July 16, 2016
Cycliq Athlete Michael Conti is is an ultra cyclist from Park City, Utah who competed in Race Across America 2016, a race that starts in Oceanside, Ca on the west coast of America and ends in Annapolis, MD on the east coast of America. Here is his story:
RAAM, or Race Across America, is an ultra cycling race that starts on the west coast of America and finishes 3000+ miles on the east coast. It’s pretty much a time trial; your time starts as soon as you cross the start line, and you can only clock out when you cross the finish line. This means that you choose when you want to eat, sleep or get off the bike. RAAM also stands for: ‘extremely time consuming life sucking, drop everything for years to get to the starting line and convince a bunch of your friends and family that it will be fun to crew for you race.’
Let me take you back in time to where it all started. When I was a teenager getting into cycling, I heard about this race called the Great American Bicycle Race, where people rode from one side of the country to the other, starting from Huntington Beach Pier. I was lucky enough to witness the start one year and I was in awe of those athletes. Nowadays this race is called the Race Across America.
Over the years I checked in on cycling, but never really got into it until I took up ultra cycling in 2014. I quickly learned that it was time consuming and that it could be lonely, but I got hooked. At the end of 2014, I told my coach that I wanted to do Race Across the West, which is a qualifier for RAAM and good practice as it covers the first third of RAAM in 2015. Depending on that result, I wanted to do RAAM in 2016. I ended up winning RAW in 2D 17H 17M. I guess all the stars were aligned and we were on our way to RAAM.
What it takes
RAAM is so much more than just showing up at the start line. In the year and a half leading up to RAAM I logged over 18,000 miles on the road and trainer. Yes, I know the dreaded trainer is boring, but you’ve gotta do what you gotta do! On the bike and off the bike- preparations are so more than just bike related. I linked up with LifeVantage to get my weight under control with their PhysiQ products. Robert Kunz from First Endurance took me under his wing and showed me what I needed to know to get through ultra racing over the past few years. We tried all sorts of different nutrition combos on my 200+ miles training rides and races leading up to RAAM. The key to ultras is constantly feeding the body so you don’t have an energy crisis. You need an unlimited supply of energy and you also need to stay constantly energized . Getting behind on nutrition is not an option as it causes all kinds of problems that will cost time.
Bikes and gear obviously plays a huge role in RAAM. Unlike traditional stage racing where the rider has to use one bike, we switch bikes based on terrain to maximize our speed. I spent years working on positions that are both comfortable and aero – it’s a lot of work to find that perfect balance. Test, test and retest. I teamed up with Cervelo and use 3 different bikes during a race – the P5 TT whenever possible, a super light RCA with Reynolds wheels for climbing and then my S5 for the sections that have rollers and uneven terrain.
The days have disappeared into training, prep and work, all the small details had been worked out now and it’s RAAM time! However, I had to find myself a crew first. Without a crew, ultra racing is impossible. Typically, in the first 24 hours of an ultra race, I am only off the bike for less than an hour. My follow vehicle gives me support and protection and the crew takes shifts making sure that I have proper nutrition and stay well hydrated. My crew is my lifeline and they are the only reason I can do ultra races.
June 14th 2016 has been circled on the calendar for a long time, but it seemed to sneak up on me. My crew and I arrived in Oceanside a couple of days early and went through inspections, assessed the race rules and all the other small details that were going to make a big difference on out on the road. We were lucky enough to all get into Roadies Hideaway, the coolest bed and breakfast where we could really spread out all of our kit and get organized.
Look out for Mike’s RAAM story Part II on our blog next week.