On Saturday, June 18th, eight members of the Sacramento Police Department will gather at the starting line of the longest, fastest cycling race in America. Beginning in Oceanside, CA, competitors in the Race Across America(RAAM) will attempt to become the first individual or team to cross the finish line in Annapolis, MD, 3,000 miles away.
The RAAM is split into divisions – or categories – which separate relay teams from solo riders. Teams can be made up of 2, 4 or 8 riders who share the workload along the route. Solo riders are responsible for riding the entire race alone. The Sacramento PD will operate in a relay, with each individual cyclist riding for three hours at a stretch before handing off to a teammate.
Competitors in the RAAM ride against a clock which is always running, from the moment the first bike crosses the start line all the way across the country to the finish. The relay teams are expected to ride non-stop, 24 hours a day, while the top-ranked solo riders will be on the bike without a rest for more than 22 hours every day. The race has a 12-day time limit, so the solo riders at the front are forced to limit their sleep to 90 minutes in order to remain competitive. Because of this extreme demand, many critics say the RAAM is more about sleep deprivation than cycling skill or endurance, with the winner usually being the rider who can stay awake the longest.
Sacramento Police Department is riding for a reason: they are trying to raise money and media attention for the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. The memorial highlights the danger that police officers face in the line of duty. The cyclists from Sacramento will visit local police departments and memorials along the route to show their support for the cause.
Ideally, the participation of a group of police officers in a high-profile cycling race will raise awareness among police departments in the US of the risks that cyclists face on the nation’s roads. Complaints are common among regular road cyclists that the police often turn a blind eye to aggressive and negligent driving, or favor the automobile driver over the cyclist in the case of car-on-bike violence.
The team’s progress in the RAAM will be tracked over the next 12 days at the Sac PD website, where you can see photos and read reports from the road. There is also a real-time GPS tracker, and links to the official race leaderboard.