2017 UnitedHealthcare California Challenge Blog: Day 1 & 2

October 16, 2017

Presented by Boeing - Day 1

We celebrated the start of the 10th UnitedHealthcare California Challenge presented by Boeing at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, where we began our first California Challenge in 2008.
The VA literally rolled out a red carpet for us and we presented Hospital Director Bonnie Graham with a signed jersey.  We were also joined by Alex Wood, representing State Senator Jerry Hill and Matt Rodriguez of UnitedHealthcare. 

As we began our week-long journey under sunny skies and cool breezes that promised the beginning of a respite from the devastating fires affecting the Santa Rosa area north of San Francisco, the route took us immediately to the beach. The highway lead us along rolling, tree-lined hills as we were treated to a series of superb views of the coast on our way south to our rest stop at Half Moon Bay.

The hills leading into Pescadero were just a warm-up for a group of riders who took on one of the foremost challenges in California road riding, the climb over Bonny Doon, a ride made famous – or infamous – by its inclusion as a crucial stage in many Tours of California.  The ascent earned the group a superlative downhill ride as they reunited with our other riders in Santa Cruz.
This year’s Challenge is highlighted by the participation of several riders who were with us on the very first California Challenge including Dick Brock, Roger Coggins, David Lang, Jim Penseyres, David Belcher, Nicholas Lerma and William Clark. Project Hero is honored to welcome them back to California as part of our cycling family!
Dick Brock rode the inaugural Challenge and this year is riding his 7th California Challenge making this an amazing 37 Challenges riding with Project Hero. Despite recently undergoing two back surgeries, Dick rode courageously today and has a great perspective on Project Hero. “It’s larger now and Project Hero has more potential than ever,” he said.

Dick also had some advice for our first time Challenge riders. “Have patience,” he said.  “Don’t be talked into going harder than you can or want to and go at the pace that’s right for you.”
In addition to riding the Texas and 911 Challenges, Roger Coggins has ridden every California Challenge and is enjoying meeting new riders and many old friends. He is dedicated his ride this year to his friend and cycling mentor Mark who passed away last week.
“There is something special about the California Challenge,” he said. “This year the group has grown and that means you can help more people.”
As a HUB leader in Southern California, Roger has raised nearly $3000 for Project Hero in support of the 2017 UnitedHealthcare California Challenge and he attributes Project Hero for helping him grow as a rider and a person. “Project Hero has helped me do things I’d never have done,” he said.
Tomorrow our route takes us from Santa Cruz into Salinas.
Media coverage of today’s ride included:


Day 2
The second day of 10th UnitedHealthcare California Challenge presented by Boeing was a perfect example of why this Challenge is so popular: blue skies, great scenery and warm weather made for an ideal day of riding with our healing heroes.  We were joined today by three special guests from UnitedHealthcare, California CEO Rob Falkenberg, with Jeff Dooley and Meghan Newkirk
Our riders entered Monterey County and arrived at our traditional rest stop at J&S Surplus in Moss Landing, where we were honored by a visit from Congressman Jim Panetta.  A member of the Armed Services Committee and a Navy veteran serving in Afghanistan, Rep. Panetta spent a lot of time talking to the participants about their experiences in the service and the VA.

Our arrival in Salinas was highlighted by a visit to Sacred Heart School, where students, parents and teachers came out with signs, songs and flags to cheer us on.  It was a pleasure and an honor for Project Hero. There are few Challenge experiences as inspirational as seeing and hearing all those young people as they supported our Veteran and First Responder riders.
This year’s UnitedHealthcare California Challenge presented by Boeing includes our friends from Europe including riders from Germany and Holland. 

Patrick Woldinga is from Groningen, Holland and is riding his third Challenge with us. Patrick, who served in the Dutch Infantry for 15 years including deployments to Bosnia in 1996 and Afghanistan in 2006, rode in last year’s California Challenge and was with us on our ride in Germany in 2015 and is enjoying an excellent experience this year.
“These riders talk to each other in a way civilians who don’t always understand what Veterans go through can,” he said.  “Things are open here and people make you feel welcome. I feel like a real brother here. The riders take you in and there is always someone who has your back.”

Patrick’s advice for any of his fellow countrymen who may be thinking about riding with Project Hero is “save up your money for a plane ticket -- it’s worth it!”
Our German contingent includes Dick Stahlberg, Judith Tembusch, Marcel Gunther, Christian Laube, Asiam Amani, Michael Stover and Naef Adebahr.
Naef is currently serving in the SKB, a division of the German military that integrates elements of the different service branches, and was with us in the Germany Challenge in 2015. 

In addition to the great weather, Naef likes the way our riders “go over the lines to push each other. The riders here have goals and can achieve them,” he said.
“Thank you all for the support you are giving all our German riders, it’s great to be here and an honor for us,” he said. 
Tomorrow we will be joined by Boeing CEO – Dennis Muilenburg on the longest and most challenging day of our journey to Los Angeles, a 103-mile trek into San Simeon that will be a true test of what it means to be Anti-Fragile. 
media coverage from today includes:


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