June 25, Cooperstown, New York – Riders in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge take a well-deserved day of rest today in Cooperstown, an east-central New York community of nearly 1,900 residents. Located along the Susquehanna River, Cooperstown is best-known as the home for the popular National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
With overcast skies and a strong chance for afternoon thundershowers, it is a good day for the team to relax and enjoy the sights of this historic village established in 1786. Celebrating its’ 75th anniversary this year, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is likely destination. Riders may also visit other attractions and businesses, including the historic downtown.
Tomorrow is the start of three long days of riding, with an 82 mile ride to Binghamton. Friday is the longest daily ride of this year’s CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, a 90 mile ride to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Saturday will be a little shorter, with a 75 mile ride to Pottsville, along the Schuylkill River.
With today’s day of rest, here are a few images from the last few days of riding, offered by several photographers.
June 24, 2014, Lowville, New York – A group of about 25 bicyclists — including 16 injured American, Canadian and Danish veterans — passed through Jefferson and Lewis counties this week as part of a nearly 800-mile ride from Ottawa to Washington, D.C.
“It’s awesome,” said Jose Santiago of Colorado, a former Army combat medic who served two tours in Iraq, during a stop for rest and cellphone pictures in Lowville on Monday, the fourth day of the inaugural, 14-day CanAm Veterans’ Challenge.
“You can’t ask for better weather,” said fellow Colorado resident Scott Bates.
Mr. Bates, a Navy veteran, said in a release before the ride that he looked at the event as a way to recover from his service-related injuries. “Cycling itself can even be looked at as a metaphor,” he said. “While you may not be the fastest or most talented, if you are persistent and do not give up, you will cover vast distances sooner than you realize.”
The group, which departed from the steps of the Canadian Parliament on Friday morning, stayed overnight Sunday at the Holiday Inn in Watertown after eating at the Ponderosa Steakhouse, according to Richard Rhinehart, director of communications for World T.E.A.M. Sports, Holbrook, which is organizing the ride.
June 20, 2014, Perth, Ontario – Interested in cheering on the riders of the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge as they ride through your community? Or are you an armchair supporter who is following the June 20 through July 4 ride from the comfort of your office or home? Either way, World T.E.A.M. Sports is providing online GPS tracking of the team as they ride the nearly 800 miles from Ottawa to Washington.
Through the use of modern satellite technology, World T.E.A.M. Sports has created a shared tracking page for the three SPOT GPS trackers used by riders in the 2014 CanAm Veterans’ Challenge. The tracking page includes regularly updated locations for the three units, keyed to a Google map showing the location.
On the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge tracking site, you can see locations of the three GPS units represented by different colored dots on the map. These locations are automatically updated every ten minutes. The three tracking units show the approximate location of the team, with one unit at the front of the group, another at the end and the third somewhere in the middle.
An additional feature of the provided Google map is the built-in Google Street View feature, which allows the user to drag and drop the little man icon onto the road, and see the terrain the riders are currently passing. It’s almost if you are riding along with the team.
The units will be active each day during the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, excepting the rest days. Tracking information will remain online from past daily rides for seven days.
June 19, 2014, Ottawa, Ontario – The 16 injured veterans from Canada, the United States and Denmark in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge will begin their ride from the steps of Parliament in Ottawa June 20 with a send-off from Canadian Member of Parliament Erin O’Toole.
A commissioned officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force and a member of the Canadian Forces reserves, O’Toole has served as a fundraiser for several national charities, including the True Patriot Love Foundation. The Foundation honors sacrifices of members of the Canadian Forces, veterans and their families.
Representing Durham, Ontario in Parliament, O’Toole was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012. A member of the Conservative Party caucus, he has served on Canada’s Veterans Affairs Committee.
Friday’s ride will journey 52 miles to the south, ending in the town of Perth, located along the Tay River.
Riders will depart their Ottawa hotel at 8 a.m., with the send-off ceremony at Parliament beginning at 9 a.m. Following remarks by O’Toole and World T.E.A.M. Sports leaders, the riders will begin their nearly 800 mile, two week journey to Washington, D.C.
Ottawa, Ontario, June 19, 2014 – When Army veteran Steve Baskis and Victor Henderson set off from Canada’s Parliament June 20 at the start of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 800 mile CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, they’ll be riding a unique road tandem provided by New York’s Swett Warriors.
Steve, an Army veteran blinded during a May, 2008 attack in Baghdad, is a self-described “adrenaline junkie” who is active in outdoor sports, including mountaineering, rock climbing, white water rafting and cycling. Owing to his loss of vision, he relies on his pilot, Victor, to pilot the tandem.
The bike was presented to Steve on June 15, 2013 in Elk Grove Village, Illinois in a presentation by Swett Warriors that included veterans and local riders. “I was warned of some surprise, but truly had no idea the gift would be a brand new set of wheels,” Steve recalled.
“There is a lot of symbolism behind it,” Victor reported of the tandem. In addition to the US Army logo and patriotic red, white and blue colors representing the United States and freedom, the bike includes the name of Staff Sergeant Victor “Chiko” Cota, who was mortally wounded in combat in the same 2008 attack that forever changed Steve’s life. The bike also includes the names of Manuel and Mireyaaime, Victor Cota’s children. Steve notes this represents the sacrifices made by military families.
“I feel all that and so much more when someone describes what the tandem bike’s paint job looks like,” Steve said.
Steve participated in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Soldiers to the Summit climb of 20,075-foot Lobuche East in Nepal in October, 2010. This Military Initiative event was documented in Michael Brown’s 2012 film, “High Ground,” released by Stone Circle Films. Steve also has climbed Africa’s Kilimanjaro, Mexico’s Ixtaccíhuatl and Yosemite’s Half Dome. He also is active in skiing, kayaking, white water rafting, sky diving, hunting and archery.
June 18, 2014, Ottawa, Ontario – With participating veterans and able-bodied personnel on their way to Ottawa today for World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, retired Army Master Sergeant Marina Libro is looking forward to the ride’s beginning at the steps of Parliament Friday morning.
Becky Brashears will be on hand in Ottawa to cheer on Marina and the other CanAm riders, and will also meet the team when they complete their ride in Washington, D.C. on July 4.
“All the other riders’ support folks and crowd support call her ‘the flag Lady,’” explained Marina. “She makes it possible for me to stay so focused on my riding and rehabilitation thru cycling.”
“I have TBI, PTSD, rods in my neck and back from fusions and repairs,” said Marina. “I have had broken bones in my feet and hands, tendons operated on in both hands and my right foot, bilateral knee surgery, an operation on my left eye, right shoulder. In 2002, I had a mystery virus attack my heart and lungs, and I had pericardial window surgery done.”
Riding an ICE Vortex FS recumbent, Marina said that cycling has become a major part of her life. “I have done 11 Ride2Recovery Challenges, six Warrior Rides, two Face Of America rides as well as multiple local single day community rides with my local riding club. I have also started a local chapter of Ride2Recovery’s Project HERO cycling program at my VA (McGuire VA) in Richmond.”
Calling Becky her “personal traveling cheering squad,” Marina reports that having her on hand helps her greatly. “Knowing she is behind me 100 percent enables me to give back 100 percent in volunteer time riding and raising funds and awareness for other ill, injured and wounded veterans and military personnel all over the country as well as continue to work on my own rehabilitation efforts.”
Ottawa, Ontario, June 17, 2014 – For 14 days beginning June 20, a team of 16 injured Canadian, American and Danish veterans in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge will ride bicycles, hand cycles and recumbent bicycles nearly 800 miles from the capital of Canada to the capital of the United States.
Departing from the steps of Canada’s Parliament at 9 a.m. June 20, the riders will travel from ten to 90 miles each day as they pass through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia on their way to Washington. Arriving in the capital on July 4, the team will participate in the National Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue before completing their journey.
Participating riders include war and conflict veterans who served in Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Joining the veterans will be nine able-bodied riders, two serving as pilots for blind veterans riding tandem bicycles. Other veterans have experienced loss of limb, paralysis, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries during their national service.
“The CanAm ride will provide a blind soldier a unique experience and perspective of North America,” said Army veteran Steve Baskis, who lost his sight in Iraq. “Along the way between two nations, I hope to motivate and inspire others to dream big and go far.”
“I am doing the ride to connect with other injured soldiers who are trying to overcome their limitations through participation in fitness-related activities,” said Canadian Armed Forces veteran Michael Fuentespina, who completed tours in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. “I hope to learn from their experiences and use this both personally and professionally.”
U.S. Navy veteran Scott Bates looks at the ride as a way to recover from his service-related injuries. “Cycling itself can even be looked at as a metaphor. While you may not be the fastest or most talented, if you are persistent and do not give up, you will cover vast distances sooner than you realize,” Bates said.
Retired Master Sergeant Marina Libro is the only woman veteran participating in the ride. Libro retired from her Army service in 2011. “This is why I ride,” Libro said. “Cycling keeps me sane. When I can’t ride physically, I am riding mentally. I am beginning to open up more and tell my story more because of cycling. Cycling is my safe place. That is what I hope to get back to on each ride I go on: my safe place, my place to decompress and to physically exert and challenge myself in a safe environment with other people just like me. People say you can’t see your soul – I can: every time I look at my trike.”
Created by World T.E.A.M. Sports, the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge is the latest sporting event by the national non-profit organization. For more than two decades, the New York-based organization has developed and managed inclusive sporting events for persons with disabilities and able-bodied persons. This unique combination illustrates the benefits of teamwork and cooperation – that by working together, great challenges can be overcome. World T.E.A.M. Sports looks to the “coalition of the riding” in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge to provide inspiration to other persons with disabilities and to the public.
Corporate sponsors for the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge include Realty Capital Securities LLC, American Portfolios Financial Services, Benson Botsford LLC, Exit 10, Gerstein Fisher, Penske Truck Rental, and Pershing. Partners include Wounded Warriors Canada and Soldier On from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Ottawa, Ontario, June 16, 2014 – For two participants of the inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, the two week ride to Washington, D.C. from Ottawa beginning this Friday from the steps of Parliament offers an opportunity to build upon a growing friendship with each other, and with other Canadian, American and Danish veterans.
Located 80 miles apart by Interstate Highway 89, Air Force veteran Harry Carr, and Marine Corps veteran David Santamore both live in small New England communities. David’s home town, Barre, Vermont, is the larger of the two, with 9,052 residents. To the south, 4,397 residents call New London, New Hampshire home, including Harry. During the 13 days of riding in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, Harry and David will ride the equivalent of the distance between their homes three days.
Owing to a service connected neurological condition, Harry has impaired eyesight, and rides a recumbent bicycle. David rides a hand cycle after suffering an above the knee amputation after being hit by a motorist while riding his motorcycle in 2005.
Seeking “to inspire others with life altering situations to rejoin life, fulfill their goals, and beyond,” David sees the CanAm as an opportunity to prepare for upcoming sporting challenges, including a potential invitation to the Sea to Shining Sea cross-country bicycle ride from the non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports.
Harry also is interested in participating in the cross-country journey, tentatively scheduled for 2015. “The CanAm ride is very encouraging to me and I hope to encourage other veterans to participate in cycling events and to continue the esprit de corps among all of our riders,” Harry said.
Having participated in two Face of America rides from World T.E.A.M. Sports, the two veterans also competed in the 2013 Adventure Team Challenge in Colorado. They also participated in the 2013 and 2014 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinics.
“I have not driven a vehicle for more than ten years,” Harry explained. “In addition to the new freedom that recumbent cycling has given me, it has also given me more confidence in myself and I feel a lot healthier.”