On June 11th, Irish elite endurance cyclist, Joe Barr, is taking on the world's toughest endurance cycling race. At 3000 miles (4828km), Race Across America is 30% longer than the Tour De France but riders must complete it in roughly half the time, within 12 days. And that's before you take into account the elevation as racers must climb 170,000 vertical feet via three major mountain ranges (Sierra, Rocky and Appalachian). That's almost six times the height of Everest.
Mentally exhausting and physically punishing, the race pushes riders to the extreme as they deal with the distance, the time constraints, sleep deprivation and extreme temperature fluctuations. There are no rest days, no stages, no drafting and very little sleep for the riders. It is just one non-stop 3000-mile race, coast to coast.
Two days into the race, Barr will turn a youthful 60. According to Barr, his age is not a limiting factor: Endurance is a great equalizer. The further that you go, performance becomes less about age and more about mental fortitude and resilience. It's a war of attrition and comes down to the last person standing, or in my case the last person able to move the bike forward.
This certainly seems to be the case for Barr. After a long career in professional cycling he came out of retirement 10 years ago to enter, and ultimately win, his first endurance race. Since then, he has gone on to win numerous World Cup events and a 2017 World Championship title in the 500-mile category. Last year he secured the overall win in the grueling 2108km Race Around Ireland for the second time.
Now, he has set his sights on contending for the overall Race Across America podium, as well as winning and setting a new course record for his age category. He is also using the race platform to raise awareness and funds for all-Ireland charity, Cycle Against Suicide.
In the 35-year history of Race Across America, less than 300 solo riders have ever completed the course. Barr is one of only two Irish cyclists to be in that elite category. Barr's first attempt at Race Across America in 2012 nearly cost him his life, after he ended up in hospital in the Rocky mountains with severe altitude sickness. He returned in 2014, focused and determined to finish what he had started. He succeeded in completing the race, placing 10th overall and 2nd in his age category. This time, he is returning stronger than ever and determined to really put his stamp on the race.