Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A snag on the ropes pulls one team back in Primal Quest

Some teams have all the luck, and some have none.

Team GoLite, a very good team that was expected to place in the top 10 of the 417-mile Primal Quest adventure race, started out the race with a sick horse. By the first checkpoint, it was reportedly bleeding out the nostrils, and vets on the course made them wait for an hour for the horse to rest before they pressed on. At the next checkpoint, a vet stopped them again. Before long they were several hours behind the leaders, but struggled to catch up.

By this morning, they were in 5th place (after dropping in the horse section to about 60th), and looking easily strong enough to take 4th place.

This morning started with a mountain biking section that led to a rappel at a natural rock span called Gemini Bridges. At the bridges, they slid down the ropes, while race staff lowered their bikes down on a 600-foot-long zip-line.

First Merrell came through early in the morning, dropped down the arch, and watched their bikes zoom down the pulley system. Nike Powerblast came through an hour later, followed shortly by SOLE and a VERY gaunt and tired team Spyder (they collapsed in the shade just after the rappel).

Then GoLite pulled up and rappelled down, but as their bikes were coming down the zip-line, one got its wheel snagged in the rope and the whole system stopped. The bikes hung motionless 400-feet above the canyon floor.

The rope team started jiggling the lines, then pulling on them madly. Meanwhile, the team waited helplessly while the leaders surged ahead. Finally, something gave. The snagged wheel flew off and crashed 400 feet down where the tube exploded with a tremendous BANG!

“I heard the tire, but how’s the wheel” the main rope worker radioed down to his assistants below. “It’s f*&@ed,” came the reply.

And the bike was still stuck in the ropes. It took another half hour to get it down. It’s an hour GoLite my not be able to make up. No word from race HQ on how they’ll make up for this goof that clearly wasn’t the team’s fault.

The rest of the pack is off on a classic mountain bike tour of Moab: Gold Bar Trail, Poison Spider Mesa, into the town of Moab, and up Pritchett Canyon. By nightfall they could be in the mercifully cool arms of the La Sal Mountains, and only a day away from the finish.

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