The first day of the 11th Memorial Challenge threatened rain, but in the true Project Hero fashion, the clouds only hid the sun and didn’t bring the rain, allowing us to enjoy a great and dry 52-mile ride to begin the Challenge.
We’ve got a great group of riders with us at this year’s Challenge, including the return of one of our favorite members of the Project Hero family, Sandy Hahn. Sandy is married to Dave for 53 years and recently had spinal surgery, so is not yet able to ride with us, but we know she will be back soon.
An avid cyclist who first come to ride on the Florida Challenge back in 2009, she has taken part in 49 Challenges and rides more than 3000 miles a year, Sandy isn’t able to get on a traditional frame bike yet but got a recumbent from Project Hero and in the 10 days since she got the bike, has logged more than 100 miles. “I don’t like it,” she said about her new ride. “It doesn’t go fast enough!”
Riding with Project Hero has helped her put her surgery and recovery into perspective. “I look at Project Hero and the riders and realize we all have some challenges,” she said. “They have inspired me in the past and now they are even more inspiring to me. I feel privileged to take part in this and I am blessed to be here.”
The Danish military are also with us this year and we are thrilled to have them with us. Our good friend, longtime supporter and championship bike rider Jens Sondergaard, has brought a superlative host of Danish riders with him including Ronnie Schwartz, Kennet Larson, Kim Wilsborg, Bjaarne Fisher and Christian Richardson. Jens also has brought his 14-year old son Jesper with us as a volunteer and we’ve already put him to work!
An expert wheelchair basketball player and avid hand cyclist, Jens was ready to ride today. “We feel good,” he said before the start of today’s ride. “I can tell the riders are a little nervous and excited.
The Danish riders hope Project Hero can visit them soon and are enjoying their time in the US.
“I like Americans,” said Kim. “People will encourage you and say ‘Great Job!” when you do something good. In Denmark it is different because we are more reserved about each other.”
After the ride, both Christian and Jens were happy to have finished strong. “Yes, I’m tired,” Jens said. “But we’re ready for tomorrow! Christian just nodded in agreement but Jesper couldn’t resist. “I would have done better!” he said.
“We thank everyone for making us feel welcome,” Jens said. “Project Hero is helping many Veterans to lead better lives.”
Tomorrow our journey continues with a 91-mile trek from Glen Allen to Williamsburg highlighted by a lap on the track at the Richmond Raceway and our annual visit to the Hunter Holmes McGuire VAMC in Richmond.
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