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Project Echelon Newsletter March 2020

We educate, equip, and empower veterans and their families through physical activity and self discovery.

The Veteran Community

Veteran Feature Story: Eric Beach - from saris.com

Project Echelon: How Cycling Positively Impacted My Life

Content Warning: This article contains reference to suicide. If you need support at any time, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

I entered the Army in 2002 expecting the experience to teach me who I was. But, this isn’t the function of the Army and I left in 2005 more confused and lost than when I entered. With no sense of self nor a positive peer group to help me find my center, I found drugs and alcohol. After years of self-medication to deal with my PTSD, I attempted suicide in 2008.

After my suicide attempt, I floundered but didn’t fall down as far. I sought treatment, I entered healing programs, I received a PTSD service dog, and made great strides in recovery. But still, something was missing. A void existed where consistent joy and peace should be. I wanted to enter the military again, or become a police office, or any number of front-line positions. These options weren’t possible for me and in truth, wouldn’t have solved my problem.

After looking deeper at my situation, I realized it was the physicality I missed. Perhaps finding my fitness again would be the answer. Triathlon had long been a curiosity to me. Swimming was something I’d need help with. Running, I know how that game works. But the bike, there was a lot I didn’t know about. I needed help. With goals like becoming an Ironman, it was clear I needed guidance and financial support as after losing two jobs, I was living off of my disability pay from combat related injuries.

This need led to my friendship with Eric Hill and our non-profit creation, Project Echelon. If I had these needs to reclaim my life, so did other veterans. Through our work, I found peace in opening up about my situation and allowed companies in to support me and my brothers and sisters. The healing I found on the bike helped balance my negative self-talk and objectively view the issues I faced in my recovery and lifestyle. I left the house more, I yelled less, my 2-week long bouts of depression would shorten to 1 day, and I found my smile again.

Cycling became a powerful tool in my tool bag. But, with this new-found freedom came a bit of fear. Being buzzed by drivers, attacked by dogs, and flats born from unkempt roads lead to a foggy mind. In some cases, getting out on the road wasn’t even an option, so I purchased a fluid trainer.

It was amazing! I could train in my garage whenever I wanted and skip the road! But when race day came, when I was to become an Ironman, I found myself ill equipped for my ride in the mountains. The fluid trainer didn’t provide me what I needed to progress.

Then I received one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been privileged to receive, the Saris H3 trainer. Turning it on, inputting a program, and pushing those pedals was a game changer. It felt like the road. The challenge of the gradient changes taxed my muscles and kept my mind engaged and far from boredom. There was no way I’d show up undertrained as long as I stayed consistent. The trainer meant I had no excuses. Achieving my dreams and reaching my goals was on me, just like it needed to be. This trainer closed the loop on what Project Echelon set out to do, Educate, Equip, and Empower the veteran. Saris removed a barrier for me that day. One of the biggest barriers I had in the world of cycling and triathlon. To say it was a beautiful gift feels to small an accolade. To say they sent a modality to further help me save my life feels right.

There is something beautiful about the fluidity found on the bike. No jarring, just smooth motion. The grind of hard efforts brings a burn that 22 veterans a day will never feel again. The burn we feel in our legs when we ride is the memory of those we have lost urging us to do the one thing they can no longer do. Live. Thank you, Saris, for helping me live.

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Project Echelon in the Community: Veteran's Day and Donating 2019 Team Bikes

Veteran's Day Parade - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Over 500 veterans attended the Veteran's Day Parade in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last fall. This special day bridges the generational gap between veterans, ranging from the WWII era to Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans. The event was held at the Milwaukee War Memorial in downtown Milwaukee, where Project Echelon helped to greet veteran participants and serve donuts and coffee. Project Echelon was also responsible for the coordination and support of the various veteran organization's color guard and rifle brigades. Additionally, Project Echelon had the opportunity to connect with these amazing, yet humble men and women at a luncheon that honored their service and gave us an opportunity to share stories and truly thank those who have served for their service.

Local Waukesha, WI veteran the first of 8 recipients to receive his @iamspecialized_road #allezsprint as part of Project Echelon's bike grant program

At the end of each season, riders from Project Echelon Racing clean, tune, and pack up their race frames to be sent to one of our Project Echelon veterans through our Bike Grant program. In 2019, Project Echelon donated eight Specialized Allez Sprint Comp’s with DT Swiss wheels and Shimano 105 components. Our veterans received their new bikes around Christmas time, and are able to jump right into training with the help of our Project Echelon athletes and coaches.

Project Echelon is always looking to connect with new veterans, as well as veteran friends and family. Contact us on social media or through our website at www.projectechelon.org

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Project Echelon looks to support ALL VETERANS who are seeking empowerment through physical activity, especially those who may believe they are "unfit." Take a listen to co-founder Eric Beach's recent podcast for more on this topic.

The Project Echelon community continues to grow!

In 2019, Project Echelon served 104 veterans, up from the 67 served in 2018. In 2020 we have set out to serve 150 veterans through relationship, coaching, mentorship, and access to resources.

None of this would be possible without the support and advocacy of our followers and readers like you. Please continue to share our mission and vision and direct any veteran family or friends you think might benefit from our work to www.projectechelon.org.

Project Echelon Racing Team News

After a stellar 2019 campaign which included a UCI stage win at Joe Martin, and the Overall win at the Intelligentsia Cup, Project Echelon Racing is aiming even higher in 2020. In preparation for the upcoming season, many of Project Echelon’s elite riders moved to warmer climates for the winter, seeking good roads, fast group rides, and summer weather.

Others are gutting it out at home on their Saris trainers as the snow falls outside and temperatures reach the negatives. Zwift has been a game-changer for winter training, making three, four, and even five-hour training rides just that little bit more bearable. The on-line platform also allows for Project Echelon veterans and elite riders to link up for virtual ‘group rides’, strengthening our community without ever leaving the warmth of our basements.

At the end of February, the team gathered in Helen, Georgia for team camp, a week of riding, racing, bonding, and lots of photos and food. A slight majority of the team would be riding big miles in the mountains, while six from the Elite team would be taking on the Tour of Southern Highlands for the team's first race of the season.

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New Riders and Staff in 2020

New to the team in 2020 are riders Hayden Strong, Paul Hartner, Stephen Vogel, and John Heinlein III. On the management side, Joe Carpisassi will be coming aboard to share duties with our fearless leader Eric Hill.

Hayden Strong wins the 2019 Collegiate Varsity Points Race National Championship (Photo: Weldon Weaver)

Hailing from New Zealand and enrolled at Marian University in Indianapolis, Hayden Strong is one of the most explosive sprinters in the country and we welcome his unbridled and aggressive style. Strong single-handedly gave our squad a run for their money at the 2019 Intelligentsia Cup, winning three stages and narrowly succumbing to our veteran crit specialist Brandon "Monk" Feehery for the overall win. As they say, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Paul, left; our fearless leader Eric on the right (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

We met Paul Hartner when he guest-rode for us at the 2019 Tour of the Gila in New Mexico. He certainly impressed, taking a top 10 in the U23 category, and later a 5th place finish at the U23 National Championship Time Trial. Also a sophomore at UC Boulder, Paul joins the team as a solid all-rounder with much potential for growth. We’re excited to have more youthful energy within the team, in addition to some fresh style and meme knowledge.

John, with perfect bike-modeling technique, logo unobscured and pointed towards the camera (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

John Heinlein III hails from Minnesota and is a regular figure in the Midwest cycling scene. He is a rider who excels in punchy sprint finishes, stage races, and criteriums. Also a married man with a full-time job, John brings a wealth of maturity and experience to the team (which can help balance out the youth and "meme knowledge" previously mentioned).

Dr. Vogel in full-flight. Take your FTP and add 100 Watts. The Doctor does that for five hours (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

Dr. Stephen Vogel is coming off a busy year of working in residency after finishing his PhD in Family Medicine, and is looking forward to tackling some big goals in 2020. He’s a powerhouse of a rider, specializing in time trials and breakaways. We first encountered Stephen at the 2019 Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Arizona, where he took 2nd in the Stage 1 Time Trial and 2nd Overall. He followed that up with similar results at the Chico Stage Race, a national-caliber stage race held in Northern California. He and his wife Zanna recently relocated to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and he’s been afforded more time than ever to pursue objectives in sport. “I’m working with a new coach on a more traditional winter plan to build a larger aerobic base than ever before, as opposed to the shorter periodized training I had to rely on while working 80 hours a week in residency.” Stephen said.

We’re confident Stephen’s addition - as well as Hayden, Paul, and John's - will bring much value to the team, within racing and elsewhere.

Joe, the best-dressed director in the Domestic Elite peloton? (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

On the management side, Joe Carpisassi will be joining the Project Echelon Racing family in 2020 as the team’s Performance Director. Beginning in 2006 with the Capri Foundation Development Team, Caripisassi's management career spans nearly two decades and includes experience in various roles such as director sportif, supervisory board member, and asset manager. His 2007-2015 stint with Premier Sports Groups landed the most success, with his teams achieving top-level victories in the USA Crit series, NRC races, UCI stage races, and a national championship with Mountain Khakis and SmartStop Pro Cycling. Carpisassi's knowledge, experience, and leadership will be invaluable assets as Project Echelon continues to ascend the ladder of American cycling.

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Tour of Southern Highlands

Zach Gregg, Stage 1 Time Trial (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

Project Echelon Racing lined up at Tour of the Southern Highlands with eyes on the top step of the podium. But with three new riders in a team of six, it can be hard to gel right off the bat. It can be. But this group of six exceeded expectations. After a solid round of time trials on Stage 1 which put three Project Echelon Racing riders into the Top 8, the team rode beautifully in the Stage 2 criterium under the lights. A messy final lap scoured their chances at a result, but the guys were determined to make up for it the next two days.

Stage 2 Crit (left to right: Ricky, Vogel, Monk). The unit within the unit (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

On Stage 3, Project Echelon Racing attacked and attacked and attacked until one of their men - Zach Gregg - was up the road with two other riders. Coming into the stage sitting Top-5 in GC, Gregg drove the break till the very end, finishing second the stage and taking the GC lead in the process. You might think that we would be done, proud, and satisfied with such as stellar result. We could mail it in on the last stage, ride defensively, and seal up the overall. You would be wrong.

Zach Gregg, enjoying a beer from City Lights Brewing after taking the GC lead on Stage 3 (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

Gregg did it again on the last stage of the Tour of Southern Highlands. After getting in an early breakaway with Hagens Berman Axeon rider Michael Garrison, the duo pulled away from the field until they wre out of sight, and then kept on going. In the final few meters, Garrison took the stage win ahead of Gregg who sealed up the GC win in dominating fashion - the next group on the road finished nearly three and a half minutes later. We couldn't have asked for a better start to the season.

Tour of Southern Highlands (left to right: Vogel, Strong, Monk, Gregg, Hartig, and Ricky) (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

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New 2020 Sponsors:Argon 18 & Kask

Project Echelon Racing is privileged to be partnering with two new sponsors for the 2020 season. Canadian bicycle manufacturer Argon 18 and Italian headquartered Kask Helmets have joined us for 2020, providing our riders with top-of-the-line racing machines and sleek, life-saving head protection. Our riders received their new gear as an early Christmas present in mid-December. It was gratefully received and most everyone got aboard their new machines same-day. New Bike Day is an elusive holiday, and must be savored. The Gallium CS is Argon 18’s workhorse carbon fiber frame, and its bright red color will surely help our team visually stand out from the rest of the peloton. Our rider Evan Hartig paid a visit to Argon 18 headquarters in Montreal, Quebec over his Christmas vacation, toured the facility, and met with Alex Ratthé, Argon 18’s Sponsorship and Event Coordinator. “We’ve partnered with (Project Echelon) because we wanted to work with a team who provides a story outside of just standing on podiums,” Mr. Ratthé said. We’re privileged to be Argon 18’s only sponsored team in North America. We’re sure these Quebecois machines will carry us to many victories this season. Check out our race gear and more from Argon 18 and Kask below.

Project Echelon rider, Matt Zimmer, provides a detailed look at the new Argon 18 Gallium CS, as well as our full Jakroo clothing line-up, in his latest Vlog (below)

Matt said, "The bike is amazing and the clothing fits like a glove (no pun intended). Enjoy and please don't forget to leave a comment and thumbs up (or down) for feedback. Also let me know what you would like to see and I will see if I can make some good content out of the requests. Ride on!

New Partnership with BeachBody

Emily Hill - BeachBody

Project Echelon's mission to educate, equip, and empower veterans through physical activity and self-discovery. is not limited to two wheels. Our support extends far beyond cycling, and into the worlds of running, walking, triathlon, and more. As such, Project Echelon will be working in collaboration with Emily Hill, Physical Therapist and BeachBody small business owner, to create opportunities for alternative fitness and wellness support for the people that we serve. Project Echelon will be supporting the enrollment of up to 10 veterans in the BeachBody program and engage them in the Refining Wellness accountability group to support personal growth in both physical and emotional wellness.

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Follow Project Echelon on Social MEdia

Instagram: Project Echelon (@projectechelon) and Project Echelon Racing (@projectechelonracing)

Facebook: Project Echelon and Project Echelon Racing

Thank You to All Our Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors

Credits:

Photos by Snowy Mountain Photography