Townsville cyclist Allan Jefferson wins Race Across America

When Allan Jefferson, 54, signed up for Race Across America — billed as the “toughest bike race in the world” — he didn’t expect to win.

The North Queensland Rescue Helicopter crew rode almost non-stop for 5,000 kilometers to cross the finish line after 10 days and 15 minutes.

“There’s nothing in the book that tells you how much it hurts afterwards,” he laughed.

Jefferson arrived home in Townsville on Thursday, receiving a hero’s welcome from a legion of supporters who followed his run online.

“I’m absolutely blown away by what the people of Townsville have brought,” he said.

Allan Jefferson was greeted as a hero when he arrived home in Townsville. (ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

The grueling annual endurance race runs from California on the west coast to Maryland in the east.

Jefferson is the second Australian in racing history to win the solo category overall.

“If I asked them to push, they would push.”

Self-doubt and saddle sores

Jefferson was followed around the clock by a support team, led by his boss Greg Huppatz.

“He was on the bike for those first two days for 22 hours a day and that put us in a great position for later in the race,” Huppatz said.

“He had a 90-minute sleep break a day in the early stages.”

A cyclist sleeps in a recliner in front of a support van
Jefferson takes a well-deserved nap between grueling runs on his bike. (Facebook: Solo Team Jefferson RAAM)

Progress slowed at times as the experienced cyclist struggled with physical and psychological challenges.

“His bottom took a bit of a hard time sitting on the bike for that extended period, so we would take him off every two hours to tie up a few injuries,” Huppatz said.

“[Mentally]Al has gone places he probably has never been.

A man in cycling gear sits in a chair while people wearing hi-vis vests massage his legs
Jefferson was assisted by a dedicated support team throughout the race. (Facebook: Race Across America)

A “remarkable” return

Jefferson was determined to reach the finish line after being forced to retire from racing in 2019 due to health issues.

A man wearing a medal holds a plaque in the shape of North America
Jefferson is the second Australian to win the overall solo.(Facebook: Race Across America)

But it wasn’t until day seven that the crew realized the 54-year-old was about to step onto the podium.

“So he turned on the power and the next three days on the bike were just amazing,” Huppatz said.

The Race Across America attracts cyclists from around the world, who compete individually or in relay teams.

This year, 33 solo runners participated – but 19 of them did not finish.

Race Across America executive director Rick Boething said the competition was close, with the top three riders all within a sleep break of each other.

“I think we were all amazed at how [Jefferson] rolled,” Boething said.

“Generally any rider who comes back a second time will do better, but what did Al do and go from retirement to victory? That’s a pretty remarkable leap.”

Cyclist Allan Jefferson rides on a road with mountains in the background
Jefferson rode up to 22 hours a day to win the grueling Race Across America.(Facebook: Race Across America)

Now at home in North Queensland, Jefferson said he was looking forward to a well-deserved rest before embarking on his next foray into adventure racing.

The cyclist’s efforts have raised thousands of dollars for Townsville’s mental health charity, Selectability.

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