By ALAN SNEL
When you a ride a bicycle in a Project Hero Honor Ride, you can randomly meet any veteran in this bike event and hear some harrowing stories of pain, hope and a resilient will to recover.
Some cycling vets have had limbs lost in war and propel special-crafted bikes. For others, the pain and evidence of war are not so obvious, but just as profound. Sometimes, it means remedying post traumatic stress disorder issues or coping with suicidal thoughts.
This morning at a parking lot at the Clark County government center, more than 700 bicyclists joined together to acknowledge the sacrifice of our country’s veterans and raise money to help those vets who need help.
It was a beautiful way to honor Veterans Day — through the power of the wheel and the power of the will.
Next year, Project Hero — formerly Ride 2 Recovery — marks its 10th year of staging these inspirational bicycle rides and this morning’s three rides of 20, 40 and 70 miles represent the eighth time the Honor Ride has been held in Las Vegas, said Peter Bylsma, Project Hero director of marketing communications.
Project Hero holds 15 single-day Honor Rides a year and five annual multi-day bike events, including a popular San Francisco to Los Angeles trek, Bylsma said.
The majority of this morning’s more than 700 cyclists were roadies, dressed in Lycra shorts and colorful jerseys, including many red-white-and-blue numbers paying tribute to the vets.
But I hung back with the slower-moving bicyclists who were doing rides of 20 and 40 miles, and learned that riding a bicycle requires a single a quality — a will to move forward.
At the first ride break at a church off Torry Pines Drive, 73-year-old Martin Tipps from Denver sat on a chair and nibbled on potato chips under the Projecthero.org tent.
Tipps, a former Navy man from 1961-65, didn’t ride a bicycle for decades until he recently joined a Project Hero group in Denver. This morning, he was among 11 Denver area bicyclists of many ages who pedaled with veteran pride.
“I’m biking for respect,” Tipps told LVSportsBiz.com, “and for all the veterans who didn’t make it here.”
The ringleader of these Denver contingent was Mike Turek, who couldn’t be prouder of his fellow Mile High City cyclists. He said four were cycling 70 miles, another three were doing the 40-mile route and four were following the 20-mile course.
The 11 included 45-year-old Mazuka Tillman, who was biking an Honor Ride for the first time.
“It’s a good experience,” Tillman said. “There’s a lot of support. It’s really cool to be all together.”
Veteran Sam Efnor saw a flier for the Honor Ride at Las Vegas Cyclery and joined the event with his wife, Melody Dean.
“It’s important to show my appreciation,” Efnor said.
Wife Melody was impressed by the impassioned opening words and the festive feel.
“We would do it again,” Dean said.
A few minutes later, the voice of the ride organizer boomed over the PA system.
“Who’s ready to ride?!”
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com