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      Rally Cycling Teams Up with Rudy Project

      Rally Cycling Teams Up with Rudy Project

      Top American professional cycling team encourages performance beyond results

      “High quality optics that actually stay on your face,” says Tom Soladay, Communications Director at Rally Cycling, the most successful domestic professional cycling team in the United States. I’ve just asked him what Rally Cycling values in a partner in general, and in Rudy Project in particular. “If you’ve got all the watts in the world but can’t see where you’re going, those watts don’t matter.” Soladay’s answer echoes many of the points he makes during our conversation about Rally Cycling and their parent organization, Rally Health: the best approach to a puzzle is an individual-focused, practical solution that leads to the best possible outcome.

      The cycling team’s mission is a simple one: “Rally brings to the world of cycling the same creativity, passion, and commitment it brings to the pursuit of its mission to put health in the hands of the individual,” the team’s website says, and Soladay’s description of the team’s values mirror that mission: “We want to encourage people to live healthier lives,” he says. “Most of the time you’re not getting on the podium in professional cycling, so we also focus on the larger picture of how cycling can encourage people everywhere to eat better and to take care of themselves.”

      Rally Cycling first appeared as Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast in 2007, and has spent the better part of a decade-and-a-half at the top of domestic professional cycling. In the last ten years the organization completed its program by adding a women’s team in 2012, and now makes forays across the Atlantic Ocean to race at the highest level, in Europe. Soladay, now part of the team management structure, contributed as an athlete for seven years of his ten-year career. “Once I was here I didn’t really want to go anywhere else,” Soladay says. He majored in economics at the University of Maryland and then moved to the West with his wife, so they could both pursue their dreams (she is an actor).

      After a few years with other outfits, Soladay joined Rally and contributed to many of the team's big wins: several US Professional Criterium National Championships, dozens of victories at National Racing Calendar events across the country. “One race that stands out is the downtown crit at the Cascade Classic in Bend, Oregon. We’d missed the main move of the race and a strong breakaway had gone up the road. We had no other choice but to put the entire team on the front to bring the break back, and I was part of that effort.

      We went on to win that particular race, and I think that day really says a lot about who Rally Cycling is as a team and an organization: we look for riders that want to be a part of something larger than themselves—we don’t hire influencers or salespeople—and that sacrifice for the success of the team was a really special day for me as a rider.”

      A Natural Fit

      Rudy Project joins a veritable sea of Rally Cycling partners, all of whom share the mission and goals of the team. “In five years, we hope to have both our men’s and women’s teams in the WorldTour,” Soladay says. The team already competes at many of the WorldTour level UCI events around the world, with both men’s and women’s sides picking up results this spring in Europe. Ben King, an American cycling household name, reported on what it’s like to actually ride a WorldTour stage race. Short answer? It’s really hard.

      On the women’s side, the team wrapped up double classification wins at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, with Krista Doebel-Kickok taking the iconic polka-dotted climber’s jersey, and fast woman Heidi Franz wearing the pink sprinter’s jersey at the close of the competition. “During the pandemic Franz was one of those riders who rediscovered her love of riding,” Soladay says.

      The constant grind of two-continent racing sounds glamorous, but professional cycling takes a lot out of a person. Franz spent most of the past year doing unstructured riding, finding that joy of simply taking two wheels for a spin. “The past year was really hard on the riders,” Soladay tells me, something he sees first-person in his role of communicating with athletes and writing stories about their experiences. “Some of our riders found excitement and purpose through Zwift and other outlets, and some simply took some time off. That’s something you don’t often get to do as a pro, and I think we’re seeing that forced downtime pay dividends this spring.”

      Lofty Goals

      “Moving to the WorldTour is primarily a financial hurdle,” Soladay tells me. “We have the infrastructure in place to support a WorldTour team—now we’re seeking that partner that can make our goal a reality.” Just what does that infrastructure consist of? Hang on, because you’re probably about to be impressed. The riders account for only about half of the team personnel, in the first place (28 riders across the men’s and women’s squads). After the athletes, more than 30 employees make Rally Cycling tick, with Soladay an integral cog in the media company that promotes its efforts to the world. Two service courses, in Golden, Colorado and Girona, Spain, keep the wheels literally turning, manned by mechanics, soigneurs, sports directors (similar to a manager or coach in United States sports terminology), accountants, and all the other roles to keep a robust small business afloat.

      “When you think about what has to happen to support the athletes at a race,” Soladay explains, “it’s fairly mind-boggling. Making sure that, at the beginning of the stage each rider has a bike, a jacket, someone to give that jacket to, bottles, food and fluid on course, then a recovery drink at the end, then to make sure their bag makes it from hotel to hotel, and finally for all of that equipment, all of the cars, to make it back to the service course on that particular continent—the logistical challenges are significant and require all of us not racing to function with the same cohesion as the riders on the road.”

      The fact that Rally Cycling has persevered for almost fifteen years, and through a global pandemic to boot, speaks to the health of the organization. Betting against their WorldTour aspirations seems like a bad bet.

      Growing Together

      “I’m primarily excited that we all get to keep doing our jobs,” says Soladay. Although he never trained for his role as communications director, when he retired from the sport the position within the team management opened up. “I basically learned how to do this on the job,” he says, but adds that he received substantial help learning the ropes from Chief Creative Director Sam Wiebe.

      As communications director, he manages much of the discussion between the team and its partners, working to promote partners one side and to provide feedback and requests from the riders. “Being aligned is crucial,” he says. “Knowing what we want out of the partnership and having a shared goal. Whether that goal is reaching a larger audience, building quality content, or the mere fact of being associated with each other when it feels natural, making sure both sides agree is probably the most important aspect of the relationship.” Soladay returns to an earlier theme, talking about the types of riders and employees that Rally Cycling and Rally Health value: team players who hope to grow together.

      “One benefit of our partnership with Rudy Project,” Soladay says, “is that the riders look and feel fast, along with being able to see where they are going, of course. In return we’re able to associate Rudy with a team and an organization that sees something bigger than results—we want to help people everywhere live healthier, more successful, and more fulfilling lives.”

      RALLY CYCLING SUNGLASSES

      Cutline

      defender

      propulse

      Rudy Project Wing: From Concept to Complete Speed (Part 2)

      Rudy Project Wing: From Concept to Complete Speed (Part 2)

      From Part 1: ...A handful of prototypes from those contenders were created, which would be packed and travel from Treviso to Immenstaad for the next phase: prototype testing.

      PROTOTYPE TUNNEL TESTING

      In this round of testing, variations of a new helmet were placed on a headform (and torso) within the Immenstaad wind tunnel in Germany. The helmets were tested in four yaw sweeps out to 20 degrees, gathering both aerodynamic data, but also that all-important cooling data.

      “It was truly unique to be able to measure both drag forces and cooling effects across a range of yaw angles,” Ballard said. “We were able to gather a lot of fantastic data, calculating both the speed of the helmet with the frontal vent plug in and out, as well as quantifying cooling in a measure of watts with the vent plug out. It’s a mix of data we’d never seen before, but made for data that helped the Rudy Project team in their design considerations, to make it fast, but provide a significant level of cooling that wasn’t a detriment to the speed of the helmet.”

      With this data, we were able to finally narrow to the final design for the Wing. It was done: a helmet that could tolerate a wide variety of riding styles and parameters with speed, comfort, adjustability and a high degree of cooling demanded by today’s athlete. The Wing had taken flight.

      LIVE WIND TUNNEL TESTING

      After a nine-month timeline, we went into production for a few test units for one final confirmation in the wind tunnel—with Andreas Dreitz himself. It would be the final chance at proof of concept. It performed as we expected: beautifully.

      “We asked him to ride in his normal position, as well as others—we had him look down, look back, to test typical age group dynamics and positions,” Ballard said. “We had him in and within a 10th of a watt, we could repeat the performance improvements versus the Wing 57 he had previously been riding.” We were very happy—we made Andreas faster, but more importantly, we proved the Wing would be faster for a wide range of athletes, in different positions. It’s a helmet designed—and proven—to be fast for everyone.”

      Andi Dreitz was first off the bike at the Florida IM 70.3 in 2021 Photo: @higgybaby001

      IT'S NOT JUST US: INDEPENDENT REAL-WORLD TESTING BY ERO SPORTS

      Rudy Project was grateful to learn that ERO Sports, a bicycle and athlete aerodynamics testing company based in the Los Angeles area, took a keen interest in the Wing helmet upon launch.

      Given his testing experience, ERO Sports manager Jim Manton saw the Rudy Project Wing on its launch as something that might prove to be fast. So, he bought one helmet to serve as his testing unit, and took it upon himself to find out. “Helmets have been going through a lot of changes over the last few years,” Manton said. “The shorter-tail helmets are where a lot of companies are going, as they’re consistent among a wide range of athletes. I saw the Wing and thought it’s not too wide, not too long, and looked like it had a great shape.”

      “But looking fast is one thing,” Manton added. “Performing is another.”

      Manton’s testing is unique in that it takes place not in a wind tunnel or velodrome, but outdoors—on open roads, while riding. Using a highly-sensitive AeroLab AeroPro Outdoor Aero Sensor affixed to the front of a bike, a rider in a repeatable position then makes several passes on a flat stretch of road, each pass capturing wind speed and importantly, wind yaw, simultaneously. With athlete and bike tared out of the equation, and the consideration of not just wind speed but also the angle at which it’s experienced, the aero sensor is capable of capturing and collecting numbers that best represent true real-world, normal conditions testing.

      Manton brought four athletes to the test along the Santa Ana River trail in Yorba Linda, Calif., and was intent on bringing a representative range of athletes. Three were Hawaii Ironman triathlon qualifiers. Two were females, two were males. One was a middle-of-pack triathlete, riding a road bike with clip-on aerobars. It was a truly wide range of levels and experiences. Each athlete conducted three one-kilometer out-and-back runs, riding in two positions: a standard position, and a head tucked “turtle” position, and every rider was told to wear the helmet in the position they felt most comfortable, so as to yield authentic data with the helmet in a naturally-acquired position. All testing passes were with the Wing visor locked in place, and with the vent hole uncovered. With each pass, Manton grabbed data from the aero sensor, zeroed it out, and sent the athletes back out for another test run.

      Empirical Findings

      ERO Sports laid out its findings in a white sheet, showing that indeed, the Wing tested fastest overall, and tested fastest on all but one rider. “The Rudy Project Wing did great—on all but one athlete it was the fastest helmet,” Manton said. “It was really impressive.”

      INTANGIBLE FINDING

      While the data was favorable, Manton said it was the intangible feedback that he found quite interesting: the Rudy Project Wing was the most comfortable helmet among all tested. “We didn’t solicit any of the feedback, but a lot of them said it was their favorite helmet because it stayed in place, or loved the dial and accessibility. He also said riders said their field of view was also greater with the Rudy Project Wing. “The riders all said they would try to glance up the road through the vent holes at the top of the Giro and POC helmet, which blocked their visibility, but had no such problem with the Rudy Project helmet,” Manton said.

      The riders also found cooling to be a significant advantage on the Wing. “Neither the Giro Aerohead Ultimate nor the POC Cerebel have vent holes, and our testers told us that lack of cooling was something they noticed,” Manton said. “We tested with the Wing helmet’s plug out, and the riders all said they found it more comfortable than the others with air moving through it.”


      SEE THE WING

      Rudy Project Wing: From Concept to Complete Speed (Part 1)

      Rudy Project Wing: From Concept to Complete Speed (Part 1)

      The aero helmet is arguably the most important piece of equipment in a cyclist’s arsenal in their quest against the clock. Powering in a pursuit position in the aerobars, it’s quite literally the leading edge against the wind for a rider.

      Developing a protective helmet to help cut the smoothest path through the wind—to move it with minimal turbulence onto and over the body— and doing so with a modicum of cooling effect, is in effect the confluence of diametrically opposed concepts. Making a helmet aero, and cool, and work on a wide variety of riders? That’s a challenge.

      “I see it like this,” said Jean Paul Ballard, a former F1 Racing concept design lead. “Everyone asks, ‘what’s the fastest helmet?’ It should always be rephrased as ‘what’s the helmet best suited to me as an athlete, for how my body moves, how my head moves, how I sit on the bike, what kind of cooling I need?’ Rudy Project wanted to create a new helmet that was tolerant of all these things.”

      Rudy Project took the totality of that to task in developing a new helmet: The Wing.

      Indeed, the cycling helmet industry is loaded with many iterations of tear dropped aero helmets. And while the end goal—speed—is always the same, the results have been very different, on athletes ranging from professionals who can hold their heads in a single tucked position, unmoved for four hours, to age group racers, weekend warriors that also want the advantage of speed, but had greater need to look around for safety, to look down to get bottles to stay hydrated, to receive airflow and stay cool in a long race. We knew a properly designed helmet could be designed better for the everyday athlete—and the pro.

      Our baseline for improvement was Rudy Project’s previous time trial/triathlon helmet: the Wing 57, co-developed with aerodynamics expert John Cobb in 2013. That helmet was preceded by the Wingspan, debuted in 2009, also a Cobb partnership project. The goals? Quite simple: a faster helmet for a wide range of cyclists—and a cooler helmet. It’s quite common to achieve excellence in one category, but fail miserably in the other. To score wins in both categories would be a tall task.

      The project to make the fastest time trial/tri helmet in the world began in Treviso, Italy. Rudy Project’s team of engineers at the company headquarters decided to make every investment in creating the fastest helmet in the world—for every rider. We relied upon our team of designers to create the helmet, but also partnered with Swiss Side. Known best for its range of aero wheels, the Zurich-based company led by CEO Ballard—a former F1 racing concept design lead—has been on the leading edge of wind tunnel testing, with a unique access to Airbus wind tunnel in Immenstaad, Germany. The tunnel itself is earning a reputation; while every tunnel can test airflow aerodynamics, the Airbus facility has the unique capacity to test thermodynamics, with the ability to calculate heat rejection via head forms wired with thermal measurement capability. “The facility is cutting edge in every way,” Ballard said. “The aero data is granular, but we can also now quantify cooling based on how much air can get through a helmet.”

      The two companies also share several athletes in common like long course triathlon pro Andreas Dreitz, so creating a helmet that made their collective athletes faster took on greater importance for both companies. “The Wing 57 was a good baseline for us, but we agreed it was just that—good,” Ballard said. “We wanted this to be great, so we started effectively with a blank sheet of paper.”

      To establish a baseline, the Swiss Side team provided Rudy Project a box to work within in terms of helmet length, height, and frontal volume, as well as a virtual and live testing subject: Dreitz. While he’s a front-of pack pro triathlete with wins in top races like the Challenge Roth Triathlon, he was also selected based on a riding style that matched up with most average triathletes; not terribly aggressive, and one who moves his head quite often looking around. “Andreas was a great choice for Rudy Project, as he’s representative of most riders,” Ballard said. “And we knew as a group that we didn’t want a long helmet, for example, as drag goes up as the tail goes up. For triathletes that look around, reach back for bottles and such, it was important to keep the tail short. “If someone like Andreas, or for that matter, most age group triathletes—had a helmet with a long tail, it would be poison.”

      Rudy Project and Swiss Side decided that the helmet’s shape would be designed around wind angles between zero and 10 degrees of yaw, agreeing that sustained wind angles outside that range are generally seldom seen.

      Beyond those parameters, the sky was the limit.

      Rudy Project’s design engineering team lead the charge. With CFD programs at the ready, Rudy Project’s designers created several iterations of a new helmet. Rudy Project sent these 3D iterations to Swiss Side, who did a “virtual” fit and aero test with a virtual Dreitz, who’s head and body had been previously 3D-scanned. Swiss Side put the virtual prototypes on the virtual Dreitz, ran the numbers (testing in CFD in yaw sweeps out to 15 degrees) at wind speeds of 35 and 45 kilometers per hour, and pared the helmet designs down to a couple of true contenders. A handful of prototypes from those contenders were created, which would be packed and travel from Treviso to Immenstaad for the next phase: prototype testing.

      Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Wing development story.

      Want to fly?

      NAZ Elite: Running with the Big Dogs

      NAZ Elite: Running with the Big Dogs

      “Don’t mind us. Go fawn over Portlandia; we’re gonna sit over here and eat their lunch.”

      If you follow distance running circles casually, you probably think every successful runner worth their national title or Olympic qualifying spot is tearing up the track in Oregon and wearing a swoosh on their feet.

      And you’d be wrong.

      “Y’know, we don’t mind running with a chip on our shoulder,” said Ben Rosario, head coach for NAZ Elite running squad. “There’s probably eight or ten running groups around the country that are pretty good, and others that get a lot of attention, but we’ve had some pretty darned good results. We’re rocking and rolling.”

      “Pretty Darned Good” is an understatement. NAZ Elite was started by Rosario in 2014 with nine athletes, he and his wife spending their own cash to lift it off the ground. Since then, they’ve taken on support from major sponsors and have drawn talent to rival even the biggest teams with the deepest pockets. In the last year, NAZ Elite has amassed an enviable collective resume. In November, Matt Baxter won the 2020 New Zealand national 10K title. A month earlier, the team won the inaugural Michigan Pro Ekiden, with Northern Arizona University grad Tyler Day, Lauren Paquette and Dani Shanahan scoring day-best times for their legs of the six-leg event. And of course, there’s Aliphine Tuliamuk, who in February won the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta, earning her a spot on the starting line at the Tokyo Olympics this coming summer.

      Indeed, NAZ Elite is one of the best distance running teams in the country. “We’ve got a group that really thrives on the team environment, and training here in Flagstaff,” Rosario said.

      Short for Northern Arizona Elite, this crew of 14 runners is training year round as a squad to claim all the finest titles, from 5,000 meters to the marathon. And running as a group, the mix of distance specialists raises everyone’s game; 5,000-meter runners make marathoners suffer on shorter intervals, while the marathoners turn the tables and put the hurt on the 5K runners during long runs. Everyone benefits.

      “It’s quite balanced; a lot of the training is aerobic-based, so they all respond generally to the same kind of work,” Rosario said. “They’ll diverge onto their own paths closer to an event, but they train similarly. It helps; it’s the power of the group.”

      Flagstaff, Arizona, the team’s training hub, is what Rosario said is his number one recruiting tool. Known as a tourist town just 90 minutes from the Grand Canyon, it’s a blue-collar town situated at an elevation of 6,900 feet. It has also turned into a training mecca for runners in the know. It’s Boulder Colorado, minus the granola hipster vibe. It’s absent the burning spotlight of Portland. And it’s close enough to lower altitudes. It’s the perfect place to fine-tune his collective of elite-level runners. “It’s not a terribly big town, but you don’t feel like you’re stuck in a cabin, either, so the runners can enjoy themselves a bit. It’s really a perfect blend of a nice town to live in, with all the training benefits.”

      And NAZ Elite is pro, stem to stern, providing a true level of support to their professional runners. From structured sessions—delivered daily by Rosario—to organizing vehicles for group runs, the simple social component of the group dynamic, and a unified collective of sponsored products, NAZ Elite runners want for nothing. Provided all the elements, the runner has one job every day; execute the workout. “We like to get away from putting a time on the board, and just focus on getting as fit as we can,” Rosario said. “We’ve done a good job of recognizing progression from a performance standpoint, and just want to get better.”

      When the COVID shutdown became a harsh reality in the spring, NAZ Elite team runners had to shelter at home as well, making the best of the situation. “The athletes ran on their own and it wasn’t very fun—but it was the right thing to do,” Rosario said.

      But when restrictions lifted intermittently across the country, Rosario assembled the group in Flagstaff and was ready. “We kept our circle small for that reason.” Maximizing on the opportunity while remaining socially distant with adjusted protocol, they made plans. “The runners, they’re used to having an event to target and look forward to. Once we were able to balance the season, we decided on how to play offense,” Rosario said. “We organized intrasquad races, we raced against a team in Boulder, Colorado. We did a small race in St. George, Utah, drove to L.A. for a meet, and had another intrasquad race in Santa Barbara with the help of our title sponsor, HOKA ONE ONE.”

      Sure, the Olympics and most every major meet has been cancelled for the year, but that hasn’t stopped the team from staying on the gas with plans for more top results in 2021. And it’s paid off. Whether it was intrasquad bragging rights or a 2:35:28 time for Steph Bruce in the Virtual New York City Marathon, the runners have adjusted—and thrived. And with the Olympics shifted to summer of 2021, so too were the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials, scheduled for June 18-27.

      “We did see Aliphine qualify for the Olympics, but I look at the team and see so much collective improvement. For example, Lauren Paquette is one of the newest members of the team, and she set a new 5K personal best,” Rosario said. “She may find this delay of the Olympics to her benefit; with another year and a full season with us, I could see her being a major factor at the Olympic Trials. Really, everyone’s making progress. We just want to get better. If we do, the results will simply be a byproduct.”

      For many on the team, punting real world racing until 2021 (fingers crossed) has been the only goal. Others are looking at the extra year in a positive light, as nothing more than an extra year of training, to sharpen the blade. And hey, it may give Rosario more athletes in addition to Tuliamuk to coach in Tokyo, meaning a rebooking of his flight to and from Tokyo.

      “Hey, if we have folks who qualify for Tokyo in the 10,000 or 5,000, I’ll have to change my flight dates a bit,” Rosario said. “But that would be a welcome stress!”

      NAZ Elite eywear

      USMES: Overcoming Hardship & Finding Community Together

      USMES: Overcoming Hardship & Finding Community Together

      USMES, U.S. Military Endurance Sports, supports endurance sports and activities for current, retired, and veteran members of the United States Armed Forces. It began in 2009 as an elite cycling team and has grown into a thriving multi-sport program. Now, USMES supports numerous sports for amateur and elite athletes of all abilities, with roughly 75percent of their members having some type of disability (including disabilities like PTSD, TBI, and hearing loss). These athletes have dedicated themselves to achieving success and overcoming numerous obstacles. While achieving lofty athletic goals, these athletes support others in their local community. USMES members are passionate about promoting their sport, serving their country, and supporting each other.

      USMES supports an Elite Athlete Program for athletes competing at the national and international level and Team Chronos, which provides opportunities for regionally influential masters athletes. Athletes from these teams compete at the Olympics and on international circuits, break barriers, and inspire countless others with their determination and positivity. It is this sense of community and camaraderie that these service members rely on to help propel them forward. This Veterans Day, we’d like to highlight a few of the outstanding USMES members.

      Photos courtesy of Pactimo / Adam Pawlikiewicz Mesa

      Tristan Manderfeld had an outstanding 2019 season with appearances at huge international races. He earned points for Olympic qualification at Fire on Wheels UCI C1 Scratch Race and Points and he finished the season representing the U.S. Armed Forces at the 2019 CISM Military World Games.

      As a high school wrestler, he was recruited to West Point. Unfortunately, a back injury prevented him from continuing in the sport. He was immediately drawn to cycling and its unique mental and physical demands. He quickly progressed from Cat 5 to UCI Pro in cyclocross in just over two years. Tristan has lots of big goals for 2021, but is specifically hoping to make the US Olympic team. He is no stranger to taking risks, as his favorite saying goes, “take the risk or lose the chance.” Tristan continues to take those chances and the results speak for themselves. Tristan’s favorite current workout is a “simulated points race on the road with added volume. It consists of one hour at Zone 2 followed by 40 minutes split into eight blocks of three minutes in high Zone 2 then 1:45 at breakaway pace and 15 seconds at an all-out sprint. Repeat.”

      In 2007, Adam Popp was injured by an IED in Afghanistan, resulting in the amputation of his right leg above the knee. At the time, he was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Leader and a twelve-year combat veteran of the Air Force with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Eight years after losing his leg, Adam began running again. In December 2015, Adam became the first above-knee amputee to complete a 100-mile ultramarathon within the 30-hour cutoff. He was the first amputee to finish, and placed second at the 2017 Boston Marathon in the Mobility Impaired Division. He went on to become the first amputee to complete the JFK 50. On November 14th Adam “will be running Tunnel Hill 100-miler in Illinois, with a third attempt at the 100-mile finish, then seven days later I’ll go for my fourth consecutive run at JFK 50-miler.”

      Jataya Taylor dreamed of a military career. While serving in the Marine Corp, she was seriously injured in two training accidents. After numerous unsuccessful surgeries, she was diagnosed with a rare connective tissue disorder that prevented her from healing. Jataya was medically retired, which was emotionally devastating. She didn’t give up though. In 2017, she made the decision to have her left leg amputated and began her career as an adaptive athlete. Jataya is now a Paralympic hopeful for Nordic skiing, and also competes at a national level in para cycling and wheelchair basketball. She won the 2018 DAV Freedom Award, for outstanding courage and achievement.

      Kelly Elmlinger is a retired Army Captain and the current USA Paratriathlon National Champ. As a combat medic, she was deployed three times, to Iraq and Afghanistan. Tragically, she was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma cancer that ultimately led to the amputation of her leg in 2016. Just three weeks after receiving her run/walk prosthetic, she entered her first triathlon. She was named the Paratriathlon Development Athlete of the year for 2020 by USAT. And Kelly is ready for 2021. Her eyes are set on ITU World Champs and a possible Olympic Team selection. The pandemic has left her with some time to focus on some medical needs and also be present for her kids. Her approach and advice for dealing with COVID-19 is to “hold yourself accountable and to have an outlet to release frustrations and stress.”

      Many USMES members are first responders or frontline workers. With COVID-19, that has meant this year has been devoted not to training, but to their first duty—caring for and protecting us all. The stress of a pandemic and isolation has been challenging to say the least, but especially for veterans. To foster community, accountability, and support this year, members have used Zwift and other avenues of virtual meetups and competitions to bring the team together. Others are providing mentorship and increased avenues of support to fight against addictions.

      USMES is providing a network of support and community to veteran athletes from amateurs to elites, from active duty to retired, and for all abilities. It is an avenue that no matter the circumstance, they can find a community of support. Rudy Project has been a proud supporter of USMES for many years. Rudy Project has provided gear and created custom-made helmets to support USMES members and its teams as they train and compete. To support the great work of USMES or get involved, visit usmes.org.

      USMES HELMETS & SUNGLASSES