bike must be as aerodynamic as possible. That means you're always glued to the aero bars and you ride the latest, tricked out, super aero equipment.
  11. It is true that Team RAAM will try your crew far more than anything else they'll ever do in life. For all of the reasons outlined above, Team RAAM crews get no sleep, no showers, no sit down meals, no tim recuperate, ever. The tension is incredible, as everything must be done quickly, perfectly, and at a moment's notice. Just jockeying the vehicles around over and over again at night in order to effect smooth rolling rider exchanges, while being careful not caravan, is enough to fry your nerves. Then try to figure out how to prepare warm meals for the riders and other crew members, massage four bodies, keep eight bikes tuned up, and keep all the vehicles tanked up and headed in the right direction.
  12. It is true that you if you race Team RAAM that you will use at least a portion of your 15 minutes of fame. Team RAAM is a media and sponsorship delight: a true race with speeds and hype to fascinate, entertain, and illuminate. It's also an event that the sporting and general public can relate to (team work, overcoming the elements, etc.), not an event for just the lunatic fringe. For these and many other reasons, sponsors and local media love to get behind Team RAAM teams. Just look at the backers of some of the recent teams: PacifiCare, Pepsi, Manheim Auto Auctions, Coldwell Banker, Secure Horizons, just to name a few. This is major corporate investment because it's a major corporate exposure opportunity. This it turn feeds the media frenzy, making, for example, the Kern Wheelmen or PacifiCare riders recognizable local heroes. Or in Pepsi-Brazil's case, national heroes and the subject of innumerable cover stories and television documentaries.

There are many reasons to participate in Team RAAM, but the simple truth is this: Team Race Across AMerica is fun, exciting, and life-changing. What more do you need?

Kostman is the Team RAAM and Furance Creek 508 Race Director. Olstad rides for the PacifiCare team based in San Antonio, TX, which placed 1st in Team RAAM '93, 5th in Team RAAM '94, and 3rd in Team RAAM '95, as well as 2nd in Team 508 '93 and 3rd in Team 508 '94.

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