The eight-man team ranges in age from 29 to 51, and in rank from officer to chief. The goal is to bike across America in a week, raising awareness for law-enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
Made up of avid cyclists from the Sacramento Police Department, "Team Sac PD" is competing in the 30th Race Across America, a grueling cross-county ride that begins its team relay competition today in Oceanside.
Teams must traverse 3,000 miles across 12 states, climbing about 170,000 feet, before reaching the finish line in Annapolis, Md.
The race, which draws dozens of teams and individual cyclists from around the world, has never featured an all-law enforcement team, said media director Jeric Wilhelmsen.
"I never thought I'd be driving a car across America, let alone riding a bike," said team member and Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel. "It's going to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, bringing attention to a good cause."
Sacramento Police Lt. Mark Greenlee first circulated the idea of a department team a year ago. They began training a few months later. A crew of about a dozen people, including department employees and volunteers, was assembled to accompany the team during the race.
The team with the lowest total elapsed time wins, so most teams keep a rider on the road at all times, Wilhelmsen said. Riders must cope with heat and changing terrain.
"We have a lot of good individual athletes," said Sacramento Police Lt. James Beezley. "But nobody has ever done anything like this."
The team is hoping to raise awareness for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, in Washington, D.C., which honors nearly 19,000 officers who have died in the line of duty, Beezley said. The team is raising money for a national fund that maintains the memorial and assists with officer safety trainings.
Beezley said "Team Sac PD" is hoping to donate $10,000 to the fund, and has raised about $6,000 so far.
He said each team cyclist will carry a thumb drive that contains the names of fallen officers. The team will also carry a book of the names, which they plan to sign and present to the memorial after they finish the race.
Anyone interested in donating to "Team Sac PD" can visit www.sacpd.org/teamsacpd/raam .