Looking for a way to push your physical and mental limits beyond your wildest reaches?  Look no further than the Race Across the West (RAW), a 930-mile bike race across the rugged American West.   No, not “bike” as in motorbike, but a human propelled bicycle race. 

On June 11, 2019 cyclists from around the world, all ages and genders are given less than 4 days to compete in this ultra cycling race across four states.  Tackled by men and women alike, and ages ranging from 15-75, the RAW is a grueling and exhilarating test of the human spirit of grit and perseverance.  

The Route

Starting on the beaches of Oceanside near San Diego, Southern California, riders start at sea level and look east. They propel over undulating terrain of the Coastal mountain ranges into the scorching heat of the Sonoran and Mojave’s deserts. As soloists or 2-4 person teams, they ascend into the Rockies of southwest Colorado to the final destination in Durango, Colorado.  Although the route they cover is amongst the most spectacular scenery of western America,  I can assure you, there’s not much sightseeing happening. These athletes are serious. They pay for the challenge of a race, not a back road touring vacation with optional sag wagons to help you up the hills. They train endlessly to endure sleepless hours in the saddle, stopping only when necessary and never longer than 30-minute stretches, if that.

The RAW and the RAAM

The prize? That varies.  For some, if they complete the race within 92 hours (individuals) or 68 hours (team), they qualify for the honor of participating in for the infamous Race Across America or RAAM.  The RAAM is the big brother to the RAW and the oldest and longest (3000 miles) bicycle Race Across America. Imagine that – killing yourself for a prize that allows you to do it all over again, but this time for three times the distance.  For others, the reward is not as much to say “I did it,” but to test the boundaries of their limits.  How far can a person really push themselves?  The RAW tempts riders to answer this question. Yet for even those who finish, I doubt if the question ever gets answered. The bar just gets pushed a little further into the unknown, and so many come back the next year, trying to answer the elusive question of “what are my limits.” 

Team Revolution Coaching Joins The Sistership

Sistership is a growing network of active, aging women and we select several team and individual ventures to promote each year. This year, we can’t wait to highlight the world of women endurance bike racing.  We are thrilled to support and promote Team Revolution Coaching.  Women, known in distance racing for the stamina and endurance have been populating the rosters of ultra cycling events over the past decade and setting records.  Unlike most sports centered around the strength, speed and agility of youth, when it comes to endurance cycling, age and gender barriers are beginning to blur. 

Women Breaking Records Across The West

In 2010 Denver Spokes (USA) set the record on the 858-mile course, competing as a four-person, all-female team in the 50-59 age category.  In 2015, another team record was established in the 60-69 age category by Spokeswomen (USA), another four-person, all female team.   In 2011, as a solo woman over 50, Seana Hogan (USA) smashed the 858-mile RAW in 3 days and 53 minutes. She’s set to do the 3000-mile RAAM this June, her 7th time – this time as the first entrant ever in the women’s solo 60-69 age category. She’s still an animal!   Last year, Karen Wheeler and Sylvia Maas of the two-female team, In Our Prime, set a new record of 451.2 miles coming in one minute before the two-person male team.  They are set to repeat the race in the 50-59 team category in 2019 and Sistership will be following them closely. But perhaps most intriguing to us is the repeat RAAM team, Team Serpentine Golden Girls.  This is a 4-female team from the UK who completed the race 10 years ago and are returning to see if they can do it again, this time in the 70-74 age category.  

Jill Gass and Liz Inglese

Team Revolution Coaching, another two-female crew, will be competing in the RAW in the  60+ two-person, all-female team category. In response to an ever-increasing field of competitive master’s  women,  the race organizers decided to add another age group in this category, just as they did for the RAAM.  The categories consider the combined average age of team members.  Team Revolution Coaching is the first team to sign up.  Aside from age, these women riders still hunger for the thrill of cycling and competition. They just keep coming back for more.    Jill Gass, 63, is a veteran of 3 RAAM challenges.  In 2010, she and her three teammates of Team Kalyra completed the race in just 7 days and set a new Master’s Women’s Transcontinental Record. In 2014, Jill competed with Frazier Hazlett in the mixed-doubles RAW as Team B4T9 and crossed the finish line in 2-days, 2 hours and 52 minutes, just 28 minutes behind the all-male doubles team.  Jill, along with her teammate Liz Inglese (57) are training fiercely and setting their goals to break this impressive time. 

Follow Their Story

Sistership will follow Team Revolution Coaching as they prepare for this event and during the 4-day challenge. Follow the story and these amazing women. See what it takes just to get to the start line and cycle vicariously through them as they race like the wind across the West, just because they still can.  

For more information, get the most recent updates on our Sistership Facebook Page

Johanna Gabbard is a Physical Therapist, educator, consultant, writer, and avid cyclist.  She is a health expert on musculoskeletal rehabilitation, enhancing optimal human movement and an advocate for active, healthy aging.

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