USA Triathlon Operation CO>COVID-19 a Success!

By Khem Suthiwan

Their journey began the evening of Friday, June 19th at 6:30pm MT, at the Utah-Colorado border just west of Grand Junction. Their goal, to complete a 483-mile relay ride across the state of Colorado while raising money for the USA Triathlon Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.

Over the course of 483 miles, the riders averaged 20 mph, climbed nearly 23,000 feet of elevation with their highest point at Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet of elevation. Just before 8:00pm and beating the sunset, all nine riders joined together for the final mile to the Kansas-Colorado state line.

We were able to catch up to them within a few hours of the finish. All the athletes and crew were in great spirits, looking forward to seeing the state line.

At a rider exchange spot with about 20 miles to go, a deputy from the Sheriff of Cheyenne County pulled over with flashing lights. His first words were “You guys are obviously part of some sort of bike team.” The crew immediately jumped in to tell the deputy about the relay ride, and that if he wanted to talk to someone in charge, the CEO (Rocky Harris) is coming down the road about to finish his current leg of the relay. Many laughs were exchanged and his handcuffs made an appearance for fun. At the next rider exchange stop, the deputy offered up a donation to the crew. A great gesture to an already amazing day.

The participating riders included:

• Kyle Coon, Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
• Hailey Danz, Rio 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
• Kendall Gretsch, PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Nordic Skiing Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
• Kevin McDowell, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
• Jack O’Neil, U.S. Paratriathlon Junior Development Team Member
• Melissa Stockwell, Rio 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful, Team Toyota Athlete
• Renée Tomlin, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
• Alex Libin, Elite Triathlete and Guide for Kyle Coon 
• Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon Chief Executive Officer

The team had set a goal to raise $20,210 in reference to the postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will take place in 2021. At the time of their finish, $21,568 had been raised with donations still rolling in. Donations are still being accepted at usatriathlonfoundation.org.

Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team to Ride Across Colorado to Benefit COVID-19 Relief, Care & Share Food Bank

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO – MAY 27: Paralympian and former U.S. Army Officer Melissa Stockwell cycles during a training session on May 27, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Athletes across the globe are now training in isolation under strict policies in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

From USA Triathlon

Nine U.S. elite triathletes training for the postponed Tokyo Paralympic and Olympic Games, along with USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris, will cycle a combined 483 miles across the state of Colorado starting Friday, June 19, in a 24-hour relay challenge dubbed “Operation CO>COVID.” 

The ride, which is supported by Toyota vehicles, was fully planned and executed by members of the Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team including Kyle Coon, Hailey Danz, Kendall Gretsch, Allysa Seely, Melissa Stockwell and Howie Sanborn (Sanborn will not participate in the ride due to injury). The squad normally trains out of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, but the training center’s athletic facilities have been closed since mid-March due to COVID-19. 

The event is designed to drive awareness and donations for the USA Triathlon Foundation, which will then distribute proceeds equally between two causes: the USA Triathlon Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund, which provides grants to members of the multisport community impacted by the pandemic, and the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. Donations are being accepted at usatriathlonfoundation.org. The team has set a goal to raise $20,210 in reference to the postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will take place in 2021.

In addition to the paratriathlon resident team and Harris, participants in the challenge also include U.S. Olympic hopefuls Kevin McDowell and Renée Tomlin; up-and-coming 17-year-old paratriathlete Jack O’Neil; and elite triathlete Alex Libin. Libin will serve as a sighted guide for Kyle Coon, who is visually impaired.

“The Tokyo postponement left us all wanting to do something to both test ourselves physically and to give back to the community,” said Stockwell, a U.S. Army veteran and Team Toyota athlete who won a bronze medal in paratriathlon’s debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. “The idea to ride our bikes 483 miles across the state of Colorado accomplished both. Instead of racing in Tokyo, we will be racing the sun to finish our ride before sundown and raising money to give back to the community for COVID-19 relief. We look forward to completing these miles as a team and making a small difference.”

“Our paratriathlon resident team came up with Operation CO>COVID as a unique challenge for themselves, but more importantly, because they wanted to give back to our community during this unprecedented time,” Harris, CEO of USA Triathlon, said. “I am incredibly proud to ride alongside this group of individuals who, even when faced with the disappointment and uncertainty of an Olympic and Paralympic Games postponement, are still motivated to support others whose livelihoods have been threatened due to COVID-19.”

“It’s incredible to see the Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team come together for such a great cause,” said Dedra DeLilli, group manager, Toyota Olympic and Paralympic Marketing. “We’re inspired by the athletes’ motivation to go above and beyond to create a positive impact for both the multisport community and the local community where they train. We can’t wait to follow the team’s ride, and our Toyota employees all over the country will be cheering them on.”

The ride will cover 483 miles in total distance, gaining nearly 23,000 feet of elevation as it extends from the Utah-Colorado state line in Montrose, Colorado, to the Colorado-Kansas state line at U.S. 40 and CR 57 (near the town of Arapahoe, Colorado). The route travels from the Western Slope up into the Rocky Mountains, cresting Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet of elevation before descending into the Front Range via Colorado Springs and into the Eastern Plains. To view the complete route, click here.

Athletes will be divided into three teams of three, with each person covering up to four different segments ranging from 3-15 miles at a time. The first riders will begin cycling from the Utah-Colorado state line in the evening (exact time TBD) on Friday, June 19, with a goal to be at the Colorado-Kansas state line 24 hours later on Saturday, June 20. 

Toyota support vehicles will transport the rest of the athletes and their gear along the route, stopping to swap riders after each segment. The athletes must collectively maintain an average of 21 miles per hour in order to successfully cross the state within 24 hours. 

The participating athletes include:

  • Kyle Coon, Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
  • Hailey Danz, Rio 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
  • Kendall Gretsch, PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
  • Kevin McDowell, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
  • Jack O’Neil, U.S. Paratriathlon Junior Development Team Member
  • Allysa Seely, Rio 2016 Paralympic Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
  • Melissa Stockwell, Rio 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful, Team Toyota Athlete
  • Renée Tomlin, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
  • Alex Libin, Elite Triathlete and Guide for Kyle Coon 
  • Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon Chief Executive Officer

FOR MEDIA: 

  • All riders are available for interviews leading up to the event date, and photos and video b-roll of athletes are available upon request.
  • Interviews, video and photo opportunities are possible during the ride itself but must be requested and coordinated in advance, as the relay is continuous and transport vans will be in motion throughout the day.
  • For all in-person coverage, members of the media must wear masks and maintain six feet of distance from athletes and support staff.
  • To request interviews or media materials, please contact Caryn Maconi, USA Triathlon Communications Manager, at caryn.maconi@usatriathlon.org or 443-534-5954.

To learn more about Operation CO>COVID, or to make a donation to the USA Triathlon Foundation, visit usatriathlonfoundation.org.


About the USA Triathlon Foundation
The USA Triathlon Foundation was created in 2014 by the USA Triathlon Board of Directors as an independent tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Under the leadership of its Trustees and Committee members, the Foundation serves as a means to create a healthier America through triathlon and seeks to transform lives by opening up new pathways to the sport for all, especially those who are otherwise underserved. The USA Triathlon Foundation operates with the belief that every child should have the chance to participate, every paratriathlete should have the opportunity to compete, and every aspiring elite athlete should be able to chase his or her Olympic dream. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than $3 million has been provided to worthy causes and organizations that support its mission. Donations to the USA Triathlon Foundation ensure America’s youth are introduced to the benefits and fun of a multisport lifestyle, athletes with disabilities receive the training, support and gear to be able to participate and excel, and the best aspiring young athletes have a chance to pursue their Olympic Dreams. Visit usatriathlonfoundation.org to learn more and donate today.

About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
– usatriathlon.org –