UnitedHealthcare Great Lakes Challenge: Day 1 Blog

August 7, 2017 
Minnetonka to Rochester, Minn.
There’s just something about our Challenge rides that brings out the best in the weather!   Continuing our “hot” streak of superb weather from the Memorial Challenge, our send-off at UnitedHealthcare headquarters in Minnetonka this morning took place under gorgeous blue Minnesota skies that perfectly matched the blue shirts worn by many of the UnitedHealthcare employees who came out to cheer us as we started our journey.
At the kick-off, which was held in front of UnitedHealthcare headquarters on a stage trimmed with American flags, we were honored by remarks from U.S. Representative Tim Walz, one of the most ardent advocates for Veterans in Congress, and Steve Nelson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare. Our appreciation for the support of UnitedHealthcare, and the support of the many employees who came out for the kick off, is boundless, so it was especially great that Steve and members of his family rode with us.  We were also joined in today’s ride by a group of enthusiastic UnitedHealthcare employees. 
Our ride initially took us through gently rolling hills as we left Minnetonka and we soon emerged into a gorgeous sea of endless fields of corn and beautiful farmland.  We enjoyed a rest stop at the Veterans Center in Inver Cove Heights which was followed, after riding through more Minnesota countryside, a lunch hosted by our friends from the USO at Riverside Park in Cannon Falls, a small town with a big heart for veterans which is home to the Cannon Falls Veterans Memorial.  
Following the 58-mile ride to lunch, most riders boarded buses for a comfy ride to the hotel while a group of more than 30 continued on a 109-mile route to Rochester.  It was a wonderful opportunity for those riders to achieve their Century goal for this Challenge and we congratulate them for their resiliency and perseverance.
We ended the day with a great spaghetti dinner hosted by our friends at American Legion Post 92 and our second day journey begins in Rochester.
It’s my please today to recognize Hector Matascastillo, an outstanding rider and a local Minnesota ride leader.  Hector served 18-years as an Army Airborne Ranger and retired as a 1st Sgt. in the Infantry.  He served multiple deployments from 1990 to 2008 including his last deployment in Al Anbar during the Surge. Hector has lived in Minnesota since 2001 and in St. Paul since 2005 and has been a wonderful contributor to this year’s Great Lakes Challenge publicity, doing numerous excellent interviews promoting and supporting Project Hero. 
Hector’s first R2R event was Memorial Challenge in 2016 and although he started out as a less than committed rider, that experience completely sold him on riding road bikes. Following the Memorial Challenge, he vowed to bring a Project Hero HUB to Minnesota and has been leading rides, connecting people to the organization and recruiting participants to help build that HUB since that time. 
“It's been hard given how long our winters are and the fact that it was October when we tried to get things started, but since then bought my first road bike, and am heartbroken because I found out before the Challenge that it’s in the shop for repair,” he said. “I have been riding my cyclocross bike, but after riding my road bike, it's like going from a Ferrari to a Jeep. Both are tons of fun, but the Jeep is nowhere near as fast and easy as the Ferrari!” 
Hector is looking forward to riding the California Challenge almost as much as he is anticipating opening the Minneapolis HUB.  Keep up the great work and thank you for such great support Hector!
Today’s media coverage included: 

Project Hero Partners — Who make it all possible