Durward Higgins is not a typical 70-year-old man.
The retired General Electric field engineer from Signal Mountain took up cycling when he was 41 years old, began racing soon after and in 2009 won the over-65 national championship in the 20-kilometer time trial.
Now Higgins is attempting to set a new age-group record in the 3,000-mile Race Across America, which begins June 12. He and three teammates will try to cycle from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., in seven days and set a new record for racers over 70 years of age.
"I've never done anything at all like this before," he says. "The races that I do tend to be anywhere from 25 to 50 miles and they're a one-day thing. But the Race Across America - I've never been in an event like that. Few people have; it's a 3,000-mile race."
The race will travel through 12 states and features 170,000 feet of climbing over the 3,000 miles. The complex undertaking requires a crew of 15 people - including mechanics, medical staff and drivers - in five vehicles driving in support of Higgins and his teammates.
Sponsored by United Healthcare, Higgins and his teammates will each need to average 110 miles a day for a week to break the 70+ record. "The training has been really exhaustive, putting a lot of hours in during the winter months," Higgins says.
Up for the challenge, he says he's looking forward to the event, which combines his engineering background with his love of a physical challenge. "For years, I've been competing in bicycle racing so this is just kind of an extension of that.
The thing that has kept me in cycling is having a love for bicycles. For me, the bicycle is just such a beautiful integration of man and machine. There's just nothing like riding a bicycle."
Learn more at raceacrossamerica.org