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The Race Across America is one of the most grueling ultra-endurance events out there

The world’s toughest ultra-endurance event, Race Across America (RAAM), starts today, with 42 riders setting out on a 3,000 mile ride across 12 states.

Solo competitors – both amateurs and professionals - will ride in a single “stage” from San Diego on the West coast, to Annapolis on the East Coast, without rest days, climbing a total 170,000ft. Riders will also compete in teams of 2-8 people.

Currently leading the solo competitors who, unlike team riders, completed a qualifier for the event, is American Sarah Cooper, while German Stefan Schlegel leads the men, around 10 miles behind Cooper.

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Among female competitors are two Guinness World Record holders, Juliana Buhring (GER) (fastest woman to cycle around the world) and Seana Hogan (USA) (fastest woman to cycle across America). Nicole Reist (SUI) also has her sights set on a win.

Buhring, who crossed into Arizona, the race’s second state, this afternoon, said she looked forward to meeting Hogan, the woman she calls a legend.

She told Ride Farther: “I have no real expectations, because that is the surest way to ruin a new experience. I will go as hard as I can and take my body as far as I can.”

She said: “It will be interesting for me to not have to find my own food and water and carry all my gear and tool kit. I’ll be able to go quite a bit farther and faster than I’m used to. It’s going to be fun!”

Buhring has been combatting nausea and cramps, caused by the high desert temperatures, with coconut smoothies and mustard.

Returning racer David Haase (USA) has raced RAAM five times, with four finishes.  After finishing second last year he said: “I’m looking forward to coming back in 2016. The game isn’t over because I haven’t won yet.  I have come a long way. I’ve improved every year.   I have an experienced team to guide me, to race as fast as my engine lets me go. I can't wait to get to the start line in Oceanside.” 

Haase said: “Doing the work, training, getting sponsors, crew, and putting together all of the logistics is the hardest part of the race, but I love it. Straddling the bike at the start line, being introduced, hearing the sound of people cheering you on, that is what it is all about. The easy part is riding.  Racing the perfect race, that is what matters.”

From the UK, Mark Pattinson is among the top contenders, along with Marko Baloh (SLO) and Gerhard Gulewicz (AUUT) and Aske Sobe (DEN); all have been top ten finishers in the past.

Last year Susanah Pillinger became the first British woman to complete RAAM solo, finishing in 12 days, nine hours and 14 minutes.

You can follow the progress of the race, which is now in its 35th year, via the live tracker here.