The long and lonely road … Jefferson making final preparations for this year’s Race Across America.
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Ultra Endurance: We Speak With Race Across America Rider Allan Jefferson

It’s regarded as the world’s toughest bike race, with the 2024 edition of the Race Across America starting on June 11. Spanning 12 states and over 5000km, 2022 RAAM winner Allan Jefferson of Townsville in North Queensland is in the States preparing for his third start of the gruelling event.

Aiming to beat his race-winning time of 10 days and 15 minutes, Jefferson, who’s a rescue helicopter crewman by day, is currently undertaking high altitude training prior to the start of the race.

We recently spoke with Al and the team to find out how preparation is going, and started by asking why he’d want to tackle such a torturous ride again?

Having won the 2022 Race Across America, can you first tell us why you want to go back and do it again? 

To do things better … all of us need a challenge. People’s challenges are all different. I’m going back with the learning from 2019, and 2022 races. I have to do very little different on the bike. It is the time off the bike we wish to capitalise on. 

Allan Jefferson (right) has been training at altitude with members of his support crew this week. The 2024 RAAM starts on June 11.

Close to a 5000km race, how many days’ a riding are you expecting?

I was a shade under ten days in 2022. I’ve got 12 days to finish before the cut off. This year’s goal is to finish before the cutoff. Everything after that is a bonus. There are so many variables that are out of the control of both the crew and rider that can have a significant impact on outcome. Let’s see how the weather and road conditions are before any predications. 

And for those who are mathematically challenged like me, how many KM’s per day is that? 

It’s over 500kms a day which means 20 plus hours a day in the saddle.

What’s the overall elevation of the race?

55,000 meters with 2/3’s of the climbing in the last 1/3 of the race. 

The long and lonely road … Jefferson making final preparations for this year’s Race Across America.

So all those kilometres of racing and 55,000 meters of climbing, and living in the North Queensland city of Townsville, how do you train for such an epic event?

I simply get on my bike and ride. For me, it’s 1% the body, 99% the head. RAAM is a mental challenge as much as it is a physical one. Living and training at sea level does impact when you get into the race and are climbing up into the high mountains in Colorado.

Wolf Creek Pass sits at nearly 11,000 feet so getting some altitude acclimatisation in prior to the race is imperative. I am spending the 16 days prior to the race in Leadville (10,152ft) with my Crew Chief and climbing some of the major mountain passes to cap off the training before heading down to Oceanside, California for the race start on 11th June. I have one job and that’s to keep riding. The magnificent crew do everything else. 

Can you tell us a little about your cycling background, and how did you get into ultra Endurace bike riding?

Townsville rider and former RAAM winner Allan Jefferson.

My first love is running, it’s so much easier with way less gear. I phaffed around with ironman triathlon for a number of years. I was introduced to RAAM in 2015 when I crewed for a team of four. That’s when I was infected with the UEB, ultra endurance bug. I raced in 2017 edition of RAAM in a four-person team. Started RAAM 2019 in the solo division. A DNF that year hurt and contributed to lots of learning for the 2022 race.

Have you competed in Australian based events, or mainly overseas rides and races?

No, I’ve not done any Australian races … I am not a fan of unsupported ultra races. People tend to take risks and unfortunately there have been some awful results.

Work wise – can you tell us a little about your day job and how you balance work and training?

I am RCO, rescue crew officer with Qld Government Air Rescue. We go to work and never know what we’re going to do for the day, or night, depending on the shift. We work a four on four off roster with two days shifts 0800-1800, followed by two night shifts 1800-0800. Being active at all hours of the day and night helps fit in training where we can. If you want to you can  make it work.

To the bike, and what will you be riding this year?

Three this year. Two Speigels and one Giant TCR. One Speigel is an aero roadie with bolt on aero bars. The other Speigel is a TT. Both are set up with SRAM RED AXS 12sp and power meters. The Giant is an all Shimano group set. This is my climbing bike to help get up and over all the 55,000 metres of elevation. I use Infinity saddles on each of the bikes.

Is it the same set up as you used in 2022?

Yes, pretty well the same set up as 2022, just the bike brands are different. 2022 was the Giant, An S5 Cervelo, and Shiv TT. 

Tyres and wheels wise, what tyres and wheels are you riding?

The aero roadie has 50mm carbon wheels with rim brakes. The TT has disc rear, and 50mm carbon wheel for the front. The Giant has 30mm carbons to keep the weight down. I use Pirelli P-Zero tyres all round.

Tubeless or tubes, and how many punctures did you get in 2022 or expect in 2024?

Tubes all round – I used 25mm tyres in 2022 and only had 2 punctures throughout the race. I’m going to using 28mm this year and hoping for a slightly comfier ride. 

The RAAM includes 5000km and well over 50,000m of elevation.

Support is critical in an event like this, can you tell us a little about your team?

This year will we have a support crew of 12. All crew members have been brought onto the team to fill a specific role. Getting the crew composition correct is imperative as there are certain skill sets that are required to keep everything working smoothly.

From bike mechanic, masseuse, physio, drivers, navigators…..everything and everyone must work seamlessly together. The race period is a long time and there is very little downtime for the crew. Everyone must be comfortable being uncomfortable, and everything that is done must be done with one goal in mind….safety….for both the rider and team.

And sponsorship is as critical, we’d love to give a shout out to your backers …

Without sponsorship, participation in an event like this would be extremely difficult. Team Jefferson has been blessed with the support that we have received and continue to do so. Geoff Wilson from Wilson Asset Management (Listed Investment Companies | ASX LICs | Wilson Asset Management) are our Major Sponsor and their support and sponsorship will be integral to our success. 

The Rotary Club of Townsville Sunrise have also provided wonderful support and we are proud to support their Red Socks Project: the purpose of which is to create awareness about prostate cancer.

Other sponsors include: Universal Cranes / Queensland Breathing Systems / Tap House Townsville / Aspire Orthopeadics (The Fracture Clinic) / Don Hobson Plumbing / EMU Clothing / Queensland X-Ray / Top Brand Cycles / Infinity Saddles 

Do you have anything else to add?

Team Jefferson is using this event to raise funds for and awareness of Selectability.

“Selectability” is a not-for-profit charity committed to improving the mental wellbeing of people in regional Queensland and contributing to suicide prevention. 

Finally, how can readers follow your journey, lend their support and hear more about this epic return to RAAM?

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of coverage of the race back into Australia, however we will have a Media Team embedded with us that will be providing multiple updates each day onto our Social Media platforms. On Facebook we are Team Jefferson RAAM Solo, and on Instagram you can follow #teamjeffersonraansolo

You can find out more about the race via ​​www.teamjefferson.com.au

The official Race Across America website is www.raamrace.org

For those keen to follow the journey, tracking is available via

www.raamrace.org/live-tracking

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