SAN RAMON -- The last time a group of cyclists this large challenged the devil, it was chasing a colorful cycling jersey in the Amgen Tour of California.
But when the Sentinels of Freedom's peloton treks up Mt. Diablo's grueling path Oct. 12, its riders will pedal up Devil Mountain for the country's severely wounded veterans injured during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
A year after 230 cyclists, ranging from novices to professionals raised $43,000 for the Sentinels of Freedom's scholarship fund, the San Ramon-based nonprofit will hold its second official Veteran's Victory Velo. Participants choose between three different cycling routes to benefits severely wounded veterans and their process to reintegrate back into society.
Organizers hope to have at least 750 cyclists participate in this year's event that starts at the Sentinels of Freedom's headquarters in San Ramon at 6 a.m. Oct. 12 and will take riders on a 30-, 60- or 100-mile ride. The 100-mile route (or century ride) will follow a path similar to what the Amgen Tour took in May, taking riders up Mt. Diablo to the junction, into Morgan Territory, through Clayton, Dublin, Livermore and Sunol.
"We wanted this (century ride) to be a marquee ride in the East Bay," said Michael Woodburn, a cycling veteran for the past 15 years and a member of the Sentinels of Freedom Velo planning committee. "But we also wanted to support our veterans and get them some exposure."
The Sentinels of Freedom has helped more than 120 severely wounded veterans since 2003, providing them with four-year scholarships that include everything from housing assistance, career and life mentors, educational opportunities, job placement assistance and other services to help them transition back into society, said Carla Goulart, the Sentinels' chief operating officer.
The cost for the routes is $50 for the 30-mile route, $55 for the 60-mile and $60 for the 100-mile race. Registration includes lunch and two drink tickets for wine or beer after the race. The rides also feature support and gear wagons, EMTs and rest stops. Proceeds will benefit the Sentinels of Freedom scholarship fund.
"I have always felt that it is important to support those who protect and defend our country," said Woodburn, who also rides with the Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing team. "I don't think they get enough attention paid to them, so any way I can support them and include my passion for cycling was an easy decision for me to help out."
To donate or sign up for the cycling rides, visit the Sentinels of Freedom at www.sentinelsoffreedom.org.