The coronavirus pandemic has laid waste to the outdoor sports landscape for 2020, with dozens of events cancelled or postponed. Some have taken the novel route of switching to a virtual format for this year, challenging participants to take part from their own homes, but using sophisticated tracking equipment to measure their performance and progress. One such event is the annual Race Across America (RAAM), which sends cyclist off on a 3000 mile (4828 km) bike ride from California to Maryland. This year, a group of riders is indeed embarking on that journey, although they’re doing so without ever taking their bikes out of the garage.
The Virtual RAAM officially got underway yesterday, with cyclists from all over the world taking part. They’re taking on a virtual route that has been carefully constructed to mimic the one they would encounter were they out on the actual road, including the 175,000 feet (53,340 meters) of elevation gain that is found along the way. Those climbs and descents are all simulated by their high-tech home trainers, which have been programmed with all of the necessary details. In this way, they can bring the most accurate representation of the cross-country course home to the cyclists, who are spending hours in the saddle as they go head-to-head in a new type of competition.
In addition to the VRAAM competition, there are two other categories of events in this years event as well. The VRAW is a simulated version of the yearly Race Across the West, which as the name implies covers 925 miles (1488 km) through the western states. There is also a category called The60, which challenges cyclists to ride just 1 hour per day to see how far they can go. The winner in that event will be the person who covers the most distance over a 12 day span. All of these races are being handled by FulGaz, which is a platform designed to specifically offer virtual rides for serious cyclists.
So just how are things going so far in the VRAAM? Just one day in, and the top riders are already putting out some seriously impressive numbers. As of this writing, the leader of the event is a cyclist named Hirokazu Suzuki, who has covered and impressive 520 km (323 miles). The top rider in the VRAW has gone even further, covering 607 km (377 miles). That’s not bad for an event that hasn’t even technically been active for 24 hours yet. One of the things that I particularly like is that the location of the rider is displayed on a real world map of the course, so you can see exactly where he or she would be if they were out on the actual route. That’s a nice touch and helps to put things in perspective.
Follow all of the action on the RAAM website. It should be a lot of fun to see how this plays out.
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