More than 100 wounded military veterans, family members and other supporters cycled into the Santa Ynez Valley on Thursday and pedaled out Friday morning as they continued their 450-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The riders in the 2017 UnitedHealthcare California Challenge raise awareness of and provide therapy for veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder and other injuries, a spokesman for the ride said.
Cyclists began their journey Sunday, Oct. 15, in San Francisco and expected to wind up the ride Saturday, Oct. 21.
Riding through historic sites, civic centers and local attractions, the riders made the journey aboard hand cycles, recumbent cycles, adaptive bikes, traditional road bikes and custom tandems.
Pelotons of as many as 15 riders pedaled along Highway 246 toward Solvang, some escorted by motorcyclists, as they finished up the last leg of their 74-mile trek from Pismo Beach to their final destinations at Hadsten House on Mission Drive and Hotel Corque on Alisal Road.
Friday morning, they headed out on a 72-mile stage that would take them to Ventura.
Neither of those legs was the longest of the ride, nor was either of them the shortest. The longest stretch was the 120 miles they covered Tuesday from Salinas to San Simeon. The shortest was the 42-mile sprint from Santa Cruz to Salinas the day before.
Local veterans were invited to ride on a single-day basis for a per-day registration fee.
The California Challenge is a collaboration between UnitedHealthcare and Project Hero, a national nonprofit organization that helps veterans and first responders affected by PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other wounds achieve rehabilitation, recovery and resilience in their daily lives, the spokesman said.
Project Hero programs are aimed at producing therapeutic outcomes at lower costs and reducing drug-based therapies.
The oranization builds and provides adaptive bikes to physically challenged and injured veterans and first responders and has helped tens of thousands of them, at no cost, through cycling events and community-based programs in more than 50 cities throughout the United Sates and by supporting research, the spokesman said.
For more information about the event, visit ProjectHero.com.