The New Solo RAAM Enduro Division


by Danny Chew



On Super Bowl Sunday, Daniel Coyle wrote a long article on current/defending RAAM champ Jure Robic in the New York Times at:


I had to outdo the length of this article by getting many different viewpoints both for and against the new solo RAAM Enduro division.  In this article, you will hear from the following 33 RAAM riders in this order:  Pete Penseyres, Jonathan Boyer, Jure Robic’s crew chief Rajko Petek, Chris MacDonald, Mike Trevino, Fabio Biasiolo, David Haase, Lon Haldeman, Ben Robinson, Jim Trout, Chris Hopkinson, Marko Baloh, Patrick Autissier, Mark Metcalfe, Rob Kish, Bob Fourney, Allen Larsen, Seana Hogan, Muffy Ritz, Cassie Lowe, Susan Notorangelo, Rick Kent, Tom Buckley, John Hughes, Terry Lansdell, Perry Stone, Paul Skilbeck, Shanna Armstrong, Guy Wells, Kenny Souza, Rob Lucas, Peter Moffett, and Sandy Whittlesey.  Although my article may be long, please keep in mind that it’s not nearly as long as RAAM! 


In light of two deaths in the past three RAAMs, the Race Across AMerica is undergoing a major change in the solo division this year (2006).  The new category Enduro, will impose 40 hours of mandatory rest/sleep stops taken at official, manned time stations spread across the country.  Five of these stations (in Durango, CO, El Dorado, KS, Jefferson City, MO, Indianapolis, IN, & Parkersburg, WV) are all mandatory with minimum two hour stops required at each one.  Any other stops will not count towards these 40 hours.  Race organizers came up with 40 hours as their best guess of what amount of time would best suite the new division.  After studying the results of the first Enduro race, the amount of mandatory sleep may be modified in future events.  RAAM Media Communications Director Paul Skilbeck wanted to see even more time (6 hours per day instead of 4) off the bike.  The old solo category (riders are allowed to stop as often as they want anywhere along the route) will continue to be held, and called the Traditional division.  In recent months, the e-mail forum has been flooded with posts for and against this change, and the long-term ramifications concerning the growth and survival of RAAM.  After receiving many e-mails asking me where I stand, I have decided to write this article. 


Coming from a road racing background, I was always concerned how I would handle the sleep deprivation aspect of RAAM.  After winning my first RAAM qualifier back in 1988, I spent 6 years contemplating if I could finish solo RAAM before showing up on the start line in 1994.  I ended up spending 48 total hours (38 hours of actual sleep) off my bike that year which was my only RAAM out of 8, which would have complied with the new 40 hour rule.  Because RAAM is so long, the only time you can learn how much sleep you need for your best ride is during RAAM.  This magical amount of ideal sleep times varies widely among riders, and may even change among individuals, as we get older.  This is one of the major reasons it is so hard for a rookie to win RAAM.  I loved having the freedom to experiment with my sleep times on RAAM until I discovered that three hours taken all at once each night (not counting the first night) was my perfect amount.  Although this perfect amount of sleep may have led to my best performances, it didn’t always guarantee a win.  I have lost (6) far more RAAMs than I have won (2).


Solo average speed (15.40 mph) record holder and two time solo RAAM winner Pete Penseyres seems to agree with me on sleep amounts varying so much among RAAM riders.  Regarding his thoughts on the new Enduro division, he wrote the following e-mail back in September 2005. 


The amount of sleep required for rider safety varies widely.  For example, I was able to ride safely on one sleep cycle (which for me is about 1.5 hours) per night (after skipping the first night) for the first 7 days of the '86 RAAM.  I had to sleep twice during the last night.  The mandated 40 hours of sleep would have slowed my overall time by at least 24 hours.  However, my brother required much more sleep (at least twice to 3 times that much).  His response to sleep deprivation was to ride very slowly, sometimes at walking pace, while thinking he was riding well.  He never fell or rode unsafely because of lack of sleep, so when we forced him to sleep it was generally to get his riding speed back up again.  I believe he would have finished just as quickly with the proposed 40 hour mandated sleep schedule.  Two brothers--three solo RAAMs each.  One would definitely finish faster with self-scheduled, non-mandated sleep breaks, and the other would perhaps finish just as quickly with mandated 40 hours of sleep. 

Based on the above, I agree with Lon that a new mandated sleep division be added to RAAM.  It should not be based on some perceived increase in rider safety, since it will still be necessary for sleep division crews to monitor their riders and perhaps require additional sleep breaks for rider safety.


Of the 22 over 14 mph solo transcontinental crossings made by 10 men, perhaps Jonathan Boyer and I were the only two who slept more than 20 total hours the entire race.  A rider must be very fast and confident to know that he can go over 14 mph despite sleeping so much.  {All RAAM speeds are averages over the entire distance including all stops.}  4 time solo RAAM finisher Pat Ward once told me, “Every minute off the bike makes you faster on the bike.”  Sleep more than 4 hours per night, and you can’t make up the lost time.  Sleep less than one hour per night, and you end up crawling along in a zombie like trance too slow to catch anybody.  So although RAAM can be ridden fast on more sleep, this method seems to be the exception rather than the rule.  Boyer and I only have three of the over 14 mph crossings out of 22.  


The most talented cyclist to ever race RAAM, Jonathan (Jock) Boyer was a pioneer in American bike racing.  Long before Armstrong and LeMond, Boyer was the first America to ever race the Tour de France – finishing as high as 12th place on GC.  He won the Coors Classic stage race in Colorado, and placed 5th in the 1980 professional World Road Race.  Before LeMond and Armstrong won the Worlds, this result was the best ever by an American.  In 1985 (Rob Kish’s first of 20 RAAMs), Boyer became the only “rookie” ever to win solo RAAM, setting the 14.31 mph rookie average speed record which still stands today.  All of this done on a bicycle without aerodynamic handlebars or the super lightweight aero wheels of today.  Taken for granted and used by nearly every racer today, these two innovations can knock up to a full day off RAAM finishing times. 


After crewing for his former professional 7-Eleven teammate Eric Heiden’s Team Donate Life in last years 8 person Corporate Team RAAM, Boyer has caught RAAM fever again, and plans to race Enduro this year at age 50!  If it were anybody other than Boyer, I would doubt his ability to win at age 50.  After all, 50 is when you are considered “old” in RAAM since the oldest solo winner was 43 year old Pete Penseyres in 1986 when he set the 15.40 mph speed record which still stands today!  Boyer will most likely beat Bob Breedlove’s 12.26 mph 50+ transcontinental record, but can technology (a faster bike) help Boyer ride as fast (14.31 mph) as he did on his RAAM victory 21 years ago?  He may not need to go quite that fast as last years winner Robic “only” averaged 13.58 mph. 


The only rider ever in the rare position to compare the Tour de France with RAAM, Boyer will not go there.  In a recent e-mail to me, he did offer insight into the new Enduro division, and looks forward to getting more sleep in it than he got in his only other (traditional) RAAM back in 1985. 


The new Enduro class will put a new face on the RAAM and I think that as more “racer” type riders compete in the new Enduro RAAM, it will become more and more difficult for the traditional “ultra marathon” rider to place.  It is easier for a racing cyclist to lengthen his rides, sleep less and maintain a higher speed than for an “ultra marathon” rider to up his speed by just sleeping more.  One rider is trained to ride fast; the other is maxed at one slow speed that he or she can maintain with very little sleep.

Some have tried to compare the Enduro RAAM to the Tour de France which to me is ludicrous, there is no comparison.  They are two very very different races and the level of “difficulty” is so different they are worlds apart.

I think that it will be interesting to see what happens in this first Enduro RAAM.  Riders and their crews will actually have to make a strategy for the race instead of just “winging” it, sleeping when one can where one likes.  I wonder where the Traditional riders will be as the race progresses.   Riders will probably be closer together for a longer period of time, which will make it more competitive and animated.  Now if the organizers put a $100,000 prize list for the Enduro, you will see it really attracting lots of new riders and the competition would be fierce.

We shall see how long the old record stands under this new format.  It is possible that the old way really slows faster riders down too much, and the new way will keep the speeds up by allowing more recovery.  {Even though on-the-bike speeds will be faster in Enduro RAAM, the full 40 hours can’t all be made back up.  A rider’s on-the-bike average speed would have to be 1.68 mph faster to make up this difference over a 3,033 mile route.  Pete Penseyres says his Traditional finishing time would be at least 24 hours faster than his Enduro time, but I think it would be more like 12-18 hours faster.  The only way I see an Enduro time beating Pete’s record is if an athlete superior to Boyer in his prime (such as Armstrong) would race.}

In any case, I am not going to worry about if I will miss the old format or if I could go faster in the Traditional RAAM.  The Enduro is what it is, and I am adjusting my riding to it looking forward to the additional sleep.

The more common way to ride over 14 mph or win RAAM is to average two or less hours of sleep per night.  Current RAAM champion Jure Roboc of Slovenia has really pushed the envelope for being able to get by on very little sleep.  He won in 2004 on just 12 total hours of sleep, and again in 2005 on 14 total hours.  He is one of the few solo RAAM riders I know whom actually trains for sleep deprivation.  He practices by staying awake for 48 straight hours several times before RAAM.  Robic is against the new Enduro division because it takes away his advantage to get by on such little sleep.  In a recent e-mail, Robic’s crew chief Rajko Petek gave me Jure’s 2004 RAAM sleep data, and his thoughts on Enduro:

I can give you only data for Jure’s second RAAM (2004).  In his first RAAM (2003), I was not there.  Last year, I didn't have any time to collect evidence about sleeping, but I used the same tactic that we used in previous RAAM (2004).  So because in 2005 Jure spent one more day to ride across America, I can say that he didn't sleep more then 15 hours.

So, here is data for Jure’s second RAAM where I make an evidence about all things you can imagination (for example, Jure take a pee 58 times when riding his bike: 39 times he stopped and 19 times he pee whithout a stop.  I didn't count pee he made when he was on shower cabin). After the race I use all data for my study about RAAM.


RAAM 2004



1. after 37 hours and 30 minutes of riding

0:00 - 2:30; 2 hour and 30 minutes

2. after 24 hours and 15 minutes of riding

2:55 - 4:00; 1 hour and 5 minutes

3. after 16 hours and 50 minutes of riding

23:05 - 0:00; 55 minutes

4. after 25 hours and 30 minutes of riding

1:50 - 4:05; 2 hour and 15 minutes

5. after 21 hours and 15 minutes of riding

1:30 - 2:30; 1 hour

6. after 23 hours and 5 minutes of  riding

1:50 - 3:30; 1 hour and 40 minutes

7. after 19 hours and 50 minutes of riding

0:35 - 2:15; 1 hour and 40 minutes

Total SLEEP in Motorhome

11 hour and 5 minutes





POWER SLEEP (near the road)




1. 23.06.2004 at 16 hour

10 minutes

2. 25.06.2004 at 13:55 hour

15 minutes

3. 26.06.2004 at 16 hour

10 minutes

4. 27.06.2004 at 23 hour and 25 minutes

15 minutes

5. 28.06.2004 at 7 hour and 45 minutes

10 minutes

6. 28.06.2004 at 18 hour and 4 minute

12 minutes


1 hour and 12 minutes




12 hours and 17 minutes

I must say that that the second year (2004) everything went very well.  We didn't have any rain and Jure was hungry for the win.  So I thought that we couldn't finish with less than 12 hours of sleep.

This year, I think that Jure can make it to Atlantic City in 10 days (if the weather is something like last year - hot, hot and hot).  You have a lot experience about RAAM, so I don't want to talk about that.  If someone could go in the battle with Jure, we will see AC before ten days.  That all depends - but my opinion is that everyone else is in better shape with the new rules, except Jure.  Less sleep was the biggest Jure advantage.  In that moment, I say only that we will look at what the others will do.  Everything depends of that in what state and condition will be Jure.  If Jure has the same desire like in 2004, he will definitely win.

About Enduro Division:  I think that that is not RAAM anymore.  It’s a normal race, a little bit longer than the others – I’m over reacting with these words, but for me RAAM is dead!!  That what the organizers said about safety and more exciting race is bullshit.

I can’t help but somehow get this feeling that Robic and other little sleep RAAM riders such as three-time winner Wolfgang Fasching of Austria and 2004 rookie-of-the-year/2nd place finisher Mike Trevino seem to think that because solo RAAM is the toughest race in the world, you are supposed to suffer big time and accept riding along in a sleep-deprived, zombie-like trance with hallucinations and crashes being the norm. 

Perhaps this persona is partly the reason why RAAM has been perceived as a freaky, cult-like event by the ‘normal’ non-ultra cycling population for so many years.  Although they can’t be proven to have been caused by sleep deprivation, two deaths in the past three RAAMs have verified this image of RAAM.  If the new Enduro division can finally shake this perception of RAAM, I can see the race drawing in a whole new crop of cyclists who previously ignored it.  Perhaps this will also bring major sponsors and much more media exposure.  In favor of the new Enduro division, 2005 RAAM rookie-of-the-year/2nd place finisher Chris MacDonald sent me e-mail this month:

I do not think the race will immediately change who the leaders are.  I think that Robic will dominate this year even with the mandatory sleep breaks.  I think we will see riders closer together, but the first year or two we will not see a big change in the "leaders".  What I do think will happen is that the new rules will draw in new blood and talent into RAAM.  I think we will soon see some very talented cyclists that otherwise would write RAAM off as "EXTREMISM" and "nothing to do with bike racing".  This will be exciting.  I would love to see 150 people at the start of the solo race in the future. 

I am proud of the way MacDonald rode his first RAAM last year.  Similar to my first RAAM in 1994, he slept a total of 37 hours, and finished 17 hours behind winner Robic.  He said some very interesting things in his Post-RAAM interview with me last year:


CM:  The benefits are two-fold.  Number one is that you can ride safely!  You have a clear head, good judgment and basically never run the risk of losing control of your bike.  At no point during the race did I experience anything close to a hallucination.  I have heard all the stories about mailboxes becoming people and all kids of other things.  I have never taken drugs in my life, because I like being in control of my body and my mind, as the two things go hand and hand, so I had no and still have no desire to experience hallucinations brought on by sleep deprivation.  The second advantage is that when you ride, you can ride strong.  I had a lot of team riders struggle to get through me when I was on the bike and had a lot of them commenting on my speed.  I love to race bikes, so when I am on the bike I prefer to go fast. 


CM:  I am not sure if I will come back, depends on a lot of factors. I have to admit that it think the race is dangerous in its current format.  I think the race has become more a demonstration of who is best at handling sleep deprivation with the least disaster, than a demonstration of the fastest and strongest cyclist.  Yes this is endurance cycling, and it is a unique breed of cycling, but in my opinion there are limits.  I think the death of Bob Breedlove should be a major wake up call to us all, and I do think that RAAM could be modernized to include a blackout period each day (maybe 2-3 hours) and still be the hardest bike race in the World.  I think that safety has to come first, but that is just my take on it. 


CM:  No.  I do not think I would have to cut back on my sleep to win, but I would have to cut down on my off bike time.  Too many sit down dinners and breakfasts, too many massages, too many long showers, too much talking, but you know what, all those things are great memories!  If I cut down on the many hours off the bike where I did not sleep, I think I would have been close enough to at least scare Robic a bit, smile.  


CM: I agree 100%!  Again, a reason that I think one could easily have a 3-4 hour black out period and still have records, and likely even better and more tight racing, and most importantly a much safer race!  

MacDonald’s wish will come true this year, but riders can still choose to ride the old style or Traditional division.  I was able to win twice - sleeping three hours per night.  This is good enough for the 5th (14.72 mph) and 10th (14.58 mph) fastest crossings.  On his one hour of sleep per night regime, Robic had the 8th (14.66 mph) fastest crossing on his 2004 victory.  Averaging about 90 minutes of sleep per night, Fasching has the 6th (14.70 mph) and 9th (14.63 mph) fastest crossings.  I came to realize that my three hours of sleep per night would prevent me from ever breaking Pete’s amazing 20 year old 15.40 mph record.  To break this record, you have to be able to ride very fast on less than two hours of sleep per night – an extremely difficult combination.  

It is very enjoyable to beat a rider when you are sleeping more than them.  This happened in both my victories in 1996 against Kish and in 1999 against Fasching.  A pattern set up where I would wake up about an hour behind them, catch/pass them in the afternoon or evening, and then give up my lead by going down for a longer sleep than they took.  Luckily for me, both races finished in the evening – giving me enough time to catch/pass them again for the last time.  

There are some benefits to sleeping 3 hours per night compared with only one.  Shermerneck (a condition where your neck muscles fatigue so badly that it becomes extremely painful to hold your head up) is less of a problem.  The extra two hours of sleep allow your saddle sores and rashes to heal up.  Also, your sore/swollen feet, shoulders, and back get time to rest.  You get more time to totally escape from the pressures/stress of the race by dreaming that you are not in it.  Finally, you get the mental advantage that comes from riding faster from being more rested.  

One good thing I see happening from the new Enduro division is that the little sleepers like Robic and 2003 winner Allen Larsen will be forced to discover the above benefits.  Larsen may actually be able to ride the second half of RAAM without having to wear his uncomfortable neck brace which he calls his Medieval Torture Device.  In 2003, I happened to be with Larsen on his worst RAAM night ever.  He wanted to get thru a bad traffic area in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, and on to Jefferson City before the morning rush hour.  Miserably sleep deprived, Larsen was weaving down the road and even crashed clutching the guardrail.  It was extremely nerve wracking for his crew (I was in his follow support minivan) who wanted him to go down for a sleep, but he kept refusing.  Oddly enough, he was still able to average 14 mph over the hilly/rolling terrain.  I call this state of riding sleepriding, and two-time RAAM winner Australian Gerry Tatrai was extremely good at it.  After being Slovenian Marko Baloh’s crew chief last year, Larsen told me he will be a lot easier on his crew if he ever races again.  

I think the 40 hours of mandatory rest/sleep should be included in the rider’s official finishing time.  19 year RAAM official Mike Roark agrees with me.  He thinks the Enduro will create a new set of finishing times with this year as the base line.  This will work as long as the 40 hours aren’t tweaked in future years.  

In 1999, my official finishing time was 8 Days, 7 Hours, 34 Minutes.  Subtracting my 29 total hours off the bike would yield an on the bike time of 7:02:34, yet there is no mention of this time in the race results.  All riders will end up being off their bikes for well over 40 hours from stops (such as bathroom, clothing changes, bike adjustments, flat tires, massages, sunscreen & ointment applications, putting on lights for night riding, getting a neck brace on for Shermerneck, etc…) not made at the official, manned time stations.  Riders must try to keep these stops to a minimum.  

Crews will want to maximize the sleep time their rider gets out of the 40 hours.  36 hours of actual sleep would be a good target to shoot for.  Crews carefully planning their riders’ sleep stops around the five mandatory two hour time stations will be crucial.  A rider doesn’t want to arrive at one of these stations unless they are extremely tired and sleepy.  

If I were to ride solo RAAM again, I would probably choose the Enduro division.  I have found that I could sleep better and longer the more fatigued I got in the later stages of the race.  As much as I wanted to win, I still had to give my body the extra sleep that it craved at the end of the 1995 RAAM.  On the last night, I got within 12 minutes of leader Rob Kish who just awoken from a two-hour sleep break.  My crew chief was my brother Tom who pumped me full of stimulants and shouted for me to catch Kish, but I was beyond caffeine, and had to over-ride my brother.  I had to head for my RV and 45 minutes of sleep.  After just 9 sleepriding miles, I had to go down for another 90 minutes of sleep.  Trying to get every last bit of energy out of me so that I could beat my finishing time from the previous year, my crew pushed me into another meltdown.  Only 25 miles from the finish, I collapsed and had to sleep three more hours.  I awoke a new man, and hammered all the way to a 2nd place finish in Savannah, GA.  

The following is how I would distribute my 40 hours of sleep in the Enduro race.  To not wake myself out of a deep sleep cycle, I would plan all of my sleep stops to be multiples of 90 minutes.  Not being tired enough on the first night; I would skip sleep, and then try to take all my sleep at night, waking up about an hour before sunrise.  This may be difficult to do because an official, manned time station may not be around when you want to sleep, or a mandatory two hour time station may pop up when you don’t want to sleep.    I find that one long sleep every 24 hours in better than two or three shorter ones more often.  With one stop, you only have to lose that wasted time before and after you sleep once.  

After zero hours of sleep my first night, I would take 3 hours on my 2nd & 3rd nights, 4.5 hours on my 4th-7th nights, and 6 hours on my final two nights.  This would be a total of 36 hours of sleep (averaging 4.5 hours per night) on the last 8 nights of a 9 day crossing.  The extra 4 hours (to make 40) will be accumulated as 30 minutes per day – the before and after time for each of the 8 sleep stops.  Add another 4 hours off the bike time taken for all stops which don’t officially count towards the 40, and I have a total off the bike time of 44 hours.  Using the 2006 RAAM route distance of 3,033 miles, my official finishing time would be 9 days flat with an average speed of 14.04 mph including all stops.  My on the bike time would be 7:04:00 with an on the bike average speed of 17.63 mph.  If I wasted another 4 hours off the bike – making my total off the bike time 48 hours, my on the bike average speed would have to be 18.05 mph for a 9 day crossing.  These times and speeds reflect what I was capable of doing in the prime of my solo RAAM career in the 1990’s.   

The amount of time an Enduro rider has officially logged towards their 40 hours will be frequently updated on the RAAM website.  Crews will have to carefully monitor this information for strategies.  A rider could be leading by many hours, but if he got that lead by logging few sleep hours, is it really a valid lead?  A rider who sleeps more towards the end (like my plan) will be able to finish strong/fast, but could still lose to a rider who finishes slow because they don’t have to sleep the final 24 hours since they already logged their 40 sleep hours.  What if a rider ends up with too many (8-10) sleep hours to be logged in the last 24 hours?  He could lose many places as he is sleeping at the last officially manned time station.  I do like how these exciting scenarios could make the race ending much closer than the huge time gaps commonly found in the traditional solo division.  

The same riders who win and do well in the traditional division should also carry over in the Enduro division.  If the reason why Jure Robic wins is because he is fitter than anybody else, then he has faster/better recovery than the other riders.  Whether he sleeps one or four hours per night, his body can rejuvenate more quickly.  The top riders’ finishing times will be about 18 hours slower than their old traditional division times.  Last year, Chris Macdonald (had well over 40 hours off his bike) finished 17 Hours, 13 Minutes behind winner Robic who slept just 9 hours.  Had Robic raced under the new Enduro rules, his victory wouldn’t have been certain, but I think he still wound have won because he had such a relaxed finish last year.  Either way, a much more exciting, closer finish would have delighted RAAM fans.  

Unlike MacDonald, 2004 RAAM rookie-of-the-year/2nd place finisher Mike Trevino is against the new division.  An ultra marathon runner turned ultracyclist, Trevino prefers sleeping just 15-90 minutes at once and estimates he slept around 10-15 hours total in the 2004 race.  Last year, a crash in Indiana separated his shoulder causing him to drop out.  A few months, he wrote me this e-mail:  


I was going to send you a note to ask about your thoughts on the rules changes. Before I get into it let me just say that as a competitor I appreciate what has gone into the RAAM to make it such a special event. I know it’s hard organizing such an enormous race and it’s probably even harder trying to keep it safe and please all interested parties.


With that said I disagree with the new rules. Part of the RAAM’s allure has always been that it was the longest, hardest single stage race on the planet. Success in the event depends on a number of different variables such as ability, training/preparation, nutrition, hydration, sleep, logistical preparation, crew dynamics, navigation, etc. Changing the rules in such an arbitrary fashion in an attempt to control one or more of these variables dilutes the true intent of the race.


If I do it again I will do it in the Traditional Division. My sponsors have also made it clear that they would prefer that I compete in the Traditional. Not that I've ever let sponsors dictate my actions, but I believe it reinforces my belief about the perceptions of the event - they want to be associated with the toughest, most grueling aspect of the race. I think the rules were changed to make it safer and more appealing to spectators. The new category will be confusing for spectators. What will happen when the leading rider is several hundred miles ahead of the nearest competitor, but 'losing' the race because he hasn't taken his allotted time off the bike? In terms of giving spectators access to the riders around the control points, the last thing a rider is going to want to do is interact with spectators. I'd instruct my crew to find the quietest spot possible in an official, manned time station and sleep as much as possible.


In terms of safety, I can function on about 90 minutes of sleep a day. I've actually tried sleeping more, but this has meant that sleep cycles were disrupted and I wake up disoriented and less lucid than if I had slept less. Everyone is different however so implementing minimum times off the bike is deceiving because people might perceive the event to be safer, but in my opinion it would be no safer. The only way to make it safer for everyone is to have nightly 'black out' periods where riders and crew are not allowed to be on the road from 10 pm to 4 am, or something like that. But what would happen if a rider was hit around sundown or sunrise (the periods of the day with the worst visibility)? Would the race rules then expand the time off the bike to include these times too? I guess my point is that it's a slippery slope trying to satisfy everyone or tightly control one of the variables mentioned above.


If there’s competition in the Traditional division I will do it this year. If not I will move on to other, perhaps multi-discipline events. One last, very subjective comment: with the new rules I believe the race is no longer the ‘hardest’ in the world.


Fabio Biasiolo has the most solo starts (9) without a win.  His finishing times range from 8:23:07 to 10:08:14.  He has 5 DNFs.  Finishing his 4th RAAM in 3rd place last year, Biasiolo thinks his Enduro finishing time will be similar to his Traditional finishing time because of the afternoon stops he has to make to combat the heat.  He explained in a recent e-mail to me:

In RAAM 2005, I slept a total of 12.5 hours (including 2.5 hours the last night).  I lost 4 hours the first afternoon because of the heat (normally in every single RAAM I’ve ridden, I’ve lost 4-9 hours because of hot weather), and another hour because I started to slow dawn compared to the other bikers.  I spent a total of 3 more hours off the bike for little (5-10 minutes) naps, and a couple of showers.  Total hours off the bike: 20.5

I do not think the new Enduro division will let me finish slower compared to the old (Traditional division) one, because if I consider that MacDonald slept more than 30 hours, and you used to sleep more than 30 hours too, and still I finished pretty close to you and McDonald.  {Fabio finished 6 Hours, 13 Minutes behind MacDonald in last years RAAM.  I only slept more than 30 hours on my first RAAM in 1994 when Fabio didn’t ride.  Fabio finished 2 Hours, 26 Minutes behind me in the 2000 RAAM on which I slept 25 Hours, 27 Minutes.}

So first:  The time I normally lost the first day (from the top bikers) will be eliminated.   Now I can stop 1-2 or 3 hours during the hottest part of the day {only if there is an official, manned time station nearby.} without any time lost, pushing my fast pace after that, saving one, two hours a day or more (depending on the daily temperatures) to sleep during the night (the same amount of sleep I would normally need).

Second:  My average on the bike pace will for sure be faster because I will be more rested the entire race.  Bikers who used to stop a lot less than me (like Rob Kish) will not have the same advantage.

Third:  Bikers stronger than me like Robic, for sure will have the same advantage, but because the heat doesn’t affect them as much, I can finish closer to them. 

Finally, I think I will have a better chance to win now then in the past.  I originally signed up for the Traditional division, but I changed over to the Enduro division to see what difference sleeping 4 hours a day and not 1-1.5 will have on me.

You know better than me that all I said now is just when I'm writing in front of my computer, well rested and without any physical problem, so we have to consider that during the race all the considerations I said may not be followed the same way right?

The race with the new rule will be a completely different race.  I think that in the future RAAM will lose the specific and peculiar characteristic of being the toughest race in the world, and will also lose importance and greatness.  RAAM will no longer be a unique race, but a race for everybody.  I'm sad because I preferred the old style.  Also, I think it was more difficult for me to finish in the top 3-5 bikers in the old (Traditional) race. 

RAAM was born with the no sleep system, and I think that one was one of the real challenges of the entire race.  I agreed with you that the race will still be very tough, but no longer the same.

Finishing his first RAAM in 4th place last year, David Haase studied my RAAM sleep/off the bike time stats, and thinks 30 hours (instead of 40) of mandatory stop time would be better for the Enduro division.  He slept about 18 hours total last year, but didn’t keep track of his total off the bike time.  He wrote me a recent e-mail:

I like some of the concepts of the new Enduro category.  I think you will find stats to back up being off the bike for more time than a rider really thinks.  I am not sure if 40 hours is too much however.  Based on your numbers for the races you did, I would like to see that time be 30 hours.  I think that is safe, yet still tests the endurance of a person.  Some of what RAAM race director Jim Pitre and Lon Haldeman are saying is very accurate as far drawing a larger field, but I think it is way more than that to do this race.  The race to me is easy compared to finding time to train, raising money, and being gone from work for two weeks.  The race part of everything although painful and challenging, is the easier part of the whole equation because I am riding my bike.  That is what I like to do.

In an attempt do draw better riders and more new talent into the Enduro Division; it will have a bigger prize list.  The flat time limit of 12 Days, 2 Hours will still apply for official finisher status in the Enduro race.  The old 48 hour cut off rule will come back in the Traditional Division – for official finisher status, riders will have to finish within two days of the winner, unless the winner takes longer than 10 Days, 2 Hours to finish, in which case the flat time limit will apply. 

The 48 hour cut off rule applied to all RAAMs from 1983 up to and including 1999.  Solo men and women had to finish within two days of the winners to be official finishers.  Riders over 50 got an extra day (72 hours), and riders over 60 got an extra two days (96 hours) to finish.  Because official finisher status depended on the winners’ time, tail enders sometimes cursed fast winners like myself in 1996 & 1999 (both 8 Day, 7 Hour crossings).  When Lon Haldeman & wife Susan took over as race directors in 2000, they implemented a new flat time limit of 12 Days, 2 Hours, which was no longer dependent on the winners’ time.  This rule has held ever since, but official finishes became less difficult because the slowest winning time since 2000 was Robic’s 9:08:48 last year – riders had over 17 hours more time to finish using the flat time limit compared to the old 48 hour rule.  In fact, the last 5 finishers in the 2005 race (including women’s winner Cat Berge) were more than two days behind Robic. 

What I don’t like about the new category is that I won’t be able to declare an overall winner in the solo RAAM because it won’t be fair to compare/contrast the two divisions, though the statistician in me may still try to crunch numbers. 

RAAM head official and co-owner Lon Haldeman won the first two transcontinental bike races in 1982 & 1983, and with his wife Susan was RAAM race director from 2000-2002.  He says the new Enduro division (which he helped create) will be easier to finish, but the competition will make it tougher to win.  In a recent e-mail, Haldeman threw me a compliment:

The Enduro Division would have been perfect for a rider like you who has good speed and still has endurance.  Could you imagine if you could have slept 4 hours per night and still had time for a one hour nap in the afternoon.  Your on the bike speed would have been 1-2 mph faster.  The concept of the Enduro Division might take a few years to catch on but I hope many fast endurance riders will want to try it.  I expect it will become a very competitive division and tough race to win in a few years.


Considered a pioneer for transcontinental bike racing, Haldeman learned a lot about what his body could handle on his pre-RAAM transcontinental crossings and early RAAMs.  In another recent e-mail, he wrote:

For my sleep breaks I know I slept more in my early years.  For example on my Double Transcontinental in 1981 I didn't ride in the dark several nights.  I was off the bike for 8 hours at a time many nights but I still was very tired at times.  As I learned more about myself and riding across the country I got by on shorter stops and less sleep.  Even in the 1982 Great American Bike Race (renamed RAAM the next year), I took many 3 and 4 hours rest stops.  I am sure my off the bike time was about 36 hours and my sleep was 24 hours.  

In the 1983 RAAM, I was more efficient and stopped less and slept less.  My goal was to stop less than 24 hours total during the race.  I probably only slept 15 hours.  I know my speed was slower from lack of sleep.  I remember riding through many nights with a low heart rate just trying to get down the road and stay awake.  My legs were strong enough to ride faster but I couldn't force myself to pick up the pace.  I know several other riders felt the same way because after the race we joked about how much we would have paid for a one hour sleep break some nights.  I think $1,000 was considered a good deal even though we didn't have the money.

When Pete and I did the 1987 Tandem Record  (Lon & Pete Penseyres smoked across the country in a non-RAAM effort in 7:14:55 [15.97 mph] {still the fastest crossing where each rider rides the entire distance}) we were off the bike 15 hours and slept for 9 hours.  We were extremely efficient that year but we still wasted 6 hours off the bike somewhere.  I know on all my other years I had to waste at least 8-10 hours off the bike.  The off the bike time seems to add up and slip away without being used for good sleep and rest.  After I had raced across the country 10 times I became more of a sleep deprivation expert then in my first races.  I could get by on a lot less sleep when I was 32 years old than when I was 22 years old.  I could ride faster when I was 25 years and trained by doing many sub 9 hour double centuries.  But I couldn't stay awake night after night so my cross country times were slow those years.

There is nothing magic about the 40 hour off the bike time.  Some riders will still need more rest than 40 hours and they are encouraged to stop and rest more if they need it.  Some riders could be fine with 24 hours off the bike.  Some riders might need 50 hours.  The 40 hour time off the bike should give the fastest riders an extra 16 to 24 hours of actual sleep time.  After the race we will evaluate all the Pros and Cons of the Enduro division.  The 40 hour mark is just a starting point as a standard in the Enduro Division.  Much like hanging the peach basket for the first basketball game we will need to see how the game is played.  We have done a lot of calculations on rider speed and recovery and we hope the 40 hour mark is a good starting point.  

I disagree with Trevino calling RAAM a single stage race.  Until solo RAAM can be done on no sleep whatsoever (I doubt this will ever happen), it remains a multi-stage race.  Actually I call RAAM a variable stage race with the stages being determined by each rider’s sleep stops.  For example, on my 1999 RAAM, I took 7 three hour sleep stops, so my race that year was 8 stages with the first one being the longest since I didn’t sleep the first night.  Similarly, Guus Moonen calling his 2,500 mile Le Tour Direct the Tour de France in one stage is misleading because nobody can finish it without sleeping either.  The new Enduro division makes RAAM more like the Tour de France, but RAAMs stages will be much longer for those riders choosing to take one long 3-5 hour sleep break roughly every 24 hours.  Even for the average ultracyclist, riding 18-20 hours per day for 9-11 consecutive days is still bloody FAR!    

For the back of the packers (over 11 day finishers), the new Enduro division may not affect their total off the bike or sleep times, but they will still have to get used to taking most of their sleep stops at official, manned time stations to be credited towards their 40 hours.  This may be a big change for those riders used to stopping often where ever they wanted for short sleep breaks.  Enduro may actually help these riders keep from wasting too much time at rest breaks with no sleep.  It will force them to better plan their rest/sleep stops. 

Ben Robinson placed 9th in last year’s men’s race with a time of 11:17:35.  His total off the bike time was 61 hours of which he slept 44.  He gave me his opinion on Enduro in this recent e-mail:

I think it will actually increase the average speeds.  I think many racers would actually be faster with more rest.  This being the first year of the new rules, I imagine they will evolve over time.  The problem I would have with my own style is that I prefer to have a set schedule.  For RAAM, I would ride every day until midnight and sleep until 3am.  Forcing myself to sleep on an artificially imposed schedule would throw me off.  I would prefer if they just mandated 40 hours off the bike rather than at specific points.  Overall, I applaud them for having the courage to change things up and see what impacts it has.

Jim Trout placed 10th in last year’s men’s race with a time of 11:21:13.  His total off the bike time was 104 hours of which he only slept 30.  That’s 74 hours of wasted (off the bike, but not sleeping) time.  He explained his off the bike routine in this recent e-mail:

My usual "stop for sleep" time was up to 4 hours; get off bike, shower, eat meal, get rub down, talk, relax, SLEEP, get up, prep body (lube, etc), dress, eat, on bike.  Only 2-3 hours of actual sleep time.  Sometimes I put my head down but couldn't fall asleep for 30 min or so (due to high emotions running around my brain).  Other times of the day I'd stop for 10-15 min for short catnaps or a break from the heat.  Any prize money out there if somebody officially finishes RAAM with more time OFF the bike than ON?  I'd go for that record...

Guess you could say my time off bike without sleep was pretty atrocious, but then again, I had a great time stopping and taking in USA inch by inch.  I'd also say the reason I did NOT DNF was due to taking frequent breaks and not putting too much pressure on myself to ride outside of my capabilities.  I did have a goal of sub-10 days, but that quickly evaporated on day 2 as my body fell apart in the desert heat near Congress.  Never really worried about cut-offs and just plugged along at my own pace.  I'd like to do RAAM again someday and break 10 days.

Feelings on the new Enduro rules:  something needed to be done to make this race safer and to bring it in to the real cycling world.  I still can't believe most of the local bike shops in Seattle, of all places, have not heard of RAAM.  It's like the Tour de France of ultracycling, but everyone is clueless to this sector of the sport. Already we have two professionals entered into RAAM 2006.  It sure puts more emphasis on the speed on the bike and athleticism rather than who can stay awake the longest (the latter just sounds stupid and not athletic at all).  RAAM is still THE most difficult race and test of endurance on the planet. 

One worry:  if a contestant is very sleepy/tired, he/she might push beyond safety just to make it to the mandatory sleep station or next checkpoint, for if they stop before and take a nap, it's "wasted" time.  However, I applaud Jim Pitre and Co. and agree with all their points on the rule changes.   I do think there will be hiccups with these rules and they will be tweaked over the next few years.  Although Enduro probably won't affect me on my future RAAM endeavors, perhaps it will make my crossing more efficient and force me to whittle down the appalling 71% wasted time stat.  I am crewing for pro mountain biker and two time Olympian David Tinker Juarez this summer and hope to see you all there!!

By making the top riders’ finishing times about 18 hours slower, Enduro will tighten up the time range between the winner and last official finisher.  Last year there was a 2 Day, 14 Hour time gap between winner Robic and last place finisher Chris Hopkinson.  Becoming the first British rider to finish solo RAAM, Hopkinson’s finishing time was 11:23:05.  Even though he spent well over 40 hours off the bike, he is still against Enduro RAAM.  He sent me this recent e-mail: 

My opinion on the new Enduro division is unfortunately not a favorable one!  The description 'making RAAM more accessible to everyone' is politicians speak for making it easier!!  RAAM is not meant to be easy.

It is billed as the toughest race on the planet for good reason and I feel it will lose its status with this move.  I am just about to take on the position of Chair for Northern Europe for the UMCA and feel that this will make my job all the more difficult trying to sell RAAM to people over here when they can do Randonnees of equivalent distances in Europe.

I feel that this takes the RACE out of Race Across AMerica and it will become the Ride Across AMerica!!!  Are they going to change the name appropriately?!?!  My time off bike for RAAM 2005 was about 60 hours of which 40 were actual sleep.  If this time had been 'refunded' at the end, my finishing time would have been 10:07:05.

Enduro may be a welcomed change for Marko Baloh who is fast/strong enough to hang with Robic in ‘short’ ultra races requiring no sleep, but falls back when sleep deprivation takes over in longer events.  Baloh won the windiest Furnace Creek 508 mile RAAM qualifier in 2004, and finished 3rd in Le Tour Direct last year.  After dropping out of the 2003 & 2005 RAAMs, Enduro has him excited about finishing his first RAAM this year.  Paul Skilbeck asked Baloh about his RAAM DNFs, if more sleep in Enduro may help him to finish, and how much he slept in Le Tour Direct.  In a recent e-mail to Skilbeck, Baloh answers these questions, responds to Pete Penseyres’ viewpoint on Enduro in a shorter, earlier version of my article, and tries to take the spotlight off of himself as a leading contender this year: 

My feeling is that my DNFs had nothing to do with sleep.  As am asthmatic, my lungs are more susceptible to the temperature changes and the dry heat of the desert.  As you know both times the reason for my DNF was lung related (the first time blood clot in my lungs, the second the pneumonia).  I pray I will get lucky and my health will hold out through the entire race this year. 

As far as your second question, I never really thought about until I read Chew's article about RAAM riders' opinion on Enduro RAAM.  I hope you read it, if you did, you will know what I am talking about.  What got my attention was Pete Penseyres’ description of his brother Jim, and his inability of handling sleep deprivation (in which his brother Pete excelled).  It was like reading about myself - I never had a problem riding as fast as Jure for a day or two, but after a less than sufficient sleep, I never was able to get my speed up again.

In Le Tour Direct, I slept zero the first night and then for 2.5 - 3 hours a night and almost nothing on the last two nights (an experiment of sorts, to see if I could finish fast).  That one didn't come out too well, as I almost crawled to a stand still the last night of the race.

And now let's talk about you thinking of me as a contender.  I certainly don't feel as a contender this year.  I will explain why.  First there was two or three months rest after LTD, because I was sure I wasn't going to race RAAM in 2006 (and for LTD I could as well start preparing in March).  Then came the New Year and the news of the new Enduro RAAM, which got me excited and I decided to go for it.  Lots of indoor training since then, but the winter was really long this year, plus I had lots of work and family commitments, so right now I have only covered 4,300 km on the road compared to 12,700km (!!!) at the same date last year.  And even with last year's mileage, I couldn't match a professional cyclist like Jure is.  So, maybe you can leave me out of the contender’s list, and state that I am a guy who is coming to finish off what he has started 3 years ago, and that is to FINISH RAAM!

So, reaching Atlantic City is my only priority this year, if anything more comes out of it, I will be more surprised than anyone else.  I am really curious what I can do with such a low mileage base.  We'll have to wait and see...

Plus, there was a financial side to my deciding for Enduro - I am doing it on a bare bones approach, without RV and with 6 person crew (maximum).  I hope we are going to have fun anyway.  See you in Oceanside. 

In a follow up e-mail to me, Marko estimated his 2003 & 2005 RAAM sleep times: 

The reason why I didn't respond to your previous mail (about how much I slept in my RAAMs) is that my crews were not really efficient in writing down the sleep time or off the bike time, so I have nothing to tell you in that area.

Maybe an approximation?  That's it, as well as I remember:


The first night:  it was 0 (no sleep)

The second night:  1 hour, 10 minutes sleep

All other nights (or days):  2.5 - 3 hours sleep


The first night:  it was 0 (no sleep)

The second night:  2 hours of off the bike time with NO sleep (I couldn't get to sleep)

The next afternoon:  1 hour sleep

The third night (on top of Wolf Creek Pass):  2 hours sleep

The fourth night:  1 hour, 10 minutes sleep

The fifth night:  3 hours sleep

No more...

I don't think Enduro will make it any easier for me to finish.  

Patrick Autissier who dropped out of his rookie RAAM last year, posted his own sleep strategy on the e-mail forum in January.

Last year, when I was preparing for RAAM, I'd been contacting, like Bob Breedlove, John Delia, and Claudio Stampi, a world known sleep specialist.  As a scientist, and because I had absolutely no clue where I was going into, I wanted to approach RAAM in a rationale way.  

John, Bob and I (+ John Kurscinsky) did a sleep seminar with Claudio to try to come up with a strategy, in order to reduce the sleep deprivation effect and be safer on the road, and also be as efficient as we could on the bike.  Claudio told us that probably the best sleep management was 1 long sleep at night (~ 2am-5am), one 1h sleep around 1-2pm (siesta) and one powernap around 9-10pm.  It's a total of 4-5 hours a day and we had to start this schedule the first day of the race.  I guess Bob had the same schedule too.

For me, it was a disaster!  And I don't blame Claudio, just myself. I've tried to put numbers and logic into the preparation of this race, but RAAM is not logical and cannot be rationalized and scheduled.  I NEVER slept well during the whole race.  I was totally exhausted and very low after day 4 each morning.  And it puzzles me that Bob's accident happened at 10am.  Don't get me wrong! I'm not saying that he felt asleep on his bike.  As far as I know, nobody knows what exactly happened to Bob (mechanical problem, stroke, etc...).  But it would be interesting to know from Bob's crew how Bob was doing in term of sleep management.  Of course, I'd totally understand and respect their decision of not jumping into this discussion, if they don't want to.

Also, I'd love to hear from Claudio himself what he thinks about this mandatory 40 hours of stop.  I understand that there will be more control points at the end of the race, than at the beginning.  And that this new rule is not completely rigid.  At first look, you could think that the riders will be more rested.  But 40 hours of STOP doesn't mean 40 hours of SLEEP.  There is nothing more devastating to your body than trying to sleep when it's not the good time.  And a rider who has to stop at one of the 5 mandatory control points and can't find the sleep will start riding again very upset, and much more tired.  Stress as we all know induce fatigue, and this rule will in fact induce fatigue and anxiety to all the riders.  In other words, and as several people has already written, there is a real risk that this rule will make the race more dangerous.

Starting last years RAAM at 220 pounds, Texas good ole boy and Randonneur, Mark Metcalfe represented all the “average ultracyclists” out there who were living vicariously through his heroic effort.  He was the last rider to drop out last year (with just 150 miles to go) when his average speed fell below the 10.52 mph minimum needed for official finisher status.  Even though he slept about 40 hours last year, he is still against the new Enduro division.  He would prefer to ride Traditional, but has entered Enduro this year because he has a better chance of finishing it.  He gave me his views on Enduro in this e-mail:  

I am sad to see the change to Enduro RAAM, but think I can understand the reasons for it.  This being the year of my second RAAM, I wanted to use my experiences to improve in the race as it was.  I have not analyzed the exact amount of sleep I had last year, but think it was in the area of about 40 hours.  It is not the sleep time that is my issue, but how complex it will be to need sleep and get sleep at just the right time where you can get the credit for it.  I think we are all prone to miscalculate and try to make the next time station when we should have stopped.  When this happens most of us RAAM racer types will ride on to make the time station when in the past we would have stopped for a power nap.  I think this will add a new element of danger to the race instead of helping it.  I do not personally think that lack of sleep had much if any contribution to the 2 deaths during recent RAAM’s.  

All of the past RAAM racers I have talked to like the race as it was when they first did it.  Most old time RAAM racers hate that the 48-hour rule was changed some time back.  Changes are inevitable and must be accepted although they make direct year to year comparisons into guesswork.  What I really don’t like the most is that the race will be split (this is not a decisive change).  I want to race the entire field, I want to race the best of the best and have a direct comparison of the results.  If I finish 12 hours off of the lead and in 8th place then that’s what it is (not so with a split race).  Make it one race for all solo riders or RAAM will suffer from it.  

This year I will race Enduro RAAM due to the rule changes, which discourage entering the traditional race.  I expect that I will be several hours closer to the max cutoff time due to the 40-hour rule (just guesswork).  This year sleep management will be more stressful than in my rookie year.  Last year I could sleep where, when, and how long I needed to.  This year it will be dictated by points on a map that you have to make your sleep fit into.  For me the Enduro RAAM division creates more tension/anxiety.  It also causes confusion for my supporters and I have to explain my race choice (we shouldn’t have to do that).  Wish I had the magic solution, which would make everyone happy (it does not exist).  It is a certain group of racers to which RAAM as it was appealed to them.  This new format will appeal to a new group.

After I asked him for his views on Enduro, Metcalfe changed to Traditional, and explains why in this e-mail:

After putting my thoughts in writing I have decided to switch to Traditional "RAAM".  That is what we all have trained for and what we had in mind when we entered.  I think that some riders just haven't come to the conclusion yet.

I think three time winner and 19 time finisher RAAM legend Rob Kish would much prefer the Traditional over the Enduro division.  His finishing times have ranged from the solo RAAM record of 8:03:11 to an unofficial finish of 11:12:19 his first race back in 1985.  Known for averaging about 2 hours of sleep per 24 hours, Kish is the master for staying on the bike when he is not sleeping.  He has beaten many less experienced riders (including myself) who waste too much time off the bike, but not sleeping.  For a 9 day Traditional crossing, skipping sleep the first night, he may sleep a total of 16 hours, and have his total off the bike time be less than 19 hours.  Enduro would take his advantage away.  In this manner, Enduro will sort of level the playing field so that rookies will have a better chance to beat veterans.  I slept a total of 38 hours my rookie RAAM in 1994, and placed 4th.  Had the three people (winner Kish, 2nd place Bob Breedlove, & 3rd place Pat Ward) who beat me been forced to sleep as much as I did, I think I would have had a much better chance at winning.  This should attract more talented road/mountain bike racers who have a better chance at wining their rookie year.  The event will be seen less as a sleep deprivation contest, and more of a speed race.  I could never beat Kish if I finished RAAM in the morning.  He was much better at staying awake that entire last night – something I was never able to do.  The only words I could get out of Kish about Enduro came in the following short e-mail:   

The time for wordy opinions on the new solo RAAM divisions has passed.  It’s time to pick a solo division and race it, or just pick neither division and stay at home.  

Two time solo winner, two time 4 Man HPV Team RAAM winner, and all time speed (24.02 mph) record holder {along with HPV team-mates Pete & Jim Penseyres, and Michael Coles in the first ever Team RAAM in 1989} Bob Fourney is one of the few ‘old time’ RAAMers in favor of Enduro.  I received this recent e-mail from him:

I think it is time that RAAM as we knew it changed into the Enduro format.  I had recommended mandatory sleep breaks after seeing them for the dogs in Iditarod.  The animal rights people pressured and imposed mandatory rests for the dogs of Iditarod long ago................the riders of RAAM were not treated as humanely.  I think this is a great format to run the race, and that traditional RAAM should be a thing of the is not humane...not safe.........I am sure that the if Department of Transportation knew that you were running a sleep deprivation contest on the public highways of this country endangering the contestants and the general public, RAAM would be shut down.  One of the biggest improvements in safety will come from the crews being allowed to rest.  I have witnessed too many near misses over the years, and thank God that there was never a tragedy for myself or any of my dear crew members.

I think that the winner of RAAM Enduro will be only 8-12 hours behind the solo Traditional RAAM winner.  I will guess that the average RAAM rider spends 20 hours in total time off the bike, and maintains about a 15 mph average while on the bike.  Given 40 hours of stops, a good rider should pick up average speed of 1-2 mph while on the bike.   

I think it is time for this change to be made, the highways of America are not the same low traffic serene places they were when Lon Haldeman and John Marino started doing transcontinental records over 25 years ago.  Yet even they had the good sense to get 4 hours sleep every day.

Americans in ever greater numbers drive the roads more often paying less attention, kids have cars and make numerous unnecessary trips everyday, the roads of this country are no place for very tired riders and crews.   

RAAM riders will be so much more alert, focused and faster than ever before...........I think these riders who we all love and admire be treated with the dignity of an Iditarod sled dog!

In a follow up e-mail, Fourney wrote:

Yes my 90 minute sleep breaks were the goal, sometimes with a good lead I would take 3 hours and I would be faster with more sleep, none the less I suspect I worked around 20 hours off the bike in the whole race, if that.  I always slept the first night even for a short break - it always paid off, which is why I suspect the Enduro riders will be within 8-12 hours of the solo Traditional riders.

2003 winner Allen Larsen is coming back for another victory this year.  He is the only person to ever beat Robic in RAAM in 2003.  Although Larsen criticizes Enduro, he offers an insightful look at how to get RAAM into mainstream America in this long e-mail:  

First off let me make it clear that RAAM is Jim Pitre’s race, and I understand and respect his decisions to do what he wants for the good of the race.  It's his decision not mine.  My opinion however is mine.

I don't care for or agree with the direction RAAM is headed.  I've heard a number of the arguments both for and against.  I see this as another whack at a piñata that has yet to produce any candy.  I've heard the argument that RAAM is "Repulsive to the American people".  I have no idea where that came from.  Since I've been a rider I've got nothing but respect and amazement.

I've had a number of news stories done on regular evening news and even a feature that's run a few times during the ratings period on King 5's Evening Magazine.  They've run it during the ratings period due to its incredible human interest content.  Repulsive?  Come on!

With this category addition, RAAM is also making the race even more confusing to an American culture that does not understand the first thing about cycling.  We're going to need a "RAAM for Dummies" book to have any hope of explaining it.  I believe that RAAM's desire to embrace the race, as a sporting event to the American people won't work.  American's have never grasped cycling.  We can only hope that someday that will change.  We need to go human interest and let America see something like the '85 ABC story.

I'll include a blurb that I wrote a couple of months back, more for me than anyone.  I just wanted to sort out my thoughts.  I never did anything with it though.

Now for the Race aspect, if there is a race left (in the Traditional division).  It's appearing that RAAM is winning the battle by attrition.  There really does not appear to be many of us left willing to go Traditional.  It's really reduced my interest in the race as a whole.  In fact, I am currently in the process of deciding if my neck has another RAAM in it.  After a discussion with my doctor just last night, he's informed me that the chances are good that I'm looking at surgery if I continue to abuse my neck like I have in two RAAMs.  This fact + Enduro + sponsorship is casting a bleak picture of my future in ultra-cycling.

As for sleep in my previous races, though I tried, our records were not as impeccable as yours.  In 2002, I slept inconsistently for a total of about 20 hours as best as we calculated.  What really killed me in '02 was all the off bike time for the problems of neck and rear side.  No good figures exist for this but it was an incredible amount of time.  It's amazing I held on to third place. 

In 2003, the first half of the race went great.  I slept for 4:10 in the first half of the race.  After another afternoon break of 1:15 just shy of Missouri, my neck failed and I lost a lot of motivation, which slowed my progress.  I actually pretty much gave up.  I had a big enough lead that I just kept moving, but sleep increased to the point that I had about 19 hours by the end.  Who knows again how much time was lost to neck and saddle adjustments.

Here is the stuff I wrote back when the Enduro story broke.  As I laid awake last night pondering the questions raised in the past few weeks concerning RAAM, some questions and thoughts of my own began to come forward.  First off, I think there have been a lot of good points on the Topica threads both for and against the new sleep rule.  However, I'm left puzzled as to how all this discussion and the rule alterations in the real world we live in, are going to produce any changes to the size, popularity, acceptability or just plain success of the race.  Let’s agree that we all have the same desire, to see RAAM prosper and grow into a sustainable event that does not bleed the organizers/owners dry.  To do this we need some press and interest from the American people in order to generate sponsorship right? - Do we all agree on this point?  I should hope so. 

The question becomes one of how?  A number of efforts and people wiser than I have tried to do this over the years or as a friend of mine put it, “taken whacks at it.”  The way I see this newest change to RAAM, it's nothing more than another whack at a piñata that has yet to produce any candy.  I would really like to know just how this new rule change is suppose to generate the growth the organizers and media personnel are expecting.  As it stands now, it looks like the vast majority of us who are actually riding the solo race and even serious potential future RAAM racers are opposed to this change.  It undermines the very nature of what drew us to RAAM in the first place.  The rich history of legendary individuals such as Lon, Pete, Michael Shermer, Danny, Rob, and several others... who pioneered an event proving what is possible with desire, dedication, perseverance, integrity, passion and many other characteristics required in each participant who attempts, finishes and even wins this life changing event. 

This new ruling is alienating the current ranks of racers even capable of finishing RAAM.  So who is going to replace us and in what numbers are these droves of athletes going to come charging onto the RAAM start line.  Where is the data, the market survey?  A new RAAM is being created that appears to be in no mans land.  It's no longer appealing to the elite of the ultra world, nor will it appeal to the ranks of a pro team.  So, who is going to fill in this void?

What is being done is the weakening of the worlds toughest and in my opinion, greatest race.  So this is the basis for where I'm going now. With this in mind, why is it that RAAM has never been embraced by Americans?  My guess is this - "Americans don't know what they love - they love what they know," another quote from a friend of mine.  This statement is not meant as a put down, but more of a fact.  Cycling is not known in the US, generally speaking, though there has been momentum shifting with Lance Armstrong’s tremendous athleticism and success. 

This is not only a promising direction; it's one that should be looked at.  Why has Lance been so embraced?  Why are hundreds of thousands of people around the world wearing a little yellow band on their wrist? Because he was in a bike race?  No!  Merckx, Anquetil, Hinault, Indurain and many others were all as successful as Lance up until a year or two ago.  What made Lance stand out to Americans?  He became a hero to the American people because he overcame adversity and rose to the top of a sport and event beyond the realm of understanding to us all.  

My thought becomes why has RAAM not done the same?  Why hasn't a portion of this media budget and effort that has been pushing for RAAMs recognition not went towards putting someone in the face and hearts of the American people in order to introduce them to America’s greatest race?  The opportunities wouldn't have been too hard to find.  Why not throw a champion whose overcome adversity on Leno or Letterman or a whole host of other talk shows to take advantage of the huge publicity opportunities with little to no cash outlay?

As far as I know, you don’t have to pay to get on these programs, but you do have to have connections and I’m sure somewhere out there, we already have those connections.  This is where I start to feel a bit awkward.  I don't want to sound like I'm promoting myself, but I think with all the obstacles I’ve struggled with and overcome, I would have been or perhaps still could be a prime option that stands out, over the last few years anyway.  

My ‘02 race was a scene of hardship and overcoming that I'm sure most of you are familiar with.  Followed up by a win in '03.  I even heard that Leno got a hold of a picture of me in my neck brace and had some fun with it.  Had the real story of RAAM and the heroes of RAAM been introduced to the American people, I think we'd be seeing a different set of circumstances than we are today.  Then, I didn’t race in ‘04, as I had to re-evaluate many things in my life and in the process came to some deep realizations about my depression and how to overcome that too.  This even lead to recognizing the fact that a large percentage of ultra cyclists suffer from depression and as we know...people at large struggle with this illness.  

All this to say…my story alone could be used to catapult RAAM into the hearts and homes of Americans if we tapped into it.  My story is one of many in this great event.  Because I won the race, it may be best usage, but there are many, many others who’ve raced and though they didn’t win…they finished and have amazing stories to tell.  Randy Van Zee, David Haase…the list I’m sure is endless.  Americans like American heroes.  Why have we failed to give them one?  

We're out there, we ride RAAM every year.  The opportunities are still there, we just need to set and stay the course and stop taking whacks at new ideas that seem to have no basis on fact or data to back them up.  NBC was a great opportunity and did produce an increase in popularity.  Those results came with minimal promotion prior to the event, which was aired on a Saturday in January, which is anything, but a prime time slot.  

Further, had we promoted this event with some talk show interviews and/or an American’s hero’s presence, I believe the ratings would have been astronomically higher.  Giving up on network coverage or not being willing to continue down that course, certainly is not helping our cause.  Granted, money is always an issue, but with the amount of passion that we KNOW personally is involved in this great race, it seems staying the course would be a better option.  

We want sponsors.  Sponsors want interested Americans.  Why have I been able to get such great local sponsorship for my race…because they know me…they’ve seen my back crooked and all the adversities in my life up close and they wanted to be a part of something bigger.  Some have actually been motivated in their own personal lives to challenge themselves.  This is just a small town and the effects one guys’ dreams have had on a community.  I know this happens all over RAAM, but for some reason this has been a best-kept secret.  This has to change or the race won’t make it.  And making RAAM more common, less extreme and more media friendly or however you want to label it, isn’t the answer.

Illustrating the depth and impact that the rawness of RAAM is in it’s true form…somehow getting it into America’s homes and hearts…that will change the race…forever.  Think back…Lance yes, but so many athletes and non-athletes too have won over the hearts and support of America as the stories are shown.  It’s been proven over and over again.  Let's show America what they love and reintroduce them to the spirit that made this country what it is today - the same spirit that lives in a RAAM athlete.

In a follow up e-mail, Larsen wrote:

I am against the Enduro division and am a little surprised that you seem to be supporting it.  I understand what your saying {Knowing how competitive Allen is, I asked if he might consider doing Enduro this year since it seems to be drawing the top/best riders}, but I have no interest regardless of who's in the race.  I also don't think there is anyone on the roster, except maybe Boyer, who wouldn't be there even if the Enduro division was never added. 

Again I think the race is no longer the RAAM that drew my attention and yours, yes it's still a big tough race, but it's not RAAM to me.  I am also completely disgusted with the fact that no info has been given on who's doing which division.  I've been asking for this info for sometime and have pretty much lost all faith and hope in RAAM altogether. 

Chances are good that I will not be on the start line in '06 or the rest of my life.  My neck is the most serious issue as I really don't want to end up with a fusion surgery for participating in a sport that is not a part of my livelihood, and will more than likely cause me to go into debt if I continue.  It's like there's an undiagnosed condition known as RAAM disease.

Do I want to race in a division that has no top competitors - NO.  I don't want to put out the required effort for RAAM and still have to wonder if I would have beat Jure, or anyone else, had the race not been split.  There will be little satisfaction in competing in a fragment of the field with or without victory.  I've achieved my personal goals of finishing RAAM, now it's more about the event as a whole or as a race but that's been tainted.

Maybe you just caught me at a bad moment and I'll come to my senses later today.  Or - Maybe I'm actually in my right mind now, I'll have to determine which is true.  But in either case, I am not happy with RAAM's direction and potential other unannounced as of yet (9 weeks before the race) changes that will seriously affect my participation (don't ask - I'm not at liberty to say).  

Six time solo women’s winner and women’s solo average speed (13.22 mph) record holder Seana Hogan’s finishing times have ranged from 9:04:17 to 11:15:07.  She has experienced taking both more/less than 40 total hours off the bike.  In January, she posted her views about Enduro on the e-mail forum. 

I want to preface my remarks with this.  I have not been on the loop nor have I been involved in the discussions regarding the new rules change.  With the new rules, it is a race across America but not the Race Across AMerica.  The racers will *not* have the opportunity to have the RAAM experience. Unless you do RAAM in less than 10 days, you do not experience it completely (I have had it both ways).

I am a traditionalist, but perhaps they will make more money with the new rules.  It is an unfortunate loss for the racers but most do not realize it.  It will definitely be more 'competitive' because it is leveling the playing field; more people will be in the front group with the new rules.  Managing sleep has always been a part of the strategy, just as managing nutrition.  Maybe the next step is to require each rider to eat only certain foods and drink a minimum amount of water so that they will ride more safely.

Personally, I think that 'safety' was the catalyst, but not the reason for the change.  The race is a business, it will probably get more media attention, and so this is a good business decision.

In a follow up e-mail, Seana wrote:

My choice of 10 days as the cut-off was somewhat arbitrary, of course different courses would have different times, but my point was...Gone are the days when the last days of racing are pushing yourself farther that you ever thought you could.  You will be required to take a sleep, so there goes the opportunity to discover that part of yourself.  A lot of RAAM racers up to this point have not been in that territory of their existence (I would say that only the front-runners have been there). If you are not forced to push yourself beyond what you think you can do, you will not. 

I would say that, on my best years (94, 95) I had about 21 hours off the bike for sleep, maybe as much as 28 hours off the bike total. With a required 40 hours off of the bike, the Enduro racers will typically have much faster on-the-bike speeds.  Is it accurate to compare the new Enduro racer speeds to the traditional RAAM speeds?  No.  Do I agree with deducting 40 hours from the Enduro racers total time?  No.  What is the point of it?  Average speed combined with total time gives a more accurate and complete picture (of course there will always be the variations in course and conditions).

Would I choose to be an Enduro racer or traditional RAAM racer?  It would depend.  Pushing yourself farther than you think you can is hard, so I would probably opt for Enduro racer, especially if that is what most people were doing; if most people were racing traditional, then that is where I would race.

Muffy Ritz is the greatest rider never to win the solo women’s RAAM.  She has placed 2nd to Seana three times, and has the second fastest women’s crossing at 13.09 mph.  She revealed her sleep data and total time off the bike for her three RAAMs in this e-mail:  

As for the new rule, I am a bit ambiguous about it, only because it takes away the true essence of RAAM.  However, that being said, I also embrace new ideas to improve on things.  If the rule does keep someone from getting killed due to lack of sleep, then I'm all for it.  My own experiences were pretty standard RAAM sleep times:

1993 - 18 hours of sleep and 3 hours spent at the hospital - lots of time spent off the bike dealing with seat issues - at least 4 hours and time off the bike in preparation for sleep and preparation for riding after sleep – at least 7 hours - so total 1993 = 32 hours off the bike approximately.

1995 - 16 hours of sleep with another 10+ hours off the bike = 26 hours off the bike.

1997 - 19 hours of sleep + 10 or so off the bike = 29 hours off the bike.

I would think my Enduro finishing time (including 40 hours) would be about half a day longer on the average.

Two time women’s winner Cassie Lowe has placed as high as 4th overall (among the men).  I love the way she raced RAAM.  She started out steady, and kept moving up in position/places all the way across the country.  She is one of the few riders to post a negative split in RAAM.  In both of her RAAMs, she rode faster the second half of the race!  She gave me her insightful views on Enduro in this e-mail:  

Okay, I'll have a crack at giving you my opinion on the new Enduro division.  I've taken the time to read through the articles posted on the RAAM website.

The race director's are responding to globalization and a shifting culture with apparent minimum attention span, and good on them for having the guts to offer an alternative.  I can understand, and fully appreciate from a business stance this division may attract riders that would otherwise not consider RAAM in its original format, but feel they may be able to tackle a more structured rest stop and ride time. There's no doubt in my mind that the Enduro RAAM will present its own unique variation of difficulty, it is an "Ultra Stage Race", not RAAM as I know it.

The potential problem areas I see include:

How to officiate and truly track these riders; prevent them from bunching on the road; crew caravanning and inexperienced navigation and worse, drafting.  What about the need for more officials out on the road to make sure road rules are respected?  How will presumably higher on-bike speeds, and potential said issues bode with police throughout various towns and states?  Finally, I believe the only way to overcome these potential issues are to have fresh officials rotating with each crew and above all, the course should be kept to quiet or secondary road systems.

In his article, Paul Skilbeck states mandatory sleep breaks "...would yield higher on-bike speeds making it more of a bike race and less of a sleep deprivation contest...” I find this attitude disrespectful, and to those many riders who have successfully finished RAAM.  I certainly do not regard myself belonging to a "fringe group who had something to prove"!  My personal experience has been that the very nature of the original format, with a responsible crew can appropriately manage and prevent sleep deprivation from being a safety hazard.  As for tactics, I was playing cat and mouse on and off with other riders and their crews the entire distance of my two RAAMs.

Lastly, speaking as an Australian, I was spellbound by this Great American Bike Race the moment I saw Susan Notorangelo on the Wide World of Sports in 1993.  To me, the original format is a uniquely American ultra endurance challenge, and I'm proud to have had the opportunity to race it twice across this amazing landscape.

Well Danny, that's my two cents worth, for what it's worth!  Please let me know what you think eh?

Two time solo women’s winner Susan Notorangelo chimed in with this e-mail:

I think the new Enduro division is a great addition to the Race Across America.  The Enduro division gives the racers recovery time so they should rider faster and feel better during the race.  It also allows racers to take time off the bike as they become dehydrated or need time to deal with an injury while remaining competitive.

I think the Enduro division will also encourage more cyclists to attempt the race.  It may raise the overall completion rate.  If the Enduro division helps RAAM to grow in participation – I think the race will also gain status among the best races in the world.

As long as there remains a choice  - Enduro division and Traditional RAAM – I feel know one loses.

In a follow up e-mail, Susan wrote:

In RAAM ‘89, I slept 90 minutes then 180 minutes.  Every other night.  But not the first and not the last.  In ‘89, there were no other women racing so I was paced only to race as fast as I could.   

Yes, I believe that RAAM will be more enjoyable with more sleep.  I think that even in the Enduro division there will be riders that feel sleep deprived.  Yes, there were times that I was very tired and needed to get in another 10 miles or ride to a town that we had a sleep break motel.

Staying focus on the task at hand, durability, and the love of riding is what riders need to finish RAAM.

Rick Kent has the most (5) solo RAAM finishes without a win.  His finishing times range from 8:20:17 to 10:06:54.  In January, he also posted his views about Enduro on the e-mail forum.

Speaking from the perspective of a guy who has done RAAM a whole bunch of times, I can say that sleeping 4 hours a day as part of your race schedule would be like sleeping in late on a Sunday till 10am (in normal life).  You will have some very rested racers out there and going a lot faster.  I don't personally like this change at all, but I accept it.  It's going to be interesting to see the finish times and new records within this new division.

"Doing RAAM" has a whole new meaning too... there was a debate a few years ago in that the Team RAAM people said they "did RAAM" but we solo racers took a bit of an offense to that (I did!).  Is it "doing RAAM" with 4 hours of sleep a day?  No matter what side of this argument you take there is no doubt that the old way is harder.  I don't think sleep deprivation will be a factor anymore either, and to me that was the most difficult thing to manage ...making it the worlds hardest endurance event. (?!)

Three time finisher and former UMCA President Tom Buckley gave me his RAAM sleep data, and views on Enduro in this e-mail:

I really didn't have many worries about sleep deprivation on my first RAAM, and while I did have problems near the end related to lack of sleep, I don't think I would have been any more at ease if there had been mandatory sleep time.

On my first RAAM in 1996, I slept about 23-25 hours total with another 8-10 hours off the bike. Much to inefficient in terms of time off the bike to sleep time which I greatly improved on my 2 following RAAMs.  Working with a good crew as well as the initial experience, I did reduce my sleep time on my second RAAM in 1998, but significantly reduced my off bike time by at least 5 hours.  I was actually off the bike very little when not sleeping that year.  I slept between 18 and 20 hours that year.  On my third RAAM In 2000, I slept about 15.5 hours and had just under 4 hours off the bike.  While it did cause some sleep deprivation problems (as it did in 1998 with less sleep), I felt much more competitive with the best riders when I was limiting both my sleep and off bike time.

If I were to do RAAM again or specifically this year, I might look at the Enduro version just to try something different, but I feel the constant running time (Traditional) favors my slow but consistent riding style more than the new version would.  I can't say for sure without the actual experience, but when forced to take additional time off the bike that I could have continued to make even slow progress over faster riders would seem to be a disadvantage to me.

UMCA managing director and Enduro creator John Hughes pointed out some difficulties of RAAM and how Enduro will make it a better race in a January post on the e-mail forum.  

What is the "real race" that is "going to hell"?  Is it Jure Robic so tired by Monument Valley in June '05 that he's falling off his bike?   Which I witnessed?  Is it me, as Mike Wilson's crew chief, pushing him so hard to ride through the last night and pass another rider - that he falls asleep and crashes in a ditch?   He finished, but I've long wondered if I did the right thing.  Is it Mike Secrest going without sleep trying to catch Jock Boyer, falling and breaking his collarbone?

If you are racing RAAM, would you rather pass another rider and move up in the standings because:

a)    S/he's crashed and is in the ambulance

b)  S/he's so sleep-deprived that his crew put him down

      c)  You’ve got better legs and pass him or her on the road

Every year riders crash due, at least in part, to sleep deprivation.  If you are contemplating RAAM as a rookie, would you be more likely to enter if your odds of finishing are:

    a) 50%

    b) 70%

I don't know the exact percentages, but guessing how much and when to sleep is one of the biggest problems for a rookie.  The new rules don't eliminate that, but do reduce the magnitude of the problem and, I predict, will increase the number of rookie finishes.  Ask any RAAM veteran - racing on only 3-4 hours of sleep per night still isn't a picnic, as Ish Makk put it a few days ago.

If you are in Oceanside, would you rather line up with:

   a) 15-20 solo competitors

   b) 30 or so solo competitors

The new rule makes the race *somewhat* more accessible, and it will draw a bigger field.  It's still going to take $10-12K, a ton of training, and a very dedicated crew to get across, so this won't open the floodgates.   

Racing through Midwest would you rather:

   a) Never see another competitor

   b) Be battling with one on your tail and one only a time station ahead

More rest will lead a larger start group and to faster riding, and both will result in greater competition throughout the race.  

Lon Haldeman, Jim Pitre, and I have been trying for years to figure out ways to increase the size and quality of the solo field, the "real" race.  It remains to be seen if this is correct, however from all my experience with RAAM this seems like a positive step in that direction. Solo RAAM will still be the toughest race in the world.  Riders will still have to deal with desert heat, days of headwinds, high altitude, saddle sores, trashed legs, not enough sleep, etc.  But it will also be a better race.

In the 1996 RAAM (which he finished unofficially) video, Hughes was interviewed on his bike and has this to say:

I’ve never been so sleepy in my life.  Can you still do RAAM, and uh, sleep 12 hours a night?  I’ve in no rush, I got no job.  

Furnace Creek 508 (the best known RAAM qualifier) race director Chris Kostman calls Enduro the dumbing down of RAAM, and says solo RAAM as we've known it since 1982 is gone.  He has cancelled his plans to ride solo RAAM in 2007 as a 20 year anniversary to his 1987 finish at 20 years old.  This was the solo RAAM youngest finisher record until 18 year old Ben Couturier finished last year.  

Terry Lansdell has started four solo RAAMs and finished three of them – all in the 10 Days, Something range, and in 12th, 10th, & 7th places.  In 2003, when he won the Ian Sandbach Award, given to the most inspirational rider.  In a recent e-mail to me, Lansdell calls Enduro - Sleep RAAM, and has a suggestion on how prize money should be distributed.  

Frankly I do not care about the Sleep RAAM except that it may impede and potentially jeopardize rider safety by log jamming the roadways and time stations along the course.  Furthermore, having been a part of 8 RAAM's, enforcing the rules that exist has been unsuccessful due to logistic and financial excuses given by the Race Directors, how will they begin to enforce this whole new set of rules for the Sleep RAAM?

What does concern me is that all divisions except Traditional RAAM will have prize money awarded.  I have never looked to become wealthy by doing RAAM, but it is unjust and shocking that an 8 man team finishing third could win more money than the first place Traditional RAAMer. In my opinion every division should get only the appropriate fraction of what the first 10 Traditional RAAM finishers get.  In simple terms if a dollar is given to a Traditional RAAM finisher, the next dollar should be split between all other divisions based on number of participants.  

Prize money will be split partially in accord with the sign-up for each category with the minimum Enduro 1st place money at $8,000 and the minimum (thanks to $5,000 donation from Pac Tour/Lon Haldeman) 1st place Traditional Category of $5,000.  A bonus will also be offered if Pete Penseyres’ 15.40 mph speed record is broken.  Race organizers hope to offer substantially more money, and will announce when the final entry field is known and final sponsorship money is tallied. 

I am very curious to see who will sign up for the Enduro and Traditional divisions.  How many riders will change categories at the last minute once they see whom their competition is?  Because of a better prize list, Enduro will probably get a bigger and better (faster/stronger) field.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Enduro finishing time (including the 40 hours) is faster than the Traditional finishing time?  At least I could declare an overall solo winner if this happens.  This might happen if the Traditional division doesn’t draw any top riders. 

Another downside to the new Enduro division is that it may prevent Pete Penseyres’ 20 year old, all-time 15.40 mph speed record from ever being broken.  Records are meant to be broken, and 63 year old Pete told me that he hopes to see his record fall in his life time.  How strange is it that Pete was the oldest person to ever win solo RAAM when he set that record back in 1986?  It would take an incredible athlete (perhaps Lance Armstrong caliber) to beat Pete’s record in either solo division.  Certainly you would think that somebody like Armstrong would have a better chance at doing it in the Traditional division, but I might be wrong.  

Often, great events change over time to insure their long-term survival.  The early days of the Tour de France were much different than today.  The longest Tour was 3,569 miles (longer than any RAAM) in 1926.  The longest average distance per stage was 224 miles in 1924.  The longest stage was 299.5 miles in 1920, and took the lead pack 19 Hours, 45 Minutes to finish.  Seeing that it made for poor racing, journalist Albert Londres said it wasn't even cycling, the riders were moving so slowly - this huge stage was abandoned after six usages (from 1919-1924).  

Lance and today’s Tour riders can hardly imagine racing a 300 mile stage even though the bikes, clothing, nutrition, road conditions, and support of today would make it a much easier feat than what the riders endured in the 1920’s.  If Enduro RAAM takes off and Traditional RAAM dies out, riders may one day wonder how on Earth RAAM was ever done Robic style on just over one hour of sleep a night.  I hope this doesn’t happen, but only time will tell what the future holds for solo RAAM.  I will always remain proud of the fact that I was able to win Traditional RAAM on three hours of sleep per night.

As part of the first two person team (Team Dagger with Jeff Estes on mountain bikes in 1997) to start and finish RAAM, Perry Stone is a journalist, and has been my colleague on the past two RAAMs which he also did video color commentary on.  He told me his views on Enduro in this e-mail:

I have ridden three non-stop trips around Australia.  These were 14,300 kilometers EACH.  And since you are so big on things cumulative that is equal to approximately 9 RAAMS or three RAAMS ridden one after another after another, so while you arbitrarily dismiss my ultra cycling efforts because they don’t have the name RAAM attached to them, I do consider my experiences equipped me to be ultra-informed especially when it comes to sleep deprivation.

That said, I have a very clear opinion of the Enduro division.  I think Haldeman hit the nail on the head with his statement, “Traditional will be harder to finish, Enduro will be harder to win”.  I think that you will see a massive increase in rider participation in RAAM and that if the interest remains, the Traditional division will continue to be what it is.  So there is no need for “Traditionalists” to be in a huff.  Jim Pitre’s letter posted on the RAAM site was well put, logical and business wise, albeit he could have put it out two months earlier.

I doubt Enduro will have a positive effect on safety though.  In my opinion both tragic deaths were not caused by a lack of sleep, or in the case of Dr. Breedlove, any necessity to not sleep.  You rode in his support vehicle the day before he died, I spoke with him, photographed him.  He was having the time of his life.  Ask John Hughes if he agrees with my observation as he rode with him for a while.  RAAM just happened to be happening then. He wasn’t racing anyone but himself, he was doing an excellent job and with the clear intelligent mind of a surgeon.  Something else happened, maybe he fell asleep, but 4 hours of snooze time doesn’t guarantee alertness.  A 100 times I have caught myself falling asleep in the middle of day with warmth of the sun the major contributing factor.

You and I also marked the roadside where Brett Malin met a horrific death.  He too was having the time of his life.  Being part of a 4 person team he was only on the bike 6 hours a day.  You don’t suddenly maneuver your bike into a u-turn on a highway when you are exhausted, if you are depleted you stop rolling and put your feet down and wait for the crew to catch you.  When you are rocking and zooming on the rush of competition and the magic of such an encounter, grooving to tunes, that’s when you might become a little “devil-may-care”.  All in all, Pitre states: “We wouldn’t allow a horse or dog to do anything like RAAM in the traditional way”.  Its true, its barbaric, but I like it too.  Still, I think a new monster is in the incubator a zula warrior on bike, hell bent on massive maintained speed, high tech training, supplements and conditioning beyond what great levels we have already seen.  Isn’t that competition?  People who set records expect them to be broken, its called evolution and innovation, so don’t interpret that I am knocking anyone, I’m just stating the obvious, records fall, people, athletes, even RAAM ones just keep getting better.

In a follow up e-mail, Stone came up with a terrific idea for determining an overall solo RAAM champion:

I have given some previous thought to how to handle the overall crown.  The most attractive solution is this: The previous years winner declares which category he will race in and that category becomes the competition for the overall title.  In this way it is more like a wrestling belt, not that you want any association with that, but you make the title something tangible, something held until it is taken from the champion.  It makes your champion more active in the next year's promo.  If he doesn't race you institute a guideline directing that if title is not defended the race is contested in the opposite or same division.

I really believe the Enduro will overcome the traditional with time, probably not this year but in a couple/few.  I think because of this you should retract any time credits the Enduro division might get, it is the only way to level the playing field.  While I am for your changes there is a danger, further segregation of the race, teams and solo are two vastly different races already, dropping the time credits keeps the two solo divisions closer akin. 

Stone continued in another e-mail:

If the mandated off bike time was three hours per day, I think the race would be pretty close for the winners from each side, but I think the Enduro riders will adapt and catch up and lead the way in a few years. 

I think when it is 4 hours it makes the rider's choice very difficult and personal.  If it were three hours the difference between a Traditional total off bike time and Enduro mandated would be very little.  With 4 hours off bike time, riders must decide if the extra sleep is worth the partial loss of control of their race plan and if they believe it would be wise to get the extra sleep. 

So this year I think Enduro time (with no time credits) would get killed in overall, but if you adapted my plan the overall time could be faster in Traditional but if Jure Robic picked Enduro, that time would win overall regardless. 

What about if the current champion rides Traditional, but the winning Enduro time (including 40 hours) is faster?  There would need to be a special clause that says when this happens, the Enduro winner is crowned overall champ.  The Enduro and Traditional divisions should start at the same time to insure similar weather conditions to make time comparisons fair. 

What if the current champion doesn’t ride?  Then go back to the most recent winner.  For example, if 2004 & 2005 champ Robic weren’t racing this year, then Traditional would determine the overall champ since 2003 winner Allen Larsen is racing Traditional this year, unless the Enduro winner was faster than Larsen.  

RAAM Media Communications Director Paul Skilbeck explained to me why he prefers having two separate solo winners in this e-mail:

1. Apples and oranges.  The Enduro and Traditional division of the Solo category are significantly different races.  Several members of last year's field are riding in the Enduro RAAM this year, but ultimately the two divisions will attract very different types of cyclists and then having an overall champion will make even less sense.

The upside to a single champion is obvious: it is simpler and cleaner to have an undisputed champion, but we would be wise to consider the downside as well.

2. A comparison would have to be based on some kind of external and arbitrary framework that had little if anything to do with events out on the road.  What if the riders do not accept our rationale for the comparison? 

3. I can see it fostering ill-will and dispute between the two divisions because of what some may perceive as a skewed system. 

4. Some of the riders may feel insulted by our comparison. 

5. How do we explain our system to the media?  Whatever system we adopt, several journalists will think it crazy and might use words such as 'quirky' to describe the event when we are trying to move closer to the mainstream of cycling. 

6. It is much simpler and more respectful to the riders, I think, to assess their performance only in relation to others in the same division of racing.

7. While the idea of an overall Solo champion might sound attractive, I consider it would be making a rod for our own back.

After winning their Team RAAMs last year, some riders are looking to cross over to the solo race this year.  Triathlete Shanna Armstrong won the two person mixed team with Guy Wells (on Team Endorphins) who is also racing solo this year.  She is also a two time UltraMan (double IronMan distance) World Champion.  Upon first hearing of the new Enduro division in January, Shanna sent me this e-mail:

I know I will have 4 hours of rest by the time the day is over.  I want to do it when I feel like sleeping and not when they want me to.  As I was crossing the Mississippi this past year, I was in the mood to sleep and I was really wanting to just pull off the road and sleep there, but I needed to keep going until I reached Guy.  The crew ran off the road and it was really dangerous.  What the rule is going to do is make us not rest when we need to.  We will only want to do it at the rest stops so we get credit for it. 

If they had an official go with all of us to log that we were off the bike for 4 hours a day, then the new rule would be fine.  We would still able to do our own strategy to get to the finish line.  I do not think that this new rule makes it any safer then before.  What if you wanted to stop at Arby's?  If it was not at a time station, then it will only add to the time off the bike, and then you are looking at 4 hours plus when you get done.  We all know that you can't make the cut-offs if you are off the bike 6 hours.  It is not RAAM.  I am very disappointed in the rule, but I will continue to train and hope that it changes.  I think that letting us know this after we signed up is not fair, but life goes on.  I need to study up on how they plan to regulate this but I can tell you I do not like it.

Shanna also sent me this follow up e-mail:

Yes ULTRAMAN is much harder then two-person RAAM.  They really do not compare at all, but training 3 sports at the ultra level is very hard.  I am doing the Traditional RAAM since that is the race that has been going on for 25 years, and the one I have dreamed of since I first heard of it in 1998.  I might return for the Enduro, but I can’t shift gears to that now.  Last year, I only slept 8 hours and had insomnia problems, which is why I think I am capable of solo RAAM.  I was not able to sleep when I was designated to.  The Enduro requires sleep at certain points, and I am not sure that I would be able to sleep then so it is not appealing to me.  I learned a ton last year at RAAM.  I will use it all to my advantage this year. 

Coming off his two person mixed team victory last year, Guy Wells was the first person to sign up for the 2006 solo RAAM.  55 year old Wells is concerned about finishing Enduro officially before the Friday, Noon EST deadline some 12 Days, 2 Hours after starting in Oceanside, CA.  He sent me this e-mail:

I was the first to sign up and did so last July, 2005.  At that time I knew nothing of the possible new rules.  I signed up and entered the category Enduro as I expected most racers were off their bikes 4 hours per day anyway.  My worries about sleep deprivation remain whether I am off the bike 4 hours a day or only 3 hours a day.  It will still be a difficult race.  

In perspective, last years race required an average speed of 10.52 mph (including all stops) to make the cutoffs.  With the new time off-the-bike requirements we now must have an on-the-bike average speed of at least 12.13 mph ([290 hours minus 40 hours] divided into 3033 miles) to remain in the race.  Will the extra time off the bike (maybe one extra hour daily) make us fast enough to make the time cutoffs?  {Yes.  More sleep will greatly increase on-the-bike speeds.  The 12 Day, 2 Hour time limit will actually be easier to achieve in Enduro because riding down the road alert at descent speeds is safer, and far less difficult than crawling down the road as a sleep-deprived zombie.  On-the-bike average speeds will have to be closer to 13 mph because riders will spend much more than 40 hours off their bikes.}  

Also note there has never been a 50 plus racer complete the race at 12 mph.  Just food for thought.  {Tom Davies, Jr.’s 11.83 mph 50+ solo RAAM record included all stops and so did Bob Breedlove’s 12.26 mph 50+ transcontinental record done outside of RAAM in 2002.}

I still respect the efforts of the RAAM organizers to continue to put on this massive undertaking.  As a result of this change my training has been more toward speed and sleeping 4 hours a night.  In last years two person team race, I slept about 4-5 hours a day, always in the RV, frequently moving down the road.  Again I have tremendous respect for the RAAM organizers and greatly appreciate their efforts at putting on an event that lets me ride my bike.  

World Duathlon (run-bike-run) Champion Kenny Souza led Team Clif Bar to victory in the RAAM 24 Hour Corporate Challenge last year.  He also won the solo Furnace Creek 508 RAAM Qualifier last Fall, setting a new course record.  Looking forward to solo RAAM this year, he sent me this e-mail:

I like both Enduro and the Traditional.  I would have done the event either way.  I wish there would have been more of a 500 mile stretch at a time, then take a 6-8 hour mandatory stop.  I think that then the race would become more of a stage race.

Finally, I want to include some total rookies without any team RAAM experience - blindly diving into the solo race this year or sometime in the future.  Entered in this years solo RAAM, Rob Lucas explained why he chose Enduro on this post:

I'm in the Enduro category.  I don't like the way they're doing the sleep requirement, but I'm not sure I can get an official finish in the Traditional category.  You have to finish within 48 hours of the winner.  I have a full time job, wife, and 2 young kids so I don't think I can be close to guys like Tinker.

In response to Rob’s above post, 21 time RAAM crew member Peter Moffett posted this:

Having a full time job and a family like yours hasn't slowed Allen Larsen down.  I think it makes him faster.  Realizing how fast Tinker was as a California MTBer in the Cannondale stable I, too, am curious to see how well he'll do in his reincarnation.  The challenges in RAAM are a lot different from what he encounters every year in the quarry at Reddick before us awestruck Floridians. I don't know if he's yet dealt with the DNF potential of issues like saddle sores, Shermer neck, and crew vehicle breakdowns and mutiny.  The Furnace Creek 508 mile RAAM Qualifier is over way too soon to be a useful measure.

I wouldn't worry about being an "official finisher" in the classic sense.  Danny Chew says Rob Kish wasn't "official" in his first attempt, nor was Rob Templin for whom I crewed that same year.  With the Enduro division rules keeping the course open you'd still have the time station and HQ support available and local police arrangements in force.  If you satisfy yourself, your family, and your crew with your effort what the record books say won't matter to anyone, except perhaps to Danny and me.

The difference might be the prize money available, but if you're intimidated by Tinker you're probably not worried about the pot of gold.  You'll surely be off the bike at least 40 hours, but do you want to be able to optimize that time to decrease your overall elapsed time or do you look forward to enjoying the media and sponsor campouts along the way?  

If you ride the traditional race you can choose how you want to deal with the staffed time stations as your race unfolds, if you are an Enduro guy your options are limited.

Enduro is RAAM with restrictor plates.  Not of less merit, just different.  Whichever you chose I challenge you to try to have as much fun with your crew as we had with Ben Couturier last year.

Two-time Boston-Montreal-Boston champion and course record holder Sandy Whittlesey plans to ride solo RAAM sometime in the future.  He explained in this e-mail:

When I am ready for RAAM, I will race the nonstop {Traditional} division; or, if the nonstop division dies, then I'll just do a solo transcontinental.  It's all about the history of event to me.  I mean, maybe if Enduro was the original RAAM format, I might feel otherwise.  As it is, I am entirely motivated by the history of the event, and I cannot imagine racing in any way other than that of the race's pioneers.  

When the new rule was first announced, it really shocked me, and I'm glad the RAAM organization relented a bit given the general sentiment of the riders. I sent out about 400 emails to people, getting a sense of where everyone's opinion stood.  Overall, I think the sentiment is that the Enduro is a fine concept to test - everyone wants to see the growth and success of RAAM!  People just felt that the unveiling of the new rule was handled poorly, and that the idea of largely forcing riders to race Enduro was inappropriate.  So, anyhow, with both divisions available this year, I think people have pretty much settled down.  It will be interesting to watch, with the slight caveat that I'm a little disappointed that all these excellent riders will not be in the same division.

RAAM has long been in a tough spot financially, and I think everyone is sympathetic to that.  Personally, as they move forward, I think they should consider the model of FootJoy, the golf shoe manufacturer.  Little FootJoy has over 50% of the golf shoe market, with Nike a distant second place at around 12% of the market.  Nike has been unable to compete with FootJoy despite astronomical financial resources and having the world's most-recognized athlete (Tiger) {What about Lance?} as their spokesman.  Why?  Because the world's top golfers (unless they're paid mega dollars) insist on wearing FootJoy's top-of-the-line shoes.  FootJoy "Classics" have been, by far, the number-one shoe on the PGA Tour for over 50 years.  

Now, here's the interesting part: the top-of-the-line shoe is not profitable.  Each of these shoes takes 250 hand operations to make, and the various styles of these models comprise almost 1/4 of the total product line, despite comprising a single-digit percentage of their sales.  The bottom line is that the shoe has to be in the line in order to maintain the leadership of the brand - it is the flagship that all customers identify with.  

So, returning to RAAM, I think the lesson is that while the nonstop solo race is expensive to run and never draws a big field, it probably must remain as the icon of the race - the longest, toughest bike race ever devised.  Introducing the relays, HPV's, and now (perhaps) the Enduro are the right moves to grow the event.  But I think the key is that racers look to the nonstop race as the centerpiece event of RAAM.  Without it, so much of the RAAM aura and history would be lost, and I think the long-term success of the race would be compromised.  

As of May 2, 2006, 36 solo riders (in all divisions) are signed up making this year the second biggest solo field in RAAM history.  The biggest was 39 in 1988 after the first five races were covered by ABC’s Wide World of Sports making two time winner Lon Haldeman a household name.  Of the 36 riders this year, 22 are solo rookies.  The majority (13) of the 18 man Enduro field are rookies.  Of the 18 riders in Traditional, only 6 of the 15 men are rookies, both women are rookies, and the only recumbent is a male rookie.  

I predict that Robic will win Enduro, and Larsen will win Traditional.  Larsen’s winning time will be roughly 6 hours faster than Robic’s winning time (including the 40 hours).  Robic versus Larsen directly in the same race (in either division) would be a very close, exciting race, but I would have to give the advantage to Robic because of Larsen’s neck problem slowing him down.  

I would like to get some feedback on my article from the 2006 RAAM solo field.  How hard of a time did you have choosing which division to enter?  What criteria did you use?  What are your opinions, hopes, and fears of the new Enduro division?  If you are not already a member of e-mail list, go to:

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Best of luck to all the people brave enough to ride the 2006 RAAM – all divisions!















Avg. Speed

Total Off Bike Time

Total Sleep Time

Wasted Time

Wasted Time



in M.P.H.




% of Total

































































Avg. Cum.



On Bike Time


Cum. Mi.




cum avs

Daily Mi.


















































































(8.408)   9

9:29:40out of 9:47




















185.544 out of










201.783 hours










Pete was riding

his bike

92% of

his total



Of the 16.233

hours he

was off

his bike,

Pete had

11.5 hours

of actual sleep

or 71% of

this time.


tinental Solo

Bike Crossings


14 mph




Avg. Speed