In an effort to create accessible and equitable racing opportunities for the para-athlete community, Project Echelon is collaborating with the Paralyzed Veterans Association and Challenged Athletes Foundation through the Echelon Racing League on RGT Cycling to offer live broadcasted, professionally run, virtual racing opportunities for these dedicated athletes from across the globe during the virtual Tour of America’s Dairyland presented by Kwik Trip.
Milwaukee, WI, February 23rd, 2021 – Educate, Equip, and Empower. This is the mission of the Project Echelon organization, a veterans nonprofit and professional cycling team that has a mission driven approach to racing and engaging in the community. The organization has now taken this mission into the virtual space by offering virtual racing for the handcycling community, which is largely composed of disabled veterans.
On March 13-14th, Project Echelon, in collaboration with the Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD) presented by Kwik Trip, Paralyzed Veterans Association (PVA), and the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), will be bringing that mission to life by making competition more accessible to disabled cyclists through virtual racing on the Echelon Racing League. The league uses a virtual cycling platform called RGT Cycling to recreate in-real-life courses, like ToAD, in a virtual setting using GPS data. The athletes will have the opportunity to compete virtually against their peers using SMART trainers, power meters and heart rate monitors that are fitted to their adaptive equipment. This will allow athletes from across the globe to compete and enjoy the social connections of the cycling community without having to travel.
Project Echelon, which was started in an effort to increase awareness of the 22 veterans lost due to suicide each day in the United States and create opportunities for them to overcome their internal battles through physical activity, served over 200 veterans and offered over $35k in veteran grants in 2020. In 2021, the organization has made a commitment to lifting up marginalized veteran groups, such as women and veterans of color, and now is supporting para-athletes through its virtual Echelon Racing League, which is here to stay. The pro athletes and partners of the Project Echelon Racing team also work to coach, mentor and provide resources for the veterans they support to help them achieve their personal goals.
Eric Hill, the Founder of Project Echelon and President of Echelon Racing Promotions, said “Cycling is a powerful tool that transcends sport, offering a platform for individuals to share their unique stories, engage in their communities, and grow a network of support in ways otherwise not possible. One of the increasingly visible issues with the sport is its accessibility due to a variety of barriers, including finances, gender, race, and disability. The common goal of removing barriers and increasing equitable access to the sport of cycling has brought these amazing leaders and athletes together to address accessibility issues and make change.” Hill added that the handcycling events have been made possible by continued support of league sponsors, who took a chance to try something new in athletics, but believed in the equitable opportunities sporting events like the Echelon Racing League provides. Through these partnerships, adaptive bicycles and avatars for people with disabilities will also be made available on the RGT Cycling platform in the near future.
John Haupt, ToAD’s Handcycle Director noted “we are excited to provide opportunities for these amazing athletes to compete in the virtual events and have the opportunity to experience the in-real-life courses we’ll be racing on June 25th and 26th during our 4 day Associated Bank Handcycle Classic p/b Body Mechanics. The huge success we’ve enjoyed with this series is due to the amazing support in planning and participation by the Paralyzed Veterans Association and Challenged Athletes Foundation!”
And so, in these challenging times, it is passion, sport and innovation that brings us together with an opportunity to educate, equip, and empower others for a brighter future.
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