Blenheim builder off to strong start in race to cycle across America in 12 days

A Blenheim builder taking on the toughest bike race in the world is hoping to ride across the United States in less than 12 days.

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Ultra-cyclist Craig Harper has pushed through 43 degree heat in the Californian desert to sit in 6th place. Source: 1 NEWS

The big moment has finally arrived and Craig Harper is off to a strong start on day one of the 4828-kilometre Race Across America.

The ultra-cyclist has pushed through 43-degree heat in the California desert to sit in 6th place.

At one stage, he dropped 3600 feet over 16 kilometres down into Borrego Springs. For that decent, dubbed 'The Glass Elevator', he rode in excess of 70km/h.

He'll need to pedal around 480 kilometres a day to stay competitive – previously telling 1 NEWS he aims to be on the bike for some 22 hours each day of the race.

Harper’s crew chief, Jim Rees, is a four-time RAAM veteran, so his team are confident "he’s in good hands".

The 42-year-old also bumped into fellow Kiwi racer Ron Skelton at the start line.

Skelton completed the race in 2011 and this time will compete in the 60-69 category.