Known as the “toughest bike race in the world,” Race Across America (RAAM) has gained the reputation in the global cycling community as arguably the most challenging one, having to race across 12 states nonstop, in over a week. This year, the Philippines will stage the first-ever Southeast Asia qualifier for RAAM and already, the odds of Filipinos dominating this long-distance cycling event are high.
And why wouldn’t they feel confident? Just last year, representing the Philippines, Team David’s Salon won 2nd place in the mixed-relay category and even bagged the “Perseverance Award” in RAAM, after finishing the race in 8 days, 4 hours, and 49 minutes.
It was supposed to be a 4-person team, but member Carmela Pearson crashed her bike on the first day, taking her out for the remainder of the race. Nevertheless, this same woman, who now sports a titanium finger as a result of the accident, is determined to win in more ways than participating in the race, as she brings the whole experience to her home country, together with David Charlton of David’s Salon, through RAAMpage—the first official RAAM qualifier race in Southeast Asia—to be held on July 28, in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga. There will be three major categories: 6 hours, 12 hours, and 24 hours, in which one can register as a solo, 2-person team, or 4-person team.
Likening it to the popularity and success of triathlons and other bike events already being held in the Philippines every year, Pearson, feels that long-distance cycling can be another type of sport that Filipinos can excel in. Specifically when participating in RAAM, it is open to professional and amateur cyclists, which means even if you’re only cycling in your pastime and have a normal day job or perhaps still studying, you are free to compete.
Another attractive characteristic of doing long-distance cycling is that it tests your character. “Kasi to get into this you need to be mature, you need to be more patient; you need to be very kind to other people as well,” said Pearson. “So lumalabas yung totoong ugali ng tao when you’re out of your comfort zone.”
As for training and preparation, Pearson stands by her belief that regular weekly cycling will just do. “The training itself is not too technical but the key really is consistency. If you ride every weekend, you do your five, six-hour weekend ride, I think you’ll be fine,” she explains.
For its maiden year, Pearson remains modest with the event’s possible turnout. RAAMpage is targeting 200 to 400 entries, with hopes of its gradual increase in the succeeding years. Ultimately, though, Pearson is doing it for her country, when it comes to staging successful international races of this level. “Honestly, we’re not only targeting the local Philippine cyclists, but I want them to see the Philippines as a place to qualify for this international race,” she admits. “Kasi medyo napag-iiwanan na tayo in terms of events. We need something fresh; something new. And this is something that we’ve never done before in the Philippines.”