By Richard Rhinehart
Eagle, Colorado, September 20, 2017 – Comfortable autumn racing conditions helped a Colorado team to a record winning pace at national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Adventure Team Challenge. Held in the high Gore Mountains northeast of Eagle, Colorado September 15-17, the three day event saw 50 competitors.
Shattering the 2011 course record by 66 minutes in a combined time of 5 hours 31 minutes for three stages, the Pumpkin Spice team held a 61 minute lead over their closest challenger, the Smurfs, at the September 17 race conclusion. The winning team included veteran Brett Middleton from Mesa, Colorado, Keegan Reilly from Palisade, Colorado, Paul Shaddock of Denver, and Grand Junction athletes John Klish and Sarah Summers.
Hosted at the rustic Rancho del Rio fishing and rafting resort along the Colorado River west of Gore Canyon, the Adventure Team Challenge was a spirited team competition that included rafting, off-road bicycling on rocky double-track trails, orienteering, rock climbing, rappelling and a high zip line. Each team of five athletes included two adaptive athletes, one being a wheelchair user. All teams traveled together during the competition, leaving no one behind.
From the inaugural Challenge in 2007 to this September’s event, participating athletes succeed by working closely together in their navigation of the course. This year, event director Billy Mattison of Vail, an experienced adventure athlete who has competed worldwide in Eco-Challenges and the Primal Quest, described the course on Bureau of Land Management lands as challenging for any athlete. Recognizing that adventure sports includes a degree of risk and uncertainty; prior to each stage, Mattison coached the athletes to be aware of their surroundings, to work together and to trust each other’s strengths. Finding a route through unfamiliar mountain terrain using a map and compass, while locating checkpoints takes skill, particularly when two members of each team live with disabilities ranging from paralysis to amputation to deafness to post-traumatic stress.
Although nearly five hours in combined time separated the first from the final team, all ten teams safely finished the Challenge. The mountain adventure was not without its unexpected challenges, as teams dealt with punctured bike tires, a strong head wind while rafting the Colorado and chilly morning temperatures that dipped into the upper 20s. Event organizer Patti Haley recruited athletes from across North America for positions on competing teams, with a majority being first-year attendees. Most of the teams met for the first time at the event’s kick-off dinner on Thursday evening in Eagle.
Like all World T.E.A.M. Sports events, the Challenge is inclusive, with adaptive and able-bodied athletes competing alongside each other. Such competition leads to inspiration among not only the participating athletes, but also inspires and encourages other adaptive individuals to undertake outdoor sports. In addition, the exceptional activities these adaptive athletes undertake willingly at the Challenge inspires the public.
The 2017 Adventure Team Challenge Colorado from World T.E.A.M. Sports was supported through sponsorship and partner support from American Portfolios Financial Services, Benson Botsford LLC, Cannondale, Devens Recycling Center, Pearl Meyer & Partners, LLC, Penske Truck Rental, Sheet Metal Union Local 105, and Timberline Tours. Plans are underway for the event to return in September 2018.