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Cyclist's team races cross-country for wounded vets

Wednesday - 7/18/2012, 10:00am  ET

Jim Weinstein (Frederick News Post)
Cyclist Jim Weinstein's team recently completed a cross-country ride as part of a relay team. (Frederick News-Post/Travis Pratt)

That rushing sound is the wind slicing past Air Force Maj. Jim Weinstein's helmet.

The YouTube video shows a little more than two minutes of Weinstein's race down a 10-mile stretch of mountains leading into Borrego Springs, Calif., known as the "glass elevator" for its views during the descent. Weinstein flies downhill between 40 and 60 mph on a racing bike as part of an eight-person relay team in June's transcontinental Race Across America.

As he leans into curves, you can feel his lightweight cycle hug the pavement; the street's double- yellow lines approach the camera affixed to the bike's front. Yellow road signs whizz past.

Weinstein, who lives in Frederick and works at the Air Force Medical Evaluation Support Activity at Fort Detrick, kept his focus.

"You gotta be pretty concentrated when you're going that fast," he said.

The weeklong race runs from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis' City Dock. Weinstein rode with Team 4Mil, a nonprofit foundation he helped to establish to benefit wounded veterans. This is his third year competing with the team, but the first year the organization concurrently raced a relay team of eight wounded veterans called the Wounded Warrior Project, Weinstein said.

The 3,000-mile race spans 12 states, with about 170,000 feet of vertical climbing. It's about 30 percent longer than the Tour de France, according to the RAAM website.

"It's one of the most difficult endurance events," Weinstein said.

Indeed. The team had no rest days. Support crews allowed riders to sleep and ride in shifts. Team 4Mil completed the race in five days, eight hours and 49 minutes, according to the RAAM website.

The wounded veterans finished in seven days, two hours and 50 minutes. Weinstein's team finished second overall; he rode about 415 of those miles, which included cutting crosswinds through Kansas, taunts from team members holding icy treats in hot weather and warnings to watch for javelina, a type of Southwestern pig he first learned about while strapped to his bike.

Mason Poe, 32, rode on the Wounded Warrior Project team after he met Weinstein while serving as a crew member for Team 4Mil last summer.

Poe, of North Carolina, lost a leg as the result of a 2004 roadside bomb blast while serving with the Marines in Iraq. Weinstein's passion for cycling persuaded him to train and ride in this year's event.

"He started off as a father figure to me, but it's become a good friendship since," Poe said.

Weinstein, 36, who also works as development director for the nonprofit U.S. Military Cycling Team, has ridden with President George W. Bush and Lance Armstrong. Cycling is a lifestyle, he said.

Bush "was a great mountain biker," Weinstein said. But those opportunities pale in comparison with riding with the Wounded Warrior Project team, he said.

"When you take a wounded warrior whose world has shrunk ... you put them on a bicycle and suddenly they're under their own power again," he said. "It's like a blossoming effect."

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