Tragedy strikes at Subaru Primal Quest |

Tragedy strikes at Subaru Primal Quest

Special to the Daily/Dan Campbell Mike Kloser leads his Nike ACG-Balance Bar team through one of the long mountain bike sections at the 2004 Subaru Primal Quest Tuesday. The race was stopped as of late Tuesday night because of a fatality to a member of Team Aroc, the current leader. Full details were not available at press time. For more information check out or check back in Thursday's Vail Daily.

ROCKPORT, Wash. – In the dense rainforest of the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday, Silverthorne’s Danelle Ballengee and Breckenridge’s Monique Merrill plowed through the forest with their mountain bikes in the third annual Subaru Primal Quest.Ballengee and her three Nike ACG/Balance Bar teammates – Mike Kloser, Ian Adamson and Michael Tobin – were in third place in the multi-day adventure race taking place 60 miles north of Seattle, behind Team AROC of Australia and the American-based Team Montrail. Merrill, meanwhile, was several hours behind Ballengee with her three GoLite/Timberland teammates – Billy Mattison, Aaron Prince and Isaac Wilson.Little did Ballengee and Merrill know what was going on just ahead of them.

In an orienteering section of the 400-mile course, tragedy struck as a large boulder descended onto the two lead teams, killing Nigel Aylott of AROC and injuring John Jacoby of Montrail. According to an article published in Thursday’s Sydney Morning Herald in Sydney, Australia, the boulder weighed more than 250 pounds and killed Aylott instantly.The accident forced race organizers to put the race on hold Tuesday afternoon, as officials tried to determine the best course of action.”It was bad for a long time,” Primal Quest spokesperson Gordon Wright said on Thursday. “There were many conversations, grief counseling and soul searching.” After consulting extensively with Aylott’s teammates, family and friends, organizers and competitors agreed the race should continue in his spirit.

“We mostly wanted to figure out what was the best thing to do,” Wright said. “So after talking it through we decided to restart the race, but we’ve shortened it fairly significantly.” More than 30 hours later, at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, the race resumed on a truncated course, with Nike ACG in first and GoLite Timberland in fourth. Though Jacoby’s injuries were not serious, Montrail chose to retire. Race officials expect the lead teams to reach the finish line tonight around 7 local time, according to the official Web site, As of press time on Thursday, Ballengee and Nike ACG continued to hold the lead, while Merrill and GoLite/Timberland had moved up into second.

Ballengee’s teammate Ian Adamson spoke with a Sydney Morning Herald reporter in an article that appeared in today’s edition. “We’re not people who give up. We’re not going to throw our hands in the air and say ‘there was an accident … so we’re going to stop,'” the Sydney native told Andrew Stevenson. “Nigel was out there leading the race. He was doing exactly what he wanted to do, being exactly where he wanted to be.”The race, which has been won every year since its inception by Ballengee and Nike ACG, features more than 50 teams of four trying to complete the 400-mile course. Traditionally, the race takes anywhere from seven to 10 days. Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236 or at

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