Kiwi cyclist eyes more US endurance hell

MR ENDURANCE: Kiwi Ron Skelton at the finish line of last year's Race Across America cycling race.
MR ENDURANCE: Kiwi Ron Skelton at the finish line of last year's Race Across America cycling race.

It has been described by one race winner as physically harder than climbing Mount Everest.

Now, a 53-year-old Kiwi is taking on one of the toughest cycling challenges in the world - for the second time.

Last year, Ron Skelton became the first Kiwi to compete solo in the Race Across America (RAAM), a 5000km cycling race through 12 American states from California to Maryland.

The 25-time Ironman New Zealand finisher completed the race in 11 days, 13 hours and 37 minutes, just over nine hours within the 12 day deadline.

Relay teams are also able to enter but are given only 9 days to finish the event, which includes 170, 000 feet worth of hill climbs.

RAAM differs from most cycling events in that it is one continuous race. The clock does not stop from when the racers start to when they cross the finish line and most average only a couple of hours sleep per day.

Three-time champion Wolfgang Fasching of Austria, who has also climbed Mount Everest, said the race was more physically and mentally draining than scaling the world's highest peak.

This year, Skelton will aim to become the first Kiwi to complete the race twice.

"It's a challenge," said Skelton. "I just want to go faster, do it for the love of cycling and keep doing it while I am still able. The oldest male finisher in RAAM records is 62, so gotta be in while you can."

While the goal last year was just to finish, Skelton said this year the aim is to better his time.

He aims to do more base training and at least two 24-hour rides a month in order to break the 11 day mark.

"That works out at just under a kilometre an hour faster than my average speed last year."

The men's solo RAAM starts in Oceanside, California on June 13.

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