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Lending Aid, Every Pedal of Way : Cycling: In the Race Across America, a good support crew is crucial to make it to the top.

August 09, 1990|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The crew changes Fedrigon's clothes. He sits in the back of the van while the crew adds wool tights, another jacket and a windbreaker over that, one cap under his helmet and another over it. At 2:33, he's riding again, this time with Staiger running alongside as escort.

That works for a while, but the stops become painful to watch. Fedrigon's confidence is ruined. He's angry with himself. Nothing the crew can do or say seems to help.

"He has to get through this himself," Staiger says after one stop.

Even fresh, in daylight hours, this would be a brutal grind to the top. At this hour, with the temperature dropping with every twist up the mountainside, the summit seems unattainable.

At 2:58, John Marino, RAAM's founder and race director, pulls up in the officials' van. After a few words of encouragement, Marino pulls away.

More stops, more words of encouragement from the crew. More stops, more Ultra Energy. The end still is nowhere in sight.

Finally, Fedrigon's second support van pulls up. The day crew, having slept four hours back in Durango, is aboard, waiting to scout the route ahead.

Moments later, as the sky in the east begins to lighten, Fedrigon passes under a large yellow sign announcing the summit. It's 3:42 a.m.

It took Fedrigon 2 hours 36 minutes to cover the eight-mile climb. One wonders what affect the mountain will have on riders of lesser ability, now as far as a day's ride behind the leaders.

At 4:10, Fedrigon reaches the bottom of the steep, eight-mile descent.

Behind the driver's wheel, Lynn says, "Where was all that energy a half an hour ago?"

By 4:30, Fedrigon is cold again. The winds have lashed at him during the trip down the mountain. While he guzzles hot soup, the crew makes a shift change.

Jerry Taterai from Sydney, Australia, slips behind the wheel. Lynn moves into the navigator's seat. Kohl, who has slept only one hour in the past 24, heads for the second van and a nap. Jeff Cope from St. Louis hops in back, replacing Staiger.

The new crew's task is to lift Fedrigon's spirits as he rides through a level stretch, but still more than 7,500 feet above sea level. They discuss the best way to do this. The van pulls alongside.

Fedrigon wants to sleep. The crew wants him stay on the bike. The sun, now rising over the mountains, will warm him and he'll begin to find his confidence again, they figure.

After a pit stop at a gas station, the crew changes Fedrigon's clothes. They receive word that Fourney is only 20 minutes ahead.

Buoyed by the news, Fedrigon charges across the flat countryside. By day's end, he'll make two more climbs of more than 9,000 feet, but the worst is over.

Back on the seemingly endless road to the Wolf Creek Summit, Fedrigon had said, "I just want to get through Colorado. I'm actually looking forward to the humidity in the south."

No matter the conditions, his crew will be right behind him every pedal of the way.

* FOURNEY FORGES AHEAD Mountain expert Bob Fourney of Denver leads the Race Across America. C12

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