Watching the sunrise over Monument Valley features on many a bucket list, but riding through it as the sun peaks above the horizon, well that's a moment cherished by only a chosen few.
As Andy set off from the car park of a pizza place, under the cover of darkness he and his fellow riders had little idea of the spectacle that would greet them in just a few miles time. Rob took over for a gorgeous descent in to the Indian Navajo Tribal Park with the promise of what was about to be.
Monument Valley, scene of the greatest western movies ever filmed, was to be the set of our very own fast horses and big guns. Racing through the long flat road Craig Preece was but a small dot of neon yellow against the towering red sandstone buttes. As the Sun peeped over the top of a crumbling rock formation hundreds of feet high, it was time to hand the baton over to Michael Swaine. A handbiker's dream, the vast wide road, no hills, no traffic, just point forward and pedal, fast.
At least for the navigating support crew this one was easy. One road, miles and miles of straight. No turns to miss. Sit back and enjoy the sunrise. But watch out for the cowboys.
For the team taking over 12 hours later it was to be a very different but just as spectacular story.
"What's that in the distance?"
"That'll be the Rockies."
"How do we get past them?"
"We go over the top."
The riding had been hard and fast from the team all day as the temperatures sat a little lower than the previous 48 hours. But the sweat was about to drip as Jaco and Ryan mentally prepared for their own mountain climbs.
The steepest of 10 mile climbs so far on the RAAM, saw them summit at 11,000 ft. That's nearly three times the height of Ben Nevis in case you were wondering.
Wolf Creek Pass really is a long and winding road. Up, up and over, taking those that brave it from Arizona and Utah on to Colorado. As we left the heat of the desert behind we were greeted by its snow-capped alpine mountains.
Waterfalls, bubbling brooks and spectacular views back across the valley, were there for the support team to enjoy. For the riders it was heads down, focus on and push.
Van Gass may have attempted Everest in the past, but for him this was his toughest ascent to date.
Picking up an hour's time penalty half way, because the vehicle wasn't far enough off the road, was hard to swallow but just made them more determined in the saddle. Rules, it turns out, aren't always there to be broken.
Dropping to short 1-mile pulls, the boys made it to reach Josh waiting and ready at the top. Hitting speeds of over 50mph on the descent, the van was struggling to keep up on the bends.
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