America's Challenge

Oct 8, 2016

Two Teams, Two Strategies: Who Will Win?

Update 1020 MDT Saturday, October 8, 2016 (1620 UTC)
The America's Challenge Command Center reports that Team 2, the USA's Bert Padelt and Noah Forden, have made a safe landing south of Dodge City, KS after a flight of approximately 689 km (428 miles). They actually sent the Command Center a little video showing their landing site in a nice open field. That means that two teams – one from Albuquerque and one from Eastern Europe – will duke it out for top honors in the 21st annual distance race for gas balloons.

From the very first stages of the race, the ebullient team from Poland, Krzysztof Zapart and Bazyli Dawidziuk (Team 1) have set the pace. At one point, they were 300 miles (480 km) ahead of their nearest competitors. But last night over northeastern Texas they took a big swing to the south and even back to the west slightly, actually losing a little bit of distance at times. At this writing, they're east of San Antonio, TX and headed south towards the Mexican border. Since Mexico is closed to competition, unless they can find wind taking them back east and north, they are running out of flying room.

Meanwhile, to the north, Albuquerque's Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke (Team 5) have been slowly and steadily reeling in the leaders. The three-time America's Challenge winners are currently in the Wichita, KS area heading almost due east. From the beginning Team 5 has pursued a very different strategy from Team 1, hanging back in the Rio Grande valley overnight on the first night before heading out to the northeast. They're at this writing about 130 miles (220 km) behind, but are in a position where they can continue to gain ground.

Who will prevail? Find out via live tracking on the Balloon Fiesta website,, or the Balloon Fiesta app on your favorite mobile device.

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