by Christoph Strasser — 6-time Race Across America Champion
Summer is in full swing – and the cycling season should be too. This year, unlike those past, is offering cyclists a different summer of cycling.
Covid19 has unfortunately forced us to accept the cancellation of almost all cycling events this year. This is also good and useful, because health and avoiding the spreading of the virus is the most important thing these days! Nevertheless, make the best of this summer in terms of possibilities and restrictions! Even most races need to be cancelled, we should not forget that riding a bike is one of the best things we can do. If we can’t do races, we can even more enjoy the pleasure of cycling.
If you spend a lot of time on the bike and, as in my case, also need certain conditions for training, the routes often become boring when you always use the same one or two routes.
This summer I’m trying to optimize my routes and above all to get to know my home country better or to ride some of the most beautiful cycling routes here in Austria.
And finally I had enough time to go through the images of the last 11 years of my career. And I remembered the beautiful sections of the Race Across America again, which I raced 9 times.
— One of the most scenic sections of RAAM appear right after the start, when you climb the ascents from the Oceanside coast to the direction of the Anza Borrego State Park, and when you will reach the nice place of Borrego Springs you can also ride some laps on the race track of the 24h Timetrial World Championships, which take place at the end of October every year. Having the cool ocean, green hills and the beginning of the desert in such a short distance is an exciting contrast and will give you a taste of what RAAM racers have to endure just after the start of this 3000 mile race. – After the RAAM route leaves the desert of South California and Arizona, you will reach the cities of Prescott, Cottonwood and Flagstaff for some hot but great routes. There are absolutely wonderful views and lovely roads between these cities there, especially the Mingus Mountain, the city of Jerome and the Coconino National Forest.
— The next highlight is cycling through the impressive landscapes of Monument Valley and the Navajo Nation, this is a famous spot (remember Forrest Gump turn around after running through the states several times?) and an absolutely great experience. Seeing a sunrise there was one of my most overwhelming experiences in my cycling life so far.
— If you look for cooler temperatures you should go for the Rocky Mountains. Setting off in Pagosa Springs will lead you over the Wolf Creek Pass, the La Veta Pass and the Cuchara Pass. While you will experience tiredness and exhaustion when you ride through this section in an ultracycling race, you will enjoy these places when you do it in training! Especially the last of these three mountain passes will thrill you with its narrow road, small villages and colourful nature.
— While the Midwest and the flatlands of Kansas are not too exciting for cycling, the terrain will change in the Eastern sections of RAAM. Climbing the Appalachian Mountains is very tough in the final days of RAAM, but in a training ride, it is just wonderful. Between the cities of Grafton in West Virginia, Mc Henry with its scenic Deep Creek Lake, Cumberland and Hancock, riding a bike is pure joy. Nice uphill sections combined with fast downhills and less traffic than in other sections will make your bike trip just a highlight.
Tips for cycling in summer:
- Always stay hydrated, drink a lot of sports drinks (electrolytes and salt are especially important when you lose a lot of sweat)
- Cooling down is important, look for places in the shade when you take a rest or pour some cool water over your head to refresh yourself
- Try to avoid the greatest heat and ride in the morning or evening hours
- Sun protection is important – we only have one skin and do not want to burn it!
- But enjoy the sun – your body will produce Vitamin D, which supports the immune system and is more important than ever in times of Covid19
- Don’t always take it too seriously – even relaxed trips with a stop for an ice cream are wonderful!
- And one of things which makes riding your bike even more enjoyable is sharing your thoughts with a companion. Having a conversation via the Terrano equipment by using it directly with another rider or using it for hands-free phone calls is a great way to stay safe while enjoying riding!
Enjoy the summer and your bike!
Photo Credit: Lex Karelly