Belle Vernon native will lead veteran bike ride from Pittsburgh to D.C. this weekend
Considering the sacrifice many veterans have made, biking a few hundred miles to Washington, doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
Belle Vernon native and veteran Eric McElvenny, who lost part of his right leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan while serving in the Marine Corps and has completed multiple Ironman races since then, is certainly up for it.
“I love sports, and I love challenges,” said McElvenny, 36, of Bethel Park. “I do a lot of riding because I race in decathlons. So the challenge of riding from Pittsburgh to D.C. is really appealing to me.”
McElvenny will lead a group of more than 120 cyclists on the “ 335 Miles for Veterans ” event, setting out Saturday to make the trip that will land them in the nation’s capital on Independence Day. They will stop in small towns along the way to promote the mission of the ride’s organizers, the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania.
“This bike ride is a great way for us to reach veterans in areas outside of Pittsburgh,” said Ben Stahl, Veterans Leadership Program CEO. “As we stop in these small towns along the way, it’s a great way for us to engage and for those veterans who may need help to find us and our services.”
Riders will set off around 8 a.m. Saturday from the Grand Concourse restaurant at Station Square, following the Great Allegheny Passage south. Three separate groups will complete the ride over three, four and five days, respectively.
“The three-day group is now down to just me and one other guy,” said McElvenny with a laugh.
The goal is to raise $100,000 to continue support for local veterans.
McElvenny recently moved back to the Pittsburgh area after 15 years. This will make his first time participating in the ride.
“Coming back to Pittsburgh, I really wanted to get involved in the veteran community, and what better way to do it than through this cycling event and raising money for the Veterans Leadership Program?” he said.
Trib photographer Shane Dunlap documented part of last year’s ride , as the group stopped in West Newton on July 1.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.