[caption id=“attachment_3611” align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“Riders take a break in front of a B-52 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, August 5, 2010. (Photo courtesy of Ride 2 Recovery Facebook page)”][/caption]

Six days and many miles later, cyclists with Ride 2 Recovery completed their “Rocky Mountain Challenge,” and what a trip it was!  Here’s a recap from one of the riders:

“The Rocky Mountain Challenge presented by UnitedHealthcare finished up on Thursday, Aug. 5 as the Ride 2 Recovery entered Ft. Carson with all of the Ft. Carson WTU participants leading us into the base. It was a fitting end to a great 6 day event.

Wednesday’s ride started with the governor of Colorado singing the praises of R2R - a cycling program for injured active duty and retired troops on the mend - and a short ride with Lance Armstrong and the UHC pro cycling team members Chris Baldwin and Eric Baralev.  The group then headed to Colorado Springs and a ride thru the Air Force Academy and a short reception at the North Gate B-52 display. Before the group finished for the day before a late summer thunderstorm hit.

A civilian, Brady Allen was driving on the Interstate 25.  He saw a stream of cyclists in their R2R kits heading toward the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  He paused for a second and then quickly turned around to follow. Allen wasn’t sure, but a hand cyclist he saw just might be one of his buddies from the war in Iraq – Nate Hunt. "It was weird,” Allen, who knew his old pal was riding in events like these, says. “There was no freaking way.”

Then an amazing thing happened when we got to the B-52, under the shadow of the old bomber on the academy grounds: there was Nate Hunt, grinning.  Hunt was talking to a man who helped save his life in Iraq on May 10, 2008.  That’s when the Buffalo Heavy Armored vehicle that Hunt commanded was hit by a particularly nasty sort of improvised-explosive device – an explosively-formed penetrator, or EFP – during a late-night patrol not far from his forward-operating base in Baghdad.  "We just didn’t see them and two blew up and hit the truck,“ says Hunt, who retired as an Army staff sergeant.

It used to be tougher for Hunt to talk about what happened in Iraq – the story of how he became a double-above-the-knee amputee. He says he’s become more comfortable telling his story since joining Ride 2 Recovery.  He adds that he feels telling his story has helped other riders share what happened to them.

This day was the hardest of the Challenge with 2000’ of climbing out of Denver into a very stiff 20 mph wind. Needless to say, everyone was looking forward to a nice dinner and some sleep.  We were treated to some great hospitality by Frankie’s Too, a great restaurant in the Colorado Springs area.  The military community members were in attendance, along with NFL Hall of Fame Linebacker Randy Gradishar.  The event was sponsored by Give an Hour, a non-profit that supports R2R and some of the PTSD riders that take part in each Challenge.

[caption id="attachment_3610” align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“The riders finished all together at Ft. Carson, but before they got there, they had a rest stop at the Garden of the Gods, where they took perhaps the best group photo in the history of R2R, August 5, 2010. (Photo courtesy of Ride 2 Recovery's Facebook page)”][/caption]

This ride will be remembered by everyone who took part for the amazing scenery, the difficult nature of the course, and the tremendous progress and difference it made in the lives of all who participated. We are truly amazed how much emotion is displayed at the end of the ride and how much it truly means to those who take part. Until the next time…“

Congratulations to all of the cyclists who completed the Challenge and to each of the groups and individuals that rode with them along the way.  Check out video of the ride below!