OCEANSIDE — More than 325 bicyclists are readying for the 33rd annual Race Across America, which will leave from Oceanside at noon on both June 10 and June 14.
“It’s the only race that spans the entire country,” Rick Boethling, race director, said. “There’s nothing like it in the world.”
Cyclists take off from The Strand at Oceanside Pier and pedal across the country. The starting line traditionally brims with well-wishers who give cyclists a cheer as they start their trek across country.
Some cyclists take on the Race Across the West challenge that finishes in Durango, Colo., after 860 miles. Others take on the more arduous Race Across America challenge that finishes in Annapolis, Maryland, after 3,000 miles of pedaling.
Both races follow the same course along secondary highways and through small towns. Boethling said it one of the most scenic ways to see the U.S.
“It’s an amazing experience to cross the country,” Boethling said.
Fifty percent of cyclists are from other countries. Boethling said cyclists get to see scenic parts of the U.S. most Americans never see.
To help keep riders on course, cyclists are given an electronic GPS map, printed map and clip-on tracking device.
There are 50 race escorts who make sure cyclists are accounted for, and see to it they follow all traffic rules.
Tracking devices ensure safety and allow spectators to follow the progress of riders online through the Race Across America website.
“You can follow the race in real time with a one-minute sampling time,” Boethling said.
Prior to the race, course specifics are ironed out, and detours are added where there are emergency road closures.
“We work year-round setting up the race route,” Boethling said.
Each cyclist and team also brings their own crew. Boethling served on the crew for his father, Fred, in his record-setting race in 2006. The elder Boethling, a past racer and current Race Across America CEO and president, set an age-60-and-over finish record, which went unsurpassed until last year.
Boethling said the crew is just as involved as the rider in making it across the finish line.
Crews keep the cyclist on the right course, and provide food, water, first aid and needed bicycle repairs.
“Their job is to make sure the rider has nothing to worry about but riding,” Rick Boethling said. “You realize they are very dependent on you, and you can’t let them down. You need to function as a team.”
More than 80 percent of riders use the race as an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for a charity.
More than $2 million has been collectively raised by racers over the past 10 years and donated to 40 different charities.
Rick Boethling said often times big $10,000 donations are pledged toward the end of the race to help push cyclists across the finish line.
“It’s cool to see that as a motivating factor,” Boethling said. “Bicycle riding is selfish enjoyment, to give back a bit is nice.”
No prize money is awarded to top finishers, the reward is bragging rights they completed the race.