RAAM: the craziest race in the world

The RAAM – Race Across America is the toughest and most famous Ultracycling event in the world: it crosses the United States from West to East over a total of 5,000 km, forcing riders to push well beyond their limits. This, the 36th year of the race, marks the beginning of a multi-year partnership between RAAM and Selle Italia, with the Novus Superflow Endurance being chosen as the official saddle of the race.

 

5,000 km in the saddle, coast to coast from the Pacific to the Atlantic through 12 states, 35,000 metres of elevation and a time limit of 12 days.

With a 13 June 2017 Oceanside, California start and an Annapolis, Maryland finish, to say describe the 36th year of this bike race as gruelling is definitely an understatement. The RAAM – Race Across America – “The World’s Toughest Bicycle Race” – according to the organisers – is perhaps better described as a race for crazy people.

Just think that this ultra-endurance is 30% longer than the Tour de France and the riders take about half the time to complete it: in recent years the winners put in an average of 7-8 days, covering daily distances of over 400 km.

Contestants also ride at night, getting only 2-3 hours of rest at most, and battling against all kinds of environmental hazards from the searing heat of the Arizona desert to the icy conditions of the Rocky Mountains – not to mention wind and sometimes tornadoes.

All on roads open to traffic, with the risk of accidents ever-present. In this “apocalyptic” scenario with its attendant variety of physical problems and injuries, it’s not surprising that usually only 50% of contestants arrive at the finish.

Riders can enter in pairs, teams or in relay, but of course the real RAAM is when you go it alone – and in fact the absolute winner is the “Solo” Category rider who reaches the finish line first.

Merely completing this extreme race is in any case already a triumph, a challenge against yourself and your body. “But why do you do it?”, you might ask participants. These guys would probably give the same answer as mountaineer Mallory before he attempted to climb Everest: “Because it’s there!”

 

Which saddle?

20 hours per day on bikes is no joke: it takes ruthlessly strict preparation, especially getting used to sitting in the saddle all that time. People even train by mounting the saddle on a stool and using as a normal chair for working, eating, etc. in the months leading up to the race.

But which saddle? This kind of beyond-the-limits performance demands a product designed especially for long distances and which is also perfect in every detail. Like the Novus SuperFlow Endurance by Selle Italia, chosen this year as the official product of the competition.

It has a very distinctive shape, with the long central cut that splits the saddle from the tip of the nose right through the length of the seat, helping reduce pressure on the soft tissue of the pelvic area. The length of the aperture also makes for a more flexible structure, allowing it to better accommodate the movements of the body during pedalling, thus aiding comfort.

An essential factor in comfort is represented by the extra neoprene padding, densely packed and excellently distributed at crucial support points for the ischial bones. It keeps discomfort at bay even after many kilometres.

This year the RAAM has already found a sure winner.

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