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June 16, 2010 / teamoperationprogress

Day 3 – Crossing the Great Divide

RAAM Day 3- Crossing the Great Divide:

Under pressure to make it to Durango, Colorado by 6:00 a.m., Team OP went on a mad dash through the bottom of Utah heading towards Colorado.  Durango is the first of three time station that have mandatory time requirements to meet or be disqualified.  The team bumped up their average speed from 15 mph to 17 mph to meet the challenge ahead. Riding well above 6,000 feet , the oxygen starved riders spirits were lifted by the crew as they shifted the teams mood and created a party like atmosphere encouraging the riders over the treacherous 8,400 foot Hesperas Hill into the highlands of Colorado.  In the dead of the night with a new moon looming low on the horizon, Team OP managed to surpass Team Brazil, another 4-man RAAM cycling team and descended into Durango, CO a little more than 2 hours ahead of maximum time allowed.

Reaching the time station in Durango, Team Captain Kristina Ripatti then took the overnight shift through the highlands approaching the basin of the Colorado Rockies at Wolf Creek Pass.  Kristina logged nearly thirty miles in chilly 35-degree weather.  Her ride ended with the rising of the sun, a clear head, a revived spirit and once again allowed the rest of the crew to get a couple hours of desperately needed rest.

Fresh legs and positive attitudes made for all smiles on the teams third sunrise on the road.  Fran commented that she felt like she got her groove back and Mark’s cramps were replaced with laughter as they began the ascent of  Wolf Creek Pass (el. 10,863 ft.). The pass is notable as inspiration of a C. W. McCall song. Though not as formidable as the song made it seem, the pass is significantly steep on either side (7 to 8% in most places),

Riding up the pass was an incredible spectacle with Granite mountaintops giving way to melting snow flowing into meadows filled with dandelion and daffodils, all surrounded by towering ponderosas. The sun peaked over the mountain and a haze of mist burned off the dew filled grass as the riders traded off in half-mile intervals approaching the Continental Divide.  Nancy pulled the last leg toward the top and Mark in his enthusiasm came along side Nancy, who anticipating only a high five received the “Tour de France” Victory clasp that sent her tumbling off her bike before reaching the top of the Pass where the entire crew greeted her.  The Alamosa Police Department was also waiting to greet the entire team and crew with news of a courtesy barbeque and  hot showers awaiting us at the bottom of the hill.

Prior to Kristina making the descent, she did a break check and discovered her brake line was not working and needed repair. A quick adjustment by the team and crew and Fran then began the gorgeous eight mile descent into the Eastern Rockies taking in the natural hot springs steaming up from pool along the roaring Rio Grande River as beavers hunted for fish in the dammed up flat areas.

Sharing a meal and their thankfulness for the gracious support of the law enforcement all around the country, the crew and riders shared their enthusiasm for this collaborative adventure where Team Operation Progress raises awareness of our mission to identify, improve and invest in the potential of students who might otherwise be denied an opportunity to succeed and the opportunity to do so all the while taking in the glory of Mother Nature one pedal at time as we near the great plains of our sweet land of liberty, Kansas.


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  1. Janel Severns / Jun 17 2010 7:36 am

    Wow!!!! I am in absolute awwww of all of you. I go on everyday and read your blog. All of the riders, team members, captains, everyone on this amazing journey are truly wonderful human beings. My husband Jeritt was Kristina’s partner. We both adore her and Tim. What an amazing organization you are raising money for. Those students are extremely lucky to have all of you who care so deeply about them. We both wish everone on this trip a safe return. You are all in our thoughts. Take Care and Keep Ridin!!

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