Military and fire-fighters speed across USA in 3000-mile non-stop sufferfest.

That epic slog from one side of the USA to the other, the Race Across America (RAAM), got underway last week, with solo riders leaving Oceanside in Southern California June 11, and teams setting out June 15.

As of the latest update, a team with a strong British contingent is on course to both win and set a new speed record for the cross-country crossing, but when you look at some of the names in the eight-man Allied Forces squad, it's no wonder they're quick.

The British half of the Allied Forces squad is the Strategic Lions team of 11-time Best British All Rounder time trial champion Kevin Dawson; double Olympian John Tanner; road race champion, top UK time trialist and cyclo-cross racer Keith Murray; and team founder Andy Watson.

They have teamed up with the American Team4Mil, led by former Navy Seal Wayne K Dowd, along with Shaun Olin, Billy Edwards and Jonathan C. Puskas.

As of about 10am this morning, Allied Forces is 959.7 miles into the 3000+ mile course, averaging 24.13 miles per hour. That puts them on track to break the eight-rider team record for RAAM, which stands at 5 days, 5 hours and 5 minutes, set by team ViaSat in last year's event.

In fact, the Allied Forces team have expressed a burning desire to crack five days for the race, which would beak the absolute speed record for RAAM. A mark of 5:01:08 (24.02mph) was set back in 1989 by the four-rider Lightning team using faired recumbent bikes.

"The signs are looking good for the assault on the world record but with more than 2,000 miles of this epic journey remaining there are still momentous challenges ahead," says Strategic Lions spokesman Stuart La-Ffin.

Strasser leads Solo men

Meanwhile in the solo event, the race leader, Christoph Strasser of Austria has been battling foul weather to maintain his position up front. At the last checkpoint, Strasser had covered 2263.2miles, 140 miles ahead of Reto Schoch of Switzerland, who has a gap of just under 100 miles to his countryman Dani Wyss in third.

Top solo British rider at the moment is Mark Pattinson in sixth place after 1878.5 miles.

Four Fireflies flame on

The Allied Forces riders aren't the only British success in RAAM. The RAAM Fireflies are four firemen from the UK who are currently leading the four-rider category at 857.6 miles. Ben Williams, Harry Evans, Tom 'Embrio' Bowering and Adrian Colyer are only 20 minutes ahead of the German 4athletes powered by gateprotect team, so nobody thinks it's all over yet.

If you're wondering why the eight-rider teams are so much faster than the four-rider squads, that's because an eight-rider team is effectively two four-man team time trial squads. With four riders on the road at a time, Allied Forces has maintained over 30 miles per hour for significant stretches of the race so far.

Here's legendary American race announcer Dave Towle with the latest RAAM daily video update:

Race Across America YouTube channel

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.