Irish team are cycling coast to coast in the famous Race Across America to raise money for autism charity
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Irish team are cycling coast to coast in the famous Race Across America to raise money for autism charity

An Irish cycling team have started out on their epic journey across America with the goal of raising money for an autism charity in Kilkenny.

Pat Maher, Cathal Phillips, Seamus Nash and John Dowd are taking on the challenge of a lifetime to support the Aspect Unit in Kilkenny, which helps people with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities.

The four riders got the first leg of their journey underway on Saturday evening, setting out from Oceanside, California.

The race spans 3000 miles, climbs 175,000 feet, crosses 12 states and will finish at City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland.

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The genesis of the competition can be traced back to 1982, when four individuals raced from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to the Empire State Building in New York City.

Covered by national television, the race captivated the public’s imagination. Relay Teams were introduced in 1992 and quickly became the most popular and fastest growing segment of the race.

Since then, Race Across America has been challenging ultracyclists from around the globe to push their physical and mental limits to the farthest reaches.

The event is roughly 30 per cent longer than the Tour de France. Moreover, racers must complete the distance in half the time – with no rest days.

The Irish racers face a journey of  3000 miles and will cross 12 states before finishing in Maryland

The four Irish cyclists will compete under the Team Aspect banner and have already achieved notable success in winning gold in the Race Across Ireland in 2017.

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You can follow their progress in this year's event here.

Rider Cathal Phillips knows this undertaking will be a different proposition entirely.

“The logistics of getting racers and crew 3000 miles across America and across four time zones will no doubt create a unique shared experience for all involved which we will always have in common,” he said.

Gruelling test of endurance

“We know from our experience of the Race Across Ireland that a gruelling test of endurance such as this fosters a camaraderie between racers and crew that’s very hard to put into words.

“My main motivation for such a huge undertaking is to raise awareness and as much money as possible for a charity that’s very close to my heart but also having done the Race Around Ireland with Team Aspect, the next logical step was to have a go at the Race Across America.”

Unlike the three great European Grand Tours (Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and Giro de Italia), the event is not a stage race. It is one continual stage – once the clock starts it does not stop until the finish line. In short, It is the world’s longest time trial.

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John Dowd said: “Race Across America will be an enormous challenge but will be an unforgettable experience for me, my family and friends. Being a part of Team Aspect allows me to support an important local charity. It’s going to be tough but I’m confident that along with the support of the extended Team Aspect family I’ll make it to the end.”

You can donate here.