GREEN VALLEY, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Four tires, two men and one goal.
Mark Mandel and Ken Shuart also share a bond for biking the open road.
"We’re out there smelling the roses, we’re out there enjoying nature, we’re out there being on the road either by yourself solo or with a group,” said Mandel
They were brought together in 2015 through their shared biking coach. Both have done their fair share of crossing off accomplishments like Iron Mans, triathlons, or sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in a 39-foot sailboat, like Shuart did last summer.
The two avid racers, Mandel from Green Valley and Shuart from Maryland, are shifting gears to focus on a new challenge. Riding across the U.S.
"When I think about how many miles it is.....yeah it’s definitely a gulp,” joked Shuart.
These two will spend about a week riding in shifts from California to Maryland as a part of Race Across America. It's considered one of the toughest bike rides in the world.
“RAAM is one continual stage, once the clock starts it does not stop until the finish line. It is the world’s longest time trial…the ultimate race of truth. RAAM is about 30 percent longer than the Tour de France. Moreover, racers must complete the distance in roughly half the time, with no rest days. RAAM is not limited to professional cyclists. RAAM is open to professional and amateur athletes alike. While solo racers must qualify to compete, anyone may organize a team and race. Racers must cycle 3,000 miles, across 12 states, and climb over 170,000 vertical feet. Team racers have a maximum of nine days but most finish in about seven and a half with the fastest in just over five days. Solo racers have a maximum of 12 days to complete the race, most finishing in 11 days with the fastest finishing in under eight days.” -RAMM Website.
"It’s difficult. You think about going across the country on a bike and you just have to be prepared for the unexpected,” said Shuart.
The 3,070 mile trip is not just about the accomplishment. In fact every time their tires hit the pavement money will be raised to pour back into the Tucson community.
Mark and Ken have already raised $6,000 for El Groupo- a nonprofit focused on helping kids learn about the community and leadership—and hope to raise even more.
“I’m hoping, I’ve got my fingers crossed that maybe we can get $10,000,” said Mandel.
Robson Resort Communities is their title sponsor and also helping in donations as well.
The two hope to finish the race in about 7-8 days and will operate on a 45 minute to an hour shift during the day.
"After day three or four we’re still going to have a pretty good amount of sleep deprivation,” said Mandel. "But the challenge really isn’t me, it’s my personality and my worrying about the crew.”
Even with the focus on raising funds these two friends are making sure they don’t forget about the most important thing on the road. Raising each other’s spirits.
"We’re always patting each other on the back, keeping each other going. And again that’s part of the relationship that we’ve formed not only as cyclists but as friends,” said Shuart.
Mark and Ken have set up a GoFundMe. All contributions will be split with the Tucson based El Grupo Youth Cycling organization and used for their summer bike camps and Durango, CO programs.
Follow Mark and Ken’s Journey here: