Breck ski patroller to compete in Race Across America |

Breck ski patroller to compete in Race Across America

Bob Winsett/special to the daily
Special to the DailyAndy Lapkass of Breckenridge will pedal east when the Race Across America begins June 20.

The annual Race Across America (RAAM), a grueling bike race from San Diego, Calif., to Atlantic City, N.J., that often keeps riders in their saddles for well over half the day, is one of the toughest endurance tests in existence. This year, a local Breckenridge man, Andy Lapkass, will be the only Colorado entrant in the solo division at the San Diego waterfront race start on June 20. There will also be four-person male and four-person female teams from Vail competing. The RAAM has been called the “Everest of bicycling.” Lapkass is no stranger to such quests. Over the years he has been involved in 27 Himalayan climbing expeditions, including three successful summits of Mount Everest. He has also completed seven 100-mile trail races, five ironman-length triathlons, a six-day foot race and a number of adventure races, including the Borneo Eco-Challenge.

While guiding on the north side of Everest in the spring of 2001, Lapkass and a client were forced to spend the night at 28,500 feet – one of the highest survived bivouacs in Everest history. Lapkass suffered severe frostbite to his feet, resulting in the loss of both forefeet. While waiting to heal from multiple surgeries and skin grafts, the gritty Lapkass already was working on plans for the future, albeit it an uncertain one. “It all became this big experiment to see what I would be able to do once I healed,” said Lapkass. Although it took literally months before Lapkass was able to put direct weight on his feet, he discovered he could ride an indoor bicycle trainer. This became his “sanity saver” and rekindled his passion for cycling. After a year of recovery and relearning how to balance and walk, Lapkass returned to ski patrolling at the Breckenridge Ski Resort.Although still unable to run or climb, Lapkass started focusing his energies on cycling and his dream of competing in the RAAM – an event he first learned of in 1982 when he heard one of the original competitors, Lon Haldeman, speak at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

He remembers leaving the program in awe of the human spirit and the body’s incredible ability to endure.During this year’s event, competitors will climb more than 83,000 feet and pedal 2,920 miles.Unlike well-known road races such as the Giro D’Italia and Tour de France, RAAM is not a stage race. Other than following a set course and certain rules based on rider safety, the goal is simple: first one across the country wins. The current record for a solo rider is 8 days, 9 hours and 47 minutes, with an average speed of 15.4 mph.During his recovery from frostbite, Lapkass first learned what an incredibly supportive community he lives in. Now that support continues with the RAAM.

His crew, headed up by his wife, Abbie Cobb, includes Sharon Alcalay, Kathy Angotti, Summit Daily News photographer Brad Odekirk, Burl Hudson, Jess Asmussen, Jeff Nordeen and Lou Bibeau. The crew will be donating over two weeks of their time and energy to help Andy race his way across the country. His attempt at the RAAM would be impossible without this crew. Primary financial support has come from the Breckenridge Ski Resort and Ski Patrol, Sharon and Ernie Blake, Linda Powers and the Rynearson family, Starz movie channel, Panorama Orthopedics and Fatty’s Pizzeria. Other sponsors include Randy Viola/Steadman Hawkins, Team Managers, Great Adventure Sports, Mountain Sports Outlet, Moots Bicycles, Felt Bicycles, X-Lab Wheels, CycleOps, Bob Winsett Photography, Foothills Pedorthics and the Summit Daily News. In addition, many others have helped in countless ways to make the 2004 RAAM a reality for Andy.If you would also like to support Andy in his RAAM quest, a fundraiser is being held at Fatty’s Pizzeria on Thursday from 5-10 p.m. John Daisy, owner of Fatty’s, will donate a portion of the proceeds from all food and drink to the effort. For more information, call Daisy at 453-1393.

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