Ride 2 Recovery kicks off European tour in Vicenza, Italy
July 18, 2013
VICENZA, Italy - Ride2Recovery's Italy Challenge in support of wounded warriors kicked off on Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, July 11.
Some 120 Soldiers, veterans, civilians and their supporters gathered in front of the Arena to begin the first leg of a 700-kilometer bicycle trek through Northern Italy and France. The first day's ride, a 44-mile (70-kilometer) stretch, was to take the cyclists to Verona.
"We got involved because the organization had talked to EUCOM and it came down the chain to the garrison," said Vicenza Outdoor Recreation director Chris Wolff. "ODR jumped in and helped organize participation on this end."
Ride2Recovery's Honor Rides are designed to provide wounded warriors with intense physical and mental challenges that test and strengthen their well-being in a supportive, noncompetitive framework. The R2R Italy Challenge drew wounded warriors from Vilseck, Bamberg and Kaiserslautern, Germany, as well, said Wolff.
That the organization would travel overseas for their benefit was a significant instance of support, said Lt. Col. Douglas Galuszka, Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe commander, who traveled from Kaiserslautern to be on hand for the kick-off.
"The great thing about Ride2Recovery is finding an organization that's willing to come from the States to support it so our guys get the full experience that they would back home," said Galuszka.
"For some of our wounded warriors, their confidence in their fellow Soldiers, in their fellow man, has been broken. So this is a way for them to recover or rebuild that confidence, as well as confidence in their own bodies," he said.
After remarks by 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) Commander, Col. Michael Foster, R2R president John Wordin, Galuszka and Wolff, and an invocation by Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Shelton, USAG Vicenza Directorate of Emergency Services staff led the riders to the installation's chapel gate to begin the run to Verona.
About 80 R2R riders, 40 ODR registered participants, and a contingent of 20 or so Vicenza Middle and High School students took off in several groups, some aiming for speed and some for a more leisurely ride, Wolff said.
"It was really a great ride," said cyclist Eric Weisel, Vicenza's Child, Youth and School-age Services director. "It was great, traveling on the smaller roads and passing through little towns and villages you normally wouldn't stop to see. We stopped for lunch in Soave and we got to the Arena in Verona around four o'clock."
The Vicenza cyclists returned to Caserma Ederle via van and bus, while the R2R contingent remained overnight to push on for the duration of the challenge, which was to take them through Northern Italy and on to Grenoble, France, where the trekkers were to observe the Gap to Alpe-d'Huez stage of this year's Tour de France, said Wolff.