Anchoring a week marked by a brutal heat wave that caused the cancellation of the longer of two of its local bicycle rides, the ninth annual “Solder Ride The Hamptons” nevertheless rolled through the East End on Saturday in a show of courage, patriotism, camaraderie,and athleticism—and even a roadside marriage engagement.
Forty-two “Wounded Warriors” and more than 1,000 supporters participated in the local version of this year’s cycling event, a ride in memory of the late U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter of Sag Harbor, according to Pete Cataldo, a spokesman for The Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that provides support for injured veterans for which Soldier Ride raises funds.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, approximately $96,000 (and counting) was raised in community donations, he said. These figures hold roughly steady with last year’s, said Nick Kraus, one of the event’s founders.
“We probably would have broken records this year if it weren’t for the record-breaking heat,” he said.
With thermometers soaring above 90 degrees for several days in a row leading up to the event, organizers had to call off the 60-mile ride because once the National Weather Service issues a heat warning, The Wounded Warrior Project cannot sanction the ride for health and legal reasons, Chris Carney, a Solder Ride founder, explained.
Only about 15 or 20 percent of participants typically sign up for the 60-miler, which is an extension of the more popular, 30-mile ride, he said. The 30-mile ride starts in Amagansett, goes to Sag Harbor and returns to Amagansett, while the 60-miler starts with this 30-mile course, but continues to Montauk and then loops back to Amagansett. Some of the riders cycled the longer distance anyway, though it was not officially sanctioned, Mr. Carney said. There is also a 5-kilometer walk.
For most of the soldiers, the Hamptons ride was the third of three rides on consecutive days, following a Soldier Ride in New York City on Thursday and another in Babylon on Friday.
The local event was another success in Mr. Carney’s book.
“Every year it gets bigger,” he said. “At the start of the year, it was a little bit slow and we were nervous that we weren’t going to do as well, but it was another great year.”
A lot of familiar faces, as well as British and Israeli soldiers powering through side by side took it to another level, which was appropriate considering they stand side by side in the field, he said.
Cyclists persevered this year in the non-race atmosphere with double-arm and -leg amputations. One blinded soldier even rode a tandem bike with another cyclist, Mr. Carney said.
As always, Soldier Ride tries to pair the newly wounded with those further down the road of recovery, so they can learn from and empower one another.
“What makes it really unique is that you see kids on BMX bikes, $5,000 fancy triathlon bikes and everything in between,” he said. “No one’s excluded.”
The organizers told of how one man even proposed to his fiancée en route, after pulling to the side of the road. Proposal complete, the pair then continued their ride, with “Mr.” and “Mrs.” signs affixed to the back of their bikes, they said.
Another highlight occurred that afternoon when riders took a dip at the ocean on the Napeague stretch under the eye of East Hampton Town lifeguards who had volunteered, according to Mr. Kraus.
“People who’ve never seen the Atlantic Ocean before except to fly over it to get to Iraq or Afghanistan, and to swim in it on Saturday afternoon—the Warriors had a great time,” he said.