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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of June 18 - 24, 2003


Harper, Rusch on winning Team Montrail

The Wood River Valley can be proud of its own Pat Harper, a member of the winning Team Montrail at Monday’s conclusion of the 12th Raid Gauloises adventure race in Kyrgyzstan.

Harper, 35, grew up in the valley, was a member of the Sun Valley Junior Nordic ski team and has taught kayaking, skiing and rafting for 18 years. He’s been a river guide locally for most of his adult life.

But it was Harper’s navigation skills and his determination in the face of illness that helped inspire Team Montrail to victory in the grueling 828-kilometer adventure race featuring travel on foot, bike, kayak, raft, rope and horse.

They raced through the wild and sparsely populated lands of eastern and central Kyrgyzstan in central Asia.

Team Montrail also included world-class paddler and full-time adventure racer Rebecca Rusch, the captain; navigator Novak Thompson of Queensland, Australia; and world marathon kayak champion John Jacoby, also of Australia.

They became only the second American team to win the Raid Gauloises. Team Montrail completed the arduous trek in six days, two hours and 16 minutes. That was four-and-a-half hours better than second-place Human Link of Sweden.

In fact, Team Montrail was the only American team in a non-stop event considered the world’s premier adventure race. The U.S. government had issued travel warnings against going into the region due to its proximity to Afghanistan. Two other U.S. teams stayed home.

But that didn’t stop Team Montrail. They arrived in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan June 6 after 38 hours of travel from the U.S. They were favorites among the 39 teams that started.

Team Montrail kicked off with a steady pace and stayed within the top eight for the first two days. A tragic canoe accident that killed a French team member June 11 caused organizers to remove a whitewater rafting leg and insert a brand-new 191k mountain bike leg.

That helped Team Montrail’s strong mountain bikers. They caught the Human Link leaders after 440k of the 828k course and somehow overcame a bout of sickness that depleted Harper’s strength. But he carried on—and so did his team.

Exhausted but exuberant and elated, Team Montrail paddled their canoes across the finish line at Toktogul Monday after a 40k paddle and celebrated their decisive win.

Harper was a competitor in the 1998 and 2000 Eco-Challenge adventure races in Morocco and Malaysian Borneo, and he was also in the 2001 Eco-Challenge in New Zealand.

In May of 2001, Harper and Rusch were teammates on the seventh-place team in the Raid Gauloises in Tibet/Nepal. At the time it was the highest placing for a U.S. team in the history of the Raid Gauloises.

Last year the Montrailers—racing in Vietnam as Team Parallax and including Rusch and Harper—led Raid Gauloises by six hours before sickness hit two teammates. They ultimately finished fourth.

In March Team Montrail won the Extreme Adventure Hidalgo race in Mexico and then led the way in the Cal Eco series of three races in California. They were third in the Bimbache Extreme race in the Canary Islands May 19.

And on Monday, they were first in Kyrgyzstan.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.