Many people ask me this question. Which race is tougher? Race Across America or Trans Siberian Extreme?
Both the races are of different format so very difficult to comapre. RAAM is a continuous race and Trans Siberian Extreme is a stage race. Race Across America is a 5000 km continuous bike race for which you get 12 days (288 hrs) to finish where as Trans Siberian Extreme is 9100 km World’s Longest Bike Race in 15 stages over 25 days. The stages in Trans Siberian extreme are super long and are of different distances ranging from 260 km to 1364 km (King’s stage).
RAAM – 5000 km Continuous bike race with a time limit to finish in 12 days. East coast to West Coast. Total elevation of around 40,000 meters.
Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme – World’s Longest Bicycle Stage Race
Moscow to Vladivostok
15 stages over 25 days
Longest stage – 1364 kms
Shortest stage – 260 kms
Total elevation – 77,320 meters
The King’s stage in Trans Siberian Extreme is 35% of Race Across America distance. But King’s stage is 13th stage in Trans Siberian Extreme and comes after 19 days in the race and after pedaling 6300 km in the race. So it’s pretty clear which race is hard. The stages in Trans Siberian Extreme are varying that makes it challenging. For two days one will be riding 350 to 400 km and then suddenly there is a 600 km stage or a 1054 or 1364 km. That becomes very challenging mentally as well as physically. So you have to ride those distances no matter the terrain is or weather conditions are. Only good thing is that after you finish the stage you get to go to a hotel and sleep for some time.
RAAM has one big desert of Arizona and the rough terrain continues into Utah for around 900 km. For me that is the death zone of RAAM. If you get across the desert and Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado then finishing RAAM becomes almost certain. There is a long flat terrain in Kansas which eases the rider before you hit the West Virginia mountains.
In RAAM the rider can plan the race and sleep breaks as per his own choice whereas in TSE the race plan is all fixed. Everyone has to ride the same way all the way up to Vladivostok. TSE is a kind of fast ultra-cycling stage race, where riders have to ride massive distances in stages and take breaks and then ride again. If you become too slow in TSE then there is very less time to sleep before the next massive stage begins. Apart from that it is mentally very challenging to sleep for some time in these super luxury hotels for some time and then again get ready to ride some 600 km. It is mentally horrible to get out of those hotels and get on to the bike. That is why I call it Ghost Riding.
Weather conditions are more extreme in TSE as compared to RAAM. It gets very hot in the day time and temperature sometime can go up to 30 degree Celsius and in the night it goes up to zero degrees. In RAAM once you are across Arizona heat and Colorado cold the weather is does not vary much. RAAM is overall a hot race, you are subjected to lot of heat. The rain water in Siberia is super cold, when it rains. I had to ride almost entire 10th stage in rain in Trans Siberian Extreme.
The terrain conditions of Siberia are extremely tough. Siberia is full of these mid-high lands. There is lot of elevation gain in every stage of TSE. I would say the entire route of TSE is hilly. Hills never end in TSE. You are either always climbing up or going down so steady state cycling is never possible in TSE. Steady state cycling is very much possible in RAAM in Kansas and many other sections. In TSE there is no mercy, if there is no road one has to ride on gravel. In RAAM, the organizers will ask you to skip the section.
In TSE, all the arrangements are by the organizer. They provide you with vehicle, drivers, food and hotel and anything you need during the race. The organizers also provide you with the best physio and medical support all through out the race. You can meet and talk to the race director at any time of the race in TSE. Apart from that TSE has a great media time, which captures the real essence of the race.
In RAAM, the organizers provide you with the start and finish line and all the arrangements in between are your responsibility. RAAM is a 37 year old race and hence it is prestigious and iconic race. TSE is very young race but has all the potential of becoming a legendary and iconic itself.
For me Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme is the most toughest endurance challenge on the face of the planet across any discipline. Anyone who can ride 9100 km from Moscow to Vladivostok in 25 days in the given race format is a hero himself. Race positions do not matter in this race.
Distance and time limits of Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme –
Stage 1 – Moscow – 375 kms-Nizhniy Novgorod – 16 hrs
Stage 2 – Nizhniy Novgorod – 383 kms – Kazan – 17 hrs
Stage 3 – Kazan – 693 kms – Perm – 33 hrs
Stage 4 – Perm – 331 kms – Ekaterinburg – 14 hrs
Stage 5 – Ekaterinburg – 314 kms – Tyumen – 16 hrs
Stage 6 – Tyumen- 614 kms – Omsk – 26 hrs
Stage 7 – Omsk- 611 kms – Novosibirsk – 27 hrs
Stage 8 – Novosibirsk – 260 kms – Tomsk – 18 hrs
Stage 9 – Tomsk – 557 kms – Krasnoyarsk – 33 hrs
Stage 10 – Krasnoyarsk – 1042 kms – Irkutsk – 53 hrs
Stage 11 – Irkutsk- 447 kms – Ulan Ude – 21 hrs
Stage 12 – Ulan Ude – 660 kms – Chita -31 hrs
Stage 13 – Chita – 1368 kms – Svobodny – 64 hrs
Stage 14 – Svobodny – 689 kms – Chabarovsk – 36 hrs
Stage 15 – Chabarovsk – 761 kms –Vladivostok – 39 hrs