CLEBURNE, Texas — Riding a bicycle nearly 500 miles in six days isn’t easy for even the most fit cyclist. For U.S. military veterans facing mental and physical challenges stemming from combat injuries, it is an even more daunting prospect.
More than 200 injured veterans and their supporters are facing that test in this year’s Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge, which pedals into Johnson County on Thursday afternoon.
Ride 2 Recovery is a nonprofit organization designed to help injured veterans improve their health and wellness through cycling, either as individuals or in groups. The group events include six challenges this year, and the Texas Challenge — ending Friday in Fort Worth — is the first this year.
The cyclists left Houston on Sunday. They will reach Waco today and leave Thursday morning to head into Johnson County. United HealthCare is presenting sponsor for Ride 2 Recovery and all six challenge rides in 2014. Tom Quirk, CEO for United HealthCare of Texas, encouraged everyone to show their support for the Ride 2 Recovery cyclists.
“We encourage Texans along the route to come out and wave their flags and cheer on these extraordinary veterans and supporters,” Quirk said.
And even though Thursday’s weather forecast calls for thunderstorms and high winds, the ride will go on, a spokeswoman said.
Cyclists will lunch at Whitney High School about 11:15 a.m. Thursday and are scheduled to reach Rio Vista ISD’s Eagle Stadium about 1:30 p.m. for a short ceremony. They will leave Rio Vista about 2:15 p.m. and arrive at Comfort Inn on Texas 174 in Cleburne about 3 p.m. They will eat dinner at the Cleburne Conference Center about 5:30 p.m.
The cyclists’ route from Rio Vista to Cleburne will take them along Farm-to-Market Road 916 to Old Foamy Road, then north on Nolan River Road, past Smith Middle School to West Kilpatrick Street and then onto Texas 174.
On Friday, R2R cyclists leave the hotel at 8:30 a.m. and head northeast on U.S. 67 to Old Betsy Road to Keene Park, where they will eat breakfast at 9 a.m. They leave Keene at 10:15 a.m., heading down Old Betsy Road to FM 917 and then out of Johnson County.
Although the Texas Challenge officially ends Friday night at the Radisson Hotel Fort Worth North, many of the participating cyclists will get back on their bikes Saturday morning to participate in the Clay Hunt Honor Ride, a fundraising ride named after a U.S. Marine Corps sniper from Houston who battled the physical, emotional and psychological effects of war before taking his own life two years ago.
The Honor Rides Series is intended to raise awareness of the issues facing wounded veterans. But it is also the funding arm for Ride 2 Recovery and it gives the public the opportunity to ride with the wounded veterans, as well as enlisted servicemen and women, in a fun, non-competitive event.
Participants in the Honor Ride on Saturday can choose between 23-mile, 35-mile and 65-mile routes, all three of which begin and end at Coopers BBQ in the Fort Worth Stockyards.
The cost for individuals to register is $65 through Friday or $75 on Saturday. Teams of five or more can register for $55 per person through Friday or $65 per person on the day of the ride. Injured veterans can register for free.