A Race Across America team of firefighters from California gets some special treatment from local firefighters.
A Race Across America support team made a special connection in Pratt as their riders made their way across Kansas June 21.
Team Fire Velo/Norton Strong, based out of San Bernardino County in southern California and made up of professional firefighters from Local 935, were welcomed at the Pratt Fire Station as they took a break from the 3,000 mile cross county bicycle race. Pratt is a time station on the race and many solo riders and teams have been passing through Pratt since June 17.
Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer said Team Fire Velo/Norton Strong forward support members contacted the fire department several months ago asking if they could use the fire station facilities for the support crew and riders when they passed through Pratt.
The 15 member support team and three of the four team riders were able to stop at the station to use their show facilities, wash up some dishes and in general take a little time to relax before continuing on down the road, Kramer said.
Ryan Beckers, Team Fire Velo/Norton Strong public information officer said one member of the team is always riding so team member Travis Grapes was taking his turn on the bike when the team passed through Pratt. The other team riders are Tim Goforth, Sean Jackson and Ricky Arnold.
Beckers said Team Fire Velo/Norton Strong is a first time team in RAAM and the riders and crew decided to do the 3,000 mile race because it is the challenge of a life time.
The enormity of their task hit this novice crew about 48 hours into the race. They had encountered 113 degrees in Borrego Springs, Calif. At 3 a.m. the first day it kind of the team members.
"I can't believe were doing this," Beckers said.
The toughest part for most of the riders is getting their bodies adjusted to the riding schedule. Getting into a rhythm and having to deal with the extreme heat. Also having to deal with temperature extremes when it was 48 degrees at top of the continental divide and they were on their way down with that cold temperature and body sweat.
The new demands can take their toll. Rider Travis Grapes admitted that he dozed off while he was riding.
Riders have to consume a lot of calories and drink gallons of water a day, Beckers said.
Rider Ricky Arnold is a triathlete so he is conditioned for the long hours and high heat. For him, the hardest part of this adventure is being away from his family for two weeks. He said he really misses his children, ages 4 and 1, and his wife. He said that is tougher for him than dealing with the environment.
As for the race, it took him a little time to adjust to knowing whether he needed to eat more or less and drinking enough fluids. He has adjusted to the winds on the great plains and dodging thunderstorms.
Now that they have been traveling five days, they are getting their logistics down and are developing a sense of pride in their operation. The crew, made up of firefighters and the sons and fathers of firefighters, are coming together. This is not a group of professional riders but the entire team has come together and are meeting their time goals.
Team Fire Velo/Norton Strong got its name because of a dual purpose. Fire Velo is the name of their cycling club in California and Norton Strong refers to their colleges Cory Norton and Jose Cruz that are both battling cancer.
Besides providing their facilities, the Pratt Firefighters also donated $350 to Team Fire Velo/Norton Strong in support of their fight against cancer.
Part of the team goal is to raise cancer awareness. Because for smoke and other chemicals firefighters encounter, they have a high cancer diagnosis rate. The team races to help remind firefighters to always wear their protective gear and the importance of cleaning their bunker gear and face respirators to reduce the risk of cancer, Beckers said.
"Cleaning your gear and wearing respirators at all times makes a difference," Beckers said.