By Richard Rhinehart
August 12, Barre, Vermont – Returning home following nearly 800 miles of riding from Ottawa, Ontario to Washington, D.C. in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, Marine Corps veteran David Santamore was surprised to see a large wooden crate in his driveway. Opening the crate, he discovered within a well-cared-for red Force 2 hand cycle, courtesy of Columbus, Ohio cyclist Paul Martin.
“I was very blessed to recover from an injury that we thought would sideline me from cycling and wanted to be a blessing to someone else who may not ever be able to have the outcome I had,” explained Martin of his generous donation. “In particular, I hoped my hand cycle could go to one of our country’s wounded veterans. So my wife and I set out to see if this could be done.”
Contacting Face of America ride participant Josh Sharpe, the Florida injured veteran and Bike-on.com staff member connected Martin with World T.E.A.M. Sports. Through coordination, the Holbrook, New York non-profit arranged for the Force 2 to be shipped to Vermont from Ohio during the latter days of the CanAm.
“The experience of the CanAm ride has inspired me to really focus on taking my cycling to the next level,” said Santamore, a Vietnam veteran who lost his left leg above the knee in a 2005 motorcycle accident. “So far, I have to say the new bike is comfortable.”
Recognizing that the Force 2 will help him become a stronger rider, Santamore believes that by using both his new Force 2 and his older Freedom Ryder hand cycles will enhance his “overall fitness and improve my riding.”
“I had difficulty keeping up with the other riders,” explained Santamore of his CanAm ride. “In order to meet certain timelines, it was necessary for me to leave an hour or so early. I would normally finish the day’s ride about an hour after the main body of riders. By doing this, I was able to complete each day’s ride. For me, it was never a question of if I would finish, but when I would finish.”
For Martin, the Force 2 was necessary for him to stay active physically following “a very serious” Achilles injury. “Prior to this injury, I was enjoying many hours riding my road bike as I and my wife are avid cyclists,” Martin recalled. “Within three weeks following my Achilles reconstruction, I was riding my Force 2 hand cycle. I had to highly modify the leg stirrups to accommodate the large metal post-surgical boot I was to wear for months. My Achilles was classified as a complete tear mid-length – no connection – and required an FHL tendon transfer as part of the surgical repair. I was able to put a little more than 1,500 miles on the hand cycle while wearing that boot.”
In his recovery, Martin was permitted by his doctor to transition back to a peddled cycle. Impressed with a three wheel bike his wife purchased to ride near her husband, “I decided to purchase my own Catrike Expedition and slowly transitioned back to foot pedal power.”
Considering the two-week CanAm Veterans’ Challenge to be a stepping stone to future events, Santamore is planning on several events, including the August 24 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. He also is looking forward to future World T.E.A.M. Sports events, such as the Adventure Team Challenge in Colorado.
The Vermont hand cyclist reports the CanAm was “one of the most challenging and humbling events that I have had the pleasure to take part in. While thinking back over the ride, probably the most inspiring moments for me were when we were welcomed by the different towns that we visited or passed through. We saw everything from honks and waves to full-blown parades where we were escorted into town and treated to various meals at a local VFW, American Legion, Boy Scout Troop, or local restaurant.”
“I think my favorite greeting was in Rome, New York,” remembered Santamore. “We were escorted into town by the mayor, police and fire departments. One group of people lining the street was waving a Danish Flag welcoming Jens Sondergaard from Denmark. The overall support of the general public was very inspiring for me and the other riders.”
“Being a Vietnam veteran, it is stirring to have citizens thank you for your service.”
As a 501(c)3 organization, donations to World T.E.A.M. Sports can be tax-deductible. In addition, donations can help athletes like Santamore improve fitness and become more involved in outdoor sporting activities.