Cervelo BWR 2016: CAF’s Truly Tough Juan Carlos Hernandez

When the Challenged Athletes Foundation asked me to participate in the 2015 BWR, I had no idea what I was in for. That year, I pushed my bike through the dirt and bonked so hard I swore I’d never come back. That all changed when CAF asked me back in 2016.

What I love about the BWR are the friends you see or make along the way. My day kicked off perfectly with waffles, eggs, bacon and coffee, a crazy first dirt section (which I survived) and visions of a lot of people walking their bikes. As the day unfolded, I was united with others who’d accepted the challenge of the BWR. Ramona brought me together with Dan—a great friend, top-notch mechanic, Military veteran, and the type of guy who always helps others before himself. Dan’s spirit kept me pushing forward, but unfortunately he suffered mechanical issues near Sutherland Dam and I never saw him again. Such is the testing nature of the BWR!

After leaving Ramona, I ran into another familiar face and we made our way through hellish wind and tight roads toward Lake Hodges. This area is notorious for its quicksand like ponds capable of causing crashes left and right, and we came across one victim as we passed—a female rider walking her bike with a taco’d front wheel. I offered up mine, as I was pretty exhausted and my prosthetic began to irritate my skin due to the sweat and salt buildup within the liner and sleeve, but she declined.

Oh yeah, there’s that leg thing. I lost my right leg below the knee on October 13, 2009 in Afghanistan, when an enemy RPG shot down my helicopter during a nighttime operation. Although we didn’t crash, my position as a door gunner caused me to be hit by the RPG on my right side, and the shrapnel from both the helicopter and RPG severely damaged my leg. Unable to save it, the medics had no option but to amputate below the knee, and just like that, after ten months of being deployed and numerous close calls, my name had finally been called. I was on my way back to the states with a part of me missing. I began cycling six months after my injury as part of my rehabilitation, fell in love with the sport, and the rest is history.

Towards the end of the ride, I was on my own. I was tired, my body hurt, my headache was getting worse and two voices in my head began to contest one another. One told me I couldn’t finish, while the other reminded me of everything I’ve endured and accomplished since losing my leg. In that moment, I knew I would finish. By the time I reached the infamous Double Peak climb, my headache had disappeared, and I settled into a steady pace toward the top—besting my time along the way. With the end in sight, I made the final descent with a huge smile on my face, hitting the last dirt section completely exhilarated in search of the finish line.

Always a physical and mental challenge, I look forward to doing this ride with the support of CAF for as long as it continues. No excuses!

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