After a successful inaugural race at the 2011 Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove, The Heart Of A Marine Foundation's adaptive athletes' race will return next year with a larger field of hand cyclists competing, officials said.
Twelve disabled veterans participated last Sunday as hordes of spectators cheered them on. Among them were veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, a Silver Star recipient and a Purple Heart recipient.
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The race celebrates military heroes who have overcome disabilities often sustained in combat, said Barbara Matsukes, the foundation director of marketing and public relations.
Matsukes said foundation officials approached Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson about having an adaptive athlete race after his cycling accident that prevented him from participating in last year's Mayor's Challenge.
"He was immediately on board with it," Matsukes said. "He took one beat of a second to think about it and said, 'I love this.'"
Race officials eliminated the Mayor's Challenge this year, and held the adaptive athlete race in its place.
This year's prizewinners were Daniel Casara of Chicago, first, winning $1,500; Mike Welch of Chicago, second, $1,000; and in third place, Michael Knapp of Chicago winning $500.
Special guests at the event included Army Lt. Gen. Randall Rigby, and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Roger Machut.
"We were thrilled for the turnout for our veterans and all the adaptive athletes in this first year of The Heart Of A Marine Foundation Adaptive Athletes Race," Matsukes said.
"There is interest nationwide in what we are accomplishing here in Elk Grove Village as it relates to our disabled veterans and their passion for overcoming adversity and their athleticism."
Matsukes hopes to increase participation next year. The race will be held Aug. 5, 2012.