The World’s Toughest Bicycle Race

Race Across America

A million miles from nowhere, is better than going nowhere, a million times.

Anthony Liccione

Just How Tough do You Have to be?

The Race Across America is the longest running ultra-endurance events in the world – it tests the rider’s speed, endurance, strength and teamwork. It’s known to be the longest time trial and the toughest cycling event in the world. It’s the pinnacle of ultra-racing.

Unlike the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and Giro de Italia, the Race Across America isn’t a stage race. It’s 30% longer than the Tour de France, has no rest days and must be completed in half the time. And as if that wasn’t enough, team riders have been known to finish the race in just over 5 days!

Distance in miles
170 000
Cumulative vertical ascent (ft)
Cut off time for team (days)
Number of rest days

Distance: 3000 miles / 4800Km

That’s a really long way to ride in a very short time. I’ll be riding with team mate Phil Theodore and be crossing 12 states, 4 time zones, 4 of America’s longest rivers, 3 iconic landmarks, 3 major mountain ranges, and 2 deserts. The total cumulative ascent over the route is in excess of 170,000 ft – equivalent to climbing the height of Mt Everest almost six times!

Elevation: Sea-level – over the Sierra Nevadas, Rockies and Appalachians – Sea level

It doesn’t look as long on the map now as it will on Day 1. At first I thought it may be a good way to see the country but I think I’m going to be seeing more tar than anything else.

Oceanside, California – Ram’s Head Tavern/City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland

Raced in June to give riders the maximum daylight hours available, the word ‘day’ is still a bit of a misnomer as we’ll be doing a lot of night cycling to reach the finish line in under 9 days.

Number of Rest Days: 0

The race starts under one of the longest piers in California and ends at the east coast sailing mecca of Annapolis.

My Riding Partner

I met Phil Theodore during the build-up to the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. While I rowed solo, Phil rowed as part of a pair. Phil, myself and my wife, Sarah in London at the memorial for the adventurer Ernest Shackleton and his men.

History of the Race

On Saturday, 17 June 2017, Phil and I begin the great race. One of the first to ride across America was newspaperman George Nellis. In 1887, on a 45-pound iron high wheeled velocipede, George followed the railroad routes – which, considering he didn’t have GPS was the best way to ensure he didn’t get lost. It was an incredible feat. It’s hard enough cycling up a mountain on a modern, streamlined, built-for-racing bicycle that comes complete with a huge number of gears, a support team and intensive training, the mind boggles to think of doing it on your own, on a penny-farthing! According to George, bananas and molasses cookies go down a treat by the time you get to Indiana. It took George 80 days to complete what was more of an exploration than a race. It was inspirational and every ten years or so, his record would be broken.

In the 1970’s, John Marino decided to see just how fast he could do transcontinental bike ride. In 1982, the Great American Bike Race began with 4 riders, John Marino, Lon Haldeman, Michael Shermer and John Howard, racing from Santa Monica to New York. It has been run every year since then and is now known as the Race Across America.

George Nellis in New Bicycle Suit, San Francisco, August 1887. 
Source: Collection of Gordon D. Riedell.

Some trips are more than distance travelled in miles.

Lucy Knisley