Pedaling in Place

By Beacon Staff

Most bicyclists contemplating a long-distance ride don’t count boredom among the anticipated difficulties. But for Joe Arnone, staying alert is one of his concerns as he prepares to mount his bike for a 12-hour ride on Jan. 29. Arnone’s ride, however, will take place entirely on a stationary bicycle inside Kalispell’s Sportsman and Ski Haus, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. – thus, his view is unlikely to change much over the course of the day.

Arnone, 49, won’t be pedaling for the sheer fun of it. He’s attempting to raise enough money for his team of current and former military personnel to compete in this year’s Race Across America, a 3,000-mile race from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., that passes through 14 states and climbs over 100,000 feet.

A former U.S. Air Force pilot, Arnone and his team, comprised of cyclists from several branches of the military, hope to also raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and resources to help meet the needs of injured service members.

“They’re probably the best representatives of the sacrifices that everyone who has ever served in the military has ever made,” Arnone, who served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1998, said, before clarifying that he means other than those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

But for the eight-person “Team 4Mil,” and support crew, to complete the Race Across America, which begins on June 14 and can take as long as nine days, they need to raise about $70,000.

“Anything above and beyond that is a donation directly to the Wounded Warrior Project,” Arnone said. “It raises awareness of the Wounded Warrior Project regardless of how much money we’re going to get in support of the cause as well.”

So far, the team has raised about $25,000. While Arnone is cycling at Sportsman, he’ll be accepting donations. Sportsman will offer discounts on rollers and cycling trainers. As a USA Cycling Level 2 coach, he will also be providing seminars on training, nutrition, and answering cycling questions.

Nor will Arnone simply be spinning the pedals on an exercise bike. He will ride his actual bicycle on a set of training rollers, which requires balance and steering. And after 10 hours in the saddle, it makes a crash quite possible.

“With the rollers, you’re riding just as you do on the road,” he said. “I don’t want to fall off and hurt myself.”

Arnone’s typical training ride lasts about 45 minutes, but over the last year he has been riding harder in anticipation of the Race Across America, racing at a velodrome in Washington, competing in a stage race in Oregon and riding in the Tour de Tucson, a 109-mile race in Arizona Nov. 22.

His bicycling career stretches back decades, to competing in the Olympic trials in 1992 and 1996 for road and track. All of Arnone’s racing bikes were steel framed cycles built by his father. He was a six-time member of the U.S. Military World Championships team, a kind of Olympics between military athletes of different nations. And he’s an experienced trials rider, a form of bicycle racing where you pedal against a clock to have the best time, not to pass other bicyclists and cross the finish line first, as in the Tour de France.

All of which should serve him well in the Race Across America, which is essentially one huge trial, with no rest days, covering 30 percent more miles than the Tour de France in fewer days.

Arnone’s eight-person team plans to ride in four-person shifts for about eight hours at a stretch, covering about 200 miles a day. He aims to hit his fitness peak in June, just in time for the race. And during his ride at Sportsman, despite pedaling in place, Arnone hopes to make significant progress toward that goal: “Every little bit helps.”

For more information and to make a donation to Team 4Mil, visit: http://team4mil.org/. To learn more about the Wounded Warriors Project, check out: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.

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