A cause worth the ride | VailDaily.com

A cause worth the ride

David L'Heureux

What are you willing to do for something you believe in?

For the four women from the Vail Valley who will set out for the 23rd annual Race Across America in three months, the answer is quite a bit.

Team B2B Divas, comprised of Linda Guerrette, Heather Sappenfield, Kerry White and Wendy Lyall, will leave San Diego on June 21 attempting to complete the 2,921-mile race to Atlantic City, N.J.

Besides finishing the race, a massive challenge in its own right, the B2B Divas will also be representing Border to Border U.S.A., Inc., a non-profit organization devoted to raising funds and awareness in the ongoing search for a cure for pediatric AIDS.

The riders

The pedigree of this team is undeniable. Sappenfield began her competitive racing career as a runner long before she ever moved to the Vail Valley. After being hit by a car while running, she turned to cycling as a form of therapy. Since then, cycling has become her passion. She has had numerous top finishes in her six-year career, including first overall in the 100-kilometer leg of last year’s Ultra 100 and first overall in the 2002 12 Hours of Keystone.

“This would be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life,” said Sappenfield. “It also feels good to be doing it for a good cause and with such a great team.”

Lyall, who is currently a second-year nursing student at Clark College School of Nursing in Vancouver, Wash., has extensive racing experience as a road rider, mountain biker and multi-event racer. She took first place the 2002 Chase in Oregon, an event that tests competitors proficiency in trail running, mountain biking, road biking and flat water kayaking.

White, a native of Australia and a type-1 diabetic, knows what it’s like to overcome challenges. She is also no stranger to spending long hours in the saddle, having finished third overall in the solo women’s category in last year’s Ford Adventure Series 24-Hour Race and taking first overall among solo women at the 2001 24 Hours of Adrenaline Winter Park.

Guerrette is, admittedly, the least experienced racer of the four, but brings plenty of miles under the belt to the table for this team, logging close to 15,000 in the past three years. Since 2001, she has ridden the Triple Bypass Race from Evergreen to Avon covering 120 miles, three mountain passes and 10,000 feet of vertical, as well as the Vail Ultra 100 in 2001. Last summer, she followed the Tour de France and successfully rode four of the most challenging stages in five days.

“I think it goes without saying that the four of us have pretty strong drive to finish,” said Guerrette. “I also think that finishing means something different for all of us. The coolest thing is that we have all come together and we’re trying to accomplish that one goal.”

The cause

In the fall of 2000, longtime Vail local and Sapphire Restaurant owner Joel Fritz founded Border to Border U.S.A. Inc. The idea was to combine his love of cycling with a cause that hit close to home for him and his family – AIDS.

“I started Border to Border a few years ago as a way to raise money and awareness for pediatric AIDS,” said Fritz, who has lived in Vail since 1963. “When Linda came to me with the idea for doing RAAM, I couldn’t resist.”

In 2002, Guerrette had ridden the first leg of Border to Border’s annual challenge race from Babb, Mont., to Jackson, Wyo. The yearly race continues in two more legs coming through Vail, and finishing in El Paso, Texas. This experience was the impetus for doing RAAM.

“I’ve always wanted to ride across the country,” said Guerrette. “Doing it in association with Joel and Border to Border seemed like a perfect fit.”

Some of the hard facts about pediatric AIDS are that many families affected are at or below the poverty line. Children with HIV must take five to 10 pills, twice daily, at a cost of about $1,000 per month, and each year approximately 7,000 HIV-infected women give birth.

Still, RAAM, the Border to Border Challenge, and the six other Century Series Rides that Fritz sponsors throughout the summer, are not just about the money.

“Education and awareness are big parts of what we are doing here,” said Fritz. “We are going across the country to get the word out that if you are sick, you need to get checked out. Many cities in America don’t even have information about this disease because AIDS can be such a taboo subject. I want to stand on every street corner in America and yell, ‘Whatever it takes.'”

The course

RAAM was judged in an 1983 study to be the toughest competition in all of sports, finishing ahead of other such competitions as the Around the World Sailing Race, the Iditarod and the U.S. Army’s Best Ranger Competition.

The B2B Divas will be attempting to ride nearly 3,000 miles in a relay format without stopping. The course crosses 14 states and climbs over 82,000 vertical feet in the process. So, how long will it take?

“Our goal is to do it in under seven days,” said Guerrette. “The women’s record is six days and 22 hours and I think we can do that. That would be averaging a little more than 18 mph.”

En route, the B2B Divas will have a support team of eight to 10 members that will help them coordinate eating, bike repair, massaging tired legs and driving the support vehicles.

How can you help?

This undertaking requires money. Through fund-raising efforts spearheaded by the entire team, the B2B Divas have raised enough money to get to the start in San Diego.

“Right now we have enough money to go,” said Guerrette. “That means that all the money we raise from now on will go to benefit the kids. One of our biggest costs is transportation. We need two vans and a Winnebago. If we don’t have to rent those we will have more money to go to the cause.”

The team already has a number of first-class sponsors including Vail Resorts, Coors, Freewheel Cyclery, First Bank, Giant Bicycles, Power Bar, Vuarnet, Steadman Hawkins Clinic, LINKS Systems, and Vail Racing and Development, who have helped provide these women with an “extensive winter training program” to achieve the type of fitness RAAM requires.

The B2B Divas are still actively searching for and soliciting sponsors and offer a variety of levels at which to give ranging from the Title sponsor at $10,000 down to the Century sponsor at $100.

“In many ways the kids are our inspiration for this race,” said Guerrette. “Life is about choices, and we are fortunate to have them. These kids go through so much and never had a choice or a chance.”

More information can be obtained by visiting http://www.bordertoborderusa.org. Donations can be mailed to Phillips and Assoc., P.O. Box 1403, Vail, CO, 81658.

Border to Border Century Series

Tour of the Moon, May 1

Vail-Steamboat, June 4

Steamboat-Vail, June 20

Vail-Evergreen, July 25

Gunnison-Salida (2 Days), August 7, 8

Vail-Santa Fe (4 Days), August 20-23

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