BY RICHARD RHINEHART
Rancho del Rio, Colorado, June 26, 2011 – The Lumber Liquidators Team took command of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 2011 Adventure TEAM Challenge on the only full day of competition, putting themselves in position to successfully defend their two consecutive championships.
Led by Golden adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, the team overcame a slow start in the initial challenge of the day – lighting a fire and boiling a small cup of water – to finish hours ahead of other teams on the course. Clearly prepared to defend their title, the team sped through sections of the rugged course that others approached more cautiously. Barring any unforeseen difficulties in the final half day of competition, Weihenmayer and his four colleagues will finish as the top team on Monday afternoon.
Other teams within the 2011 Challenge are closely grouped in three main sets. Three are within possible striking distance, should Lumber Liquidators have an uncharacteristic poor effort in the final day of cycling and rafting. Other groups are within a few hours of the lead.
The Challenge was created by Weihenmayer and World TEAM Sports in 2007 as an inclusive event bringing disabled and non-disabled participants together for an extended weekend of competition. The Challenge is sponsored this year by Alteryx, Inc., which is hosting five teams.
On Saturday, teams followed a winding route from the Bureau of Land Mangement’s Pumphouse Recreation Area along the Colorado River west of Kremmling. In a region popularized in the 1995 Steven Seagal thriller, “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory,” the teams ran, mountain biked, rafted and followed ropes and zip lines to successfully reach the conclusion at the Rancho del Rio resort downstream. The term for the film came from the canyon’s isolation and wild nature – this is true in real life, as cellular telephone signals do not penetrate into its rocky depths.
Along the route of the Challenge, several teams ran into difficulties following the route. A few teams missed critical check points along the route, requiring the leaders to send a member back to the missed check point before the group could proceed. Each team was required to send two members to an old, abandoned mine deep within the gorge, following a narrow, sometimes exposed trail. Meanwhile, other team members floated down the river, picking up their colleagues below the nearly-forgotten tunnel from Colorado’s mining past.
As afternoon stretched into early evening and shadows lengthened, teams arrived at the Rancho del Rio. To cheers among waiting team members, volunteers and family members, each of the members climbed up the river embankment to relax and reflect on the day’s adventures. Two teams raced the last stretch of the route, joined for a few moments by Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr on the adjoining railroad grade.
The Adventure TEAM Challenge concludes early on Monday afternoon, with teams following a route west of Rancho del Rio. Following finishing festivities and lunch, participants will begin their journeys home, richer for their experience and better understanding how inclusive events benefit everyone.