UnitedHealthcare Great Lakes Challenge: Blog Days 2 & 3

August 9, 2017
 
After a wonderful 72-mile ride yesterday from Rochester to LaCrosse, Wis., and a superb dinner at Don Weber’s Waterfront Grill, today we enjoyed another day of beautiful blue Wisconsin skies on the 82-mile ride to Reedsburg.
Bridging up to our peloton, we began our second day ride yesterday in style at the Peace Plaza at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where Mayor Ardell Brede accepted both a signed jersey and our challenge to open a HUB program in his great city.  We are thrilled by his support and looking forward to getting a great program started in Rochester.  
The ceremony at the Mayo Clinic included a moving rendition of our national anthem, singing by the Mayo Clinic Chorus, the presentation of colors by the American Legion Honor Guard and remarks by Mayo Clinic executives.  At our arrival in Tuesday afternoon in LaCrosse, we were greeted by dozens of local supporters waving flags and holding up signs.  We enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Waterfront Restaurant which was highlighted by remarks by Tom, a veteran who serves as Don Weber’s on government relations staff. 
Our day three ride to Reedsburg today took us through gorgeous green hills and farmland filled with seemingly endless fields of corn.  Our first stop of the day was in Sparta, one of America’s most cycling-loving towns and home to the famous Ben Bikin’ statue, where we took some great group photos.  The ride from Sparta into Reedsburg and included several hills that challenged our riders and rewarded them with superb views of the Wisconsin countryside when they reached the summits and was highlighted by a surprise flyover by a Blackhawk helicopter arranged by Chad, one of our riders from Madison.  What an amazing sight that was!
It’s also my pleasure to write about two members of our group who personify the spirit and mission of Project Hero on the 2017 Great Lakes Challenge and were the recipients of our HEROTrak Resilient Riders of the Day Award, James Tabares and Alberto Pedroza. 
An Army engineer who served three deployments in Afghanistan, James rode the Texas Challenge this year and was forever changed for the better by the experience, so much so that when his friend Alberto had some dark times, he urged him to sign up for the Great Lakes Challenge – even though Alberto had never really ridden a road bike!  
A true friend, when James saw Alberto needed some help, he told him about the Great Lakes Challenge, signed him up and even paid his flight to join us.
“I am really glad to be here,” James said, “I was just keeping it all inside and taking meds and shutting out everything and then Alberto helped bring me back from a breaking point.”  
But having never really ridden a bike any significant distance, Alberto was skeptical. “I didn’t know if I could do it but James said, “you can do it!” and here I am,” he said.  “It’s extraordinary, really, how everyone is so encouraging, so transparent about themselves, and so accepting -- it’s like a big family.”  Alberto’s advice to those who need support is simple: “It’s hard at first but your military family loves you and will help you.” 
Now an experienced Project Hero Challenge rider, Alberto’s friend agrees. “With Project Hero, there’s helping hands everywhere out there, you just have to reach out to them,” James said.
Tomorrow we ride a 54-mile route into Madison and will enjoy a dinner sponsored by our friends from Saris Cycling.
 

 

MEDIA COVERAGE INCLUDES:
 
http://www.wxow.com/story/36092224/bicyclists-ride-into-la-crosse-supporting-veterans-and-first-responders
 
http://www.winonadailynews.com/news/local/veterans-embrace--mile-challenge-to-recover-help-others/article_c4ce7818-7938-5de1-81b1-ca5e3de8ae79.html

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