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Team Laughing Dog, les femmes Team Laughing Dog 2012, from left, Arlene Cook, Julie Nye, Gina Pucci and Kathi Riba-Crane, are competing in the world’s toughest endurance race. PHOTO By KAREN KNAGGS

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ere we go again. Team Laughing Dog is riding in the annual Race Across America (RAAM), a coastto-coast ride of nearly 3,000 miles. But the race has a different shape this year – at least the riders do. Following up the four men who rode across the country last year – Jacob Styer, Alan Lemire, Wayne Pignolet and Mike Murray – is a powerful group of four women plus alternates and crew racing for the same cause. Gina Pucci, 48 (her 49th birthday is the day before the race begins), Julie Nye, 49, Arlene Cook, 51, and Kathi Riba-Crane, 50, make up the 2012 team, with alternates Deb Fragoso, Suzanne Pattinson and Julie Meyer. Crew chief Judy Thompson oversees a team that includes bike guru Kirk Johnson; Team Laughing Dog founder Mel Dick; logistics guy Chris Thompson; Kim Loosemore and Cathy Gibson (fellow Schweitzer ski patrollers with Cook); Denise Alveari; and Lemire. Team Laughing Dog rides to raise awareness and funds for organizations that support families living with autism. Autism affects one in 88 children, with boys having a one in 70 chance of being “on the spectrum,” a term that reflects autism’s wide variety of severity. There is no known cause or cure, but because of the occurrence in almost 1 percent of the population, nearly everyone is affected by autism. Caregivers dealing with autism are often called to be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which is why Dick chose autism as the beneficiary of Team Laughing Dog racers. “Riding 24/7 for a week is easy compared to what some people face who take care of autistic children,” he said. “We have three goals this year,” said Cook. “We want to pay for

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SANDPOINT MAGAZINE

sUMMeR 2012

the trip and raise $40,000. The men finished in under seven days last year. We want to do the same. And, we want to ride hard and have fun.” “Fun” is a relative term. Once started, the four women will alternate riding through whatever weather the world might throw at them in daylight, twilight and dark across the great American Midwest, where the wind is not always with you, and across three major mountain ranges – Sierras, Rockies and Appalachian. “We ride up so we can ride down,” said Pucci, who loves biking. She didn’t hesitate to answer the challenge when Dick approached her last August. “The opportunity was presented, and I called Julie, who I’ve known since fifth grade. Since then, the whole thing’s been an eye-opener – lots of work, with Judy and Mel as ringleaders. But I idolized the guys last year. We just had to go.” Go they will, beginning in Oceanside, Calif., on June 16 and riding into Annapolis, Md., a “mere” week later. In the 2011 RAAM, the men finished in 6 days, 9 hours and 28 minutes; placed 11th out of 19 fourman teams in the under-50 bracket; and raised $33,000 for their mission. Learn more and contribute at www.teamlaughingdog.com. –Sandy Compton

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Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2012  

Arts, entertainment, lifestyle and recreation for residents and visitors of Sandpoint, Idaho. Featuring the cover story on incredible osprey...

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2012  

Arts, entertainment, lifestyle and recreation for residents and visitors of Sandpoint, Idaho. Featuring the cover story on incredible osprey...

Profile for keokee