400-plus enter USO Oryx Challenge Bike Tour
Sgt. Mark A. Kauffman,
24th Press Camp Headquarters:
Hundreds of cyclists gathered at the United Service Organizations building on Sergeant Major Boulevard at East Fort Bliss to support the second annual Oryx Challenge Bike Tour Sept. 16.
The USO used the bike challenge as a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project and has seen participation more than double since last year.
“Our first Oryx Challenge, there were a little over 200 participants, but this year we had close to 450 show up,” said Robert Medrano, project manager at the USO.
With an event of this magnitude, there were more than 50 volunteers who showed up to help the USO by registering the cyclists, moving cases of bottled water and whatever was needed to make this event successful. Several ROTC cadets from the University of Texas at El Paso came to lend their support.
“Every semester we have to do some type of volunteer work,” said Cadet Mathew Boston. “I came to support the USO because the USO supports me.”
The Oryx challenge had two different bike tours scheduled – 100-kilometer and 30-kilometer bike rides.
Shortly before the beginning of the bike rides, the cyclists and local sponsors gathered to receive recognition for their support to the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project from Yolanda D. Castillo, director of the USO; V.J. Smith, USO advisory counsel and founder of the Oryx Challenge; and Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commander, who also participated in the 30K bike ride.
Brenda Russell, director of the USO on Chaffee Road, sang the “Star Spangled Banner” for both the 100K and the 30K bike rides.
The 100K started at 7 a.m., which took the cyclists outside the walls of Fort Bliss. They peddled through the Global Reach Gate and rode east on Montana Avenue to the county line and back.
For the cyclists’ safety, more than 20 deputies from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office gave their support by conducting traffic control at every intersection as the cyclists peddled through.
The cyclists had many opportunities to grab bottles of water or Gatorade along their route manned by volunteers at each rest stop.
Jose Olivas, a local federal agent, was the first person to reach the finish line for the 100K, with the time of 2 hours and 28 minutes.
“There are no words to describe how my legs are feeling,” said Olivas. “My legs are gone.”
Clarissa M. Arguelles, owner and founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Studio, supported the USO by leading the 30K group with a short series of yoga exercises before the 9 a.m. start.
“Yoga and cycling go hand in hand,” said Arguelles. “Yoga gives the cyclists a chance to stretch the proper muscle groups involved with cycling.”
The 30K provided a beginner level and family-friendly atmosphere.
Warrant Officer Miguel Caceres of F Company, 2nd Ground Support Aviation Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, and his wife Ruth attached a ride-along for their children, Adrian 6, Andres, 4, and Ariana, 1, as they made the event into a family bike ride.
“We just started biking not too long ago and it’s something active we can do as a family,” said Caceres. “Plus we get to support the USO.”
The 100K cyclists started crossing the finish line around 9:30 a.m. amid cheers and applause from seventh- and eighth-grade cheerleaders from Santa Teresa Middle School. The cheerleaders stayed there, shouting words of encouragement, until the last cyclists crossed the finish line.
All ride participants were given the opportunity to enjoy the free services and products from the local businesses that came to support the event.
“We could not have done all this without the great support we got from the local sponsors,” said Medrano. “They donated money and their time to support our Soldiers.”
Massage Envy set up a tent with four massage tables to give each cyclist a massage to prevent injury and offer a chance to relax after the strenuous event.
“I had a blast and I think everyone had fun,” Pittard said as he was getting a massage. “This event was for a good cause, helping the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project.”
Southwest Airlines cooked and served more than 500 hotdogs while Denny’s here provided 400 burritos to feed the tired and hungry participants.
The USO staff raffled off door prizes donated to them from sponsors to the cyclists. Items included sunglasses, baseball caps, bicycle helmets and Muscle Formula.
The hundreds of cyclists who participated in the event did so for different reasons; it might have been for the competition, for fun or to spend time with family, but one common denominator was to come out and support the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project.
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