Project Echelon Newsletter December 2021

Celebrating 5 years of successes

What is Project Echelon?

We educate, equip, and empower veterans and their families through physical activity and self discovery.

Impact through the Project Echelon Community

Veteran Feature Story

In its five years of existence, the Project Echelon Community has grown from a handful of individuals to a wide-reaching group of hundreds of veterans, athletes, coaches, and individuals all across the US. This year, we surveyed 50 members of the Project Echelon community that come from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds. More than 50% of respondents had some sort of military-related health issue, including PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and physical disability.

One of the questions asked pertained to how the respondents rated their own physical health, before and after joining Project Echelon. While many rated themselves at a 5 or lower prior to joining Project Echelon, the vast majority of respondents rated themselves at a 6-10 since receiving support from Project Echelon.

There was an even stronger response to changes in mental health, where most respondents went from <5 before joining Project Echelon, to 7-10 since receiving support from our community. Respondents also noted significant improvements in their personal relationships, spiritual health, and engagement in physical activity since working with Project Echelon.

looking back on five years of success at Project Echelon

The Project Echelon organization has grown and flourished in ways that we thought we would only ever dream of. Since its inception in Fall of 2016, Project Echelon has grown both in volume and force, providing tens and hundreds of veterans, cyclists, and endurance athletes with the platform and community they desire to succeed, a far reach from the 12 veterans we supported in our first year.

Project Echelon's goal is to educate, empower, and equip veterans with the knowledge and tools they need to reach their goals. Our roots are in road cycling, but our branches now extend to track cycling, running, IRONMAN triathlon, paracycling, and so much more.

To round out 2021, we wanted to take a look back at the last 5 years, a half-decade filled with laughs, smiles, heartbreak, bravery, and success. It all began in 2017...

Photo credit: SnowyMountain Photography

Project Echelon was introduced to the world in 2017 with the infamous Fluro-yellow kits that will stand the test of time. The team began racing at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix, Arizona, which would become the team's traditional season-opener for many years.

The team competed in a handful of big races in their first year of existence, including the Joe Martin Stage Race, North Star Grand Prix, and Cascade Cycling Classic.

Project Echelon rider Evan Hartig won the Collegiate National Criterium title on Durango, Colorado while representing Lindenwood University.

Project Echelon added some big-name sponsors in 2018, as well as some big-name riders. Former professional rider Cory Lockwood added a wealth of experience to the team, as well as guest rider Lionel Mawditt. The team's perspective changed that year, from a group of fighters to a group of winners. No longer were they scrapping for Top 10s and breakaways at the country's biggest races - now, they were racing to win.

Lockwood won the Overall at the San Dimas Stage Race and Chico Stage Race, and Lionel earned the team's first-ever professional podium by finishing 3rd Overall at the Joe Martin Stage Race.

Mawditt continued his streak of successes with a 2nd Overall at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, and not long after, Project Echelon earned their first invite to the US Professional Road Cycling Championships.

The ultra-steep climb up Sherrod Road in the US Pro Road Race offered an epic atmosphere, and made the perfect backdrop for some of the best pictures in Project Echelon's history.

Back in the Midwest, Stephen Wagstaff won the famous Ben's Cycle Super Prime during the Downer Classic.

Lockwood won the USA Cycling Amateur National Championship Time Trial, while Mawditt graduated to the pro ranks ahead of the Tour of Utah.

As the season wound down, the team saw their fair share of crashes and frustration. This photo of Ricky Arnopol and Evan Hartig - who are still on the team today - shows that Project Echelon is more than just a bike racing team; it is a brotherhood, and we are always there to support each other, even through the toughest times.

In the fall of 2018, Project Echelon participated in the Veteran's Day parade in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This is one of many, many community events that Project Echelon has been a part of over the years, especially in support of our veterans.

In 2019, Project Echelon stepped up its game yet again. The team housed a few riders in Tucson, Arizona who trained together over the winter with weekly rides up and down Mount Lemmon.

There are two many iconic photos from our February team camp, which was one of the best weeks of my life.

The team gathered consistent results throughout the spring, but it was at Joe Martin that the team earned their biggest win to date.

Matt Zimmer won Stage 2 of the Joe Martin Stage, earning the leader's jersey and more with the team's first-ever UCI stage win.

In addition to the racing team, the Project Echelon community continued to grow with veterans, athletes, and community outreach. Project Echelon riders worked on-on-one with veteran athletes to help them reach their goals, including completing their first IRONMAN and running in the Boston Marathon.

Project Echelon earned multiple podiums at the Amateur National Road Championships, and snapped some more amazing pictures at Pro Nats including this beer grab from David Greif.

One of the team's biggest racing successes of the year came at the Intelligentsia Cup, a home race for Brandon Feehery who won the Overall Classification at the 10-day crit series.

Project Echelon won the biggest race of 2020 with new signing Zach Gregg, who took the leader's jersey and held it to the end at the Tour of the Southern Highlands. The boys smashed every stage, then headed to the Winston-Salem wind tunnel for next-level aero testing.

Project Echelon was stronger than ever, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit...

It didn't take long for co-founder Eric Hill to come up with some ideas, and Project Echelon was soon on a number of virtual cycling platforms riding in meet-ups and organizing race series.

As the cycling world committed to virtual cycling for the long-haul, Project Echelon was at the head of the curve, organizing race series on Zwift and then RGT Cycling, complete with livestreams and professional commentary.

Race reports and Power Analyses made it into Velonews and Cyclingnews, and despite the pandemic, Project Echelon continued to grow like never before.

Late in 2020, the first season of the Echelon Racing League kicked off on RGT Cycling, and it has quickly become one of the most popular and competitive online racing leagues in cycling.

2021 was the best season yet for Project Echelon - Stephen Vogel won the Armed Forces Cycling Classic, Peter Olejniczak won the iconic Downer Classic, Feehery again won the Overall at the Intelligentsia Cup, Zach Gregg won the Amateur National Championship Time Trial, and George Simpson won the final stage of the UCI Joe Martin Stage Race.

In the summer of 2021, Project Echelon headed to Europe for the first time in what was set to be the hardest and most challenging racing in the team's existence. There was wind, rain, cobbles, blood, sweat, and probably some tears, but we already can't wait to go back.

Shawn Morelli represented Project Echelon at the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, taking home a Silver and Gold medal.

On the other side of the world, Aaron Hunnel completed the Ride 2 Stop Suicide in which he biked across the country at a rate of 140 miles per day. Aaron fought heat exhaustion, illness, and incredible fatigue to finish the route from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. Along the way, he raised thousands of dollars for Argon 18 bikes to be donated to more than 20 veterans.

Project Echelon also participated in Take That Hill for Purple Heart Homes, a unique event held Barrett Mountain Road in Taylorsville, North Carolina. "Take That Hill cyclists carried American flags and Purple Heart Homes flags in honor/memory of Veterans or Spouses/Caregivers of Veterans."

The Project Echelon community raised over $1000 during Native American Vets Awareness Month, while the team also shared the stories of the 29 Native American Medal of Honor recipients during January. You can read more about NAVA here.

Project Echelon also collaborated with the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) in March during Women's History Month. Throughout the month of March, we celebrated and raised awareness towards the contribution of the women who have and continue to serve our country. We offered a number of virtual racing and fitness challenges to further raise awareness and funds for this great cause, challenges with creative names such as the Civil War Challenge, World War II Challenge, and Operation Enduring Free/Operation Iraqi Freedom Challenge.

Now that the winter weather has settled in, the second season of the Echelon Racing League has begun on RGT. In addition to the professional races, Project Echelon hosts a number of community races for all riders levels, and for both men and women. A number of Project Echelon veterans race in the Echelon Racing League, and keep building the Project Echelon Community even in the dark of winter.


Project Echelon Switches to cohort coaching & Mentor model

Project Echelon Community will be moving to a cohort model of mentorship and coaching starting January 1, 2022. In an effort to better serve those community members who require individualized coaching and mentorship services, we will be creating regional cohorts that will have support from members of the elite cycling team and Veteran mentors. The goal of the cohort model is to educate community members on aspects of training, nutrition, and mental health in a more intimate setting than we can currently offer the entire community.

More details of the new cohort model can be found here.


Project Echelon is always looking to connect with new veterans, as well as veteran friends and family. Contact us on social media or through our website at www.projectechelon.org.

Project Echelon and the virtual cycling community

In this edition of the Project Echelon Newsletter, we wanted to take a look at the intersection between indoor training and Project Echelon. As a team born out of the Midwest, we are no strangers to indoor training. In fact, many of us spend most of the winter months pedaling circles in the pain cave. However, what used to be monotonous has now become a fun and exciting form of training thanks to virtual training and racing platforms such as RGT Cycling.

We asked the Project Echelon community how they use indoor training to stay motivated and connected to others, and their responses were nothing short of fantastic.

“80% of my rides are indoors. I work from home full-time, I have 3 small children and other volunteer commitments, and though I'd prefer to ride outdoors, indoor riding is a lot more efficient for my time.

Convenience and structure are the best parts of indoor riding for me. Since I exited the Marine Corps in 2011, I struggled to maintain any sort of consistency in working out or training for a particular event. But now, I am able to load a workout onto my computer, turn on ERG mode, and get to work in minutes.” - Justin Rice


"Project Echelon was able to help me purchase my first-ever smart trainer, a Saris M2 wheel-on trainer. I love the online training platforms, but I especially love the racing on RGT due to the real-world physics. It keeps me fit during foul weather months and gives me the carrot I need to chase.

Although I started riding a Schwinn Varsity in 1976, I never cycled seriously until I was 50 years old, and I had never participated in a bike race until I was 55.

Somedays I'm haunted by memories from my time in service. But, riding and racing is one of those outlets that have a cathartic, almost cleansing, effect on me. When I'm absolutely turned inside out, pegging the rev limiter, the wounds of the past seem to heal a little more each time. To be able to do that, to overcome with teammates in a community, that's the blessing....even in the pain cave.

One of the lies that we embrace is that our best years are behind us, being able to train and compete at 56 years old is the antidote to that lie.” - Brad Borders


“Due to the cold and decreasing daylight, I ride the trainer a lot on in the winter, especially when work hours overlap with the short amount of daytime we get during the work week.

Indoor training is hugely important to me as I am a numbers guy and like to stick to specific numbers to the best of my ability – when my coach, Ricky Arnopol, says 10 minutes at 280 Watts, it is EXACTLY 10 minutes at 280 Watts). Having the ERG setting on RGT connected to Ricky's training plan on TrainingPeaks makes the training seamless. I can just power on, pick the day's workout, and get to it.

“I strongly believe that virtual rides and races provide a great opportunity for people from across the world to come together for common causes to support as much as for fun and social events.” - Josh Boguslofski


"“My first favorite part about indoor riding is the fact that I got both my boys (ages 9 and 12) into it, and they often come downstairs in their pajamas and spin with me! We now have THREE trainers (my oldest fits on my bike) so we can all train together. I also love indoor training because I don't have to stop for traffic, pedestrians, moose, bears, etc. (Editor’s note: You had to stop for a MOOSE?!) I can complete an entire workout without stopping, while jamming out to my favorite music, and while my kids play in the same room with me.

I love being able to be a positive influence on my kids, and show them that incorporating exercise into daily life is important.

Project Echelon has connected me with so many amazing women (and men!) that have the same obsession I do for biking. Last winter, I raced in the Echelon Racing League and connected with the women through group chats. It was so fun to laugh with them, and suffer through some of the races with them as well." - Aimee Young

Learn more about the RGT Cycling platform and email Eric Hill at info@projectechelonracing.com for access to a FREE premium code to the platform.

Echelon Racing League

The Echelon Racing League is back, and it's bigger and better than ever. Last fall and winter, Project Echelon coordinated one of the biggest online racing leagues in the world with the multi-month Echelon Racing League on RGT Cycling. Professionals and amateur men and women competed on RGT's virtual and magical roads, including some of the exact stage profiles featured in the Redlands Cycling Classic and Joe Martin Stage Race.

In mid-October, the series returned with a unique community combine event in which solo athletes not registered with a team competed for a chance to get noticed and drafted by participating team managers. At the Community Gateway Cup race, he Echelon Racing League also awarded a spot at the Zwift eSports World Championships coming up in February, 2022. Project Echelon rider, Zach Nehr, earned a spot at eSports World's through the Continental Qualifiers on Zwift, and will represent Team USA at the upcoming race.

The Echelon Racing League is set to run through late February, including races such as the Tour of the Gila and Joe Martin Stage Race.


New 2021 Sponsors: Bio-Tech Pharmacal, Bryton, Brioso Coffee Pirelli Tires, Koo, & Vafels

Bio-Tech Pharmacal is an industry leading, veteran owned, family operated nutraceutical company based out of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Fayetteville is a booming cycling community and Bio-Tech has seen the benefit that cycling tourism and the industry as a whole has brought to their region. We couldn't be happier to be partnering with them to educate others on the importance of proper nutrition and equip them with top of the line, science-based training tools like tri-salts and vitamin D3.

Bryton is a Taiwanese-based company that is making waves in the cycling computer industry. Their top of the line computer graphics, maps, data tools, and affordable price point, make them the device of choice for the team.

Who doesn't like coffee and bikes? This small town Columbus, Ohio based company has big dreams of changing the coffee industry in the United States. Inspired by some of the best cafes from around the world, you won't be disappointed by the unique roasts produced at Brioso. Sign up for their subscription service today!

We ride with confidence with Pirelli. Whether you are ripping the final corner of a crit, descending down slopes of a mountain, or throwing some dust on the mountain bike, Pirelli is our tire of choice and gives us the confidence to perform at the highest level.

A clear vision is the key to success. Koo eyewear is one of the best in the industry in both performance and style.

Don't let your rides get boring with the same old ride food. Switch it up and get excited about reaching into your back pocket with Vafels.


Follow Project Echelon on Social MEdia

Instagram: Project Echelon (@projectechelon) and Project Echelon Racing (@projectechelonracing)

Facebook: Project Echelon Racing

Thank You to All Our Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors

Created By
Zach Nehr


Photos by Snowy Mountain Photography