Using cycling to help veterans transition from service and realize their full potential.

With Eric Hill, Project Echelon Co-Founder 


Anyone who’s spent serious time knocking off a PR goal – or even just losing themselves in the hum of a drivetrain or the blissful mental lacuna of runner’s high – probably sympathizes with the idea of calling endurance exercise therapeutic. And if it’s not therapy, it’s probably fair to at least call it meditative, cathartic, or introspective – creating a space of time and physical exertion that simultaneously pulls an athlete into themselves while also granting some 10,000ft clarity. Exertion, achievement, perspective.

Maybe that idea seems a bit too poetic for sports like today’s cycling, which can feel like it’s more about the quantifiable metrics of power meters, precisely timed segments, and carb counts than the emotion and panache of riding to organically feel out, test, and exceed what you thought were your limits. But it makes sense to the team behind Project Echelon, an org devoted to helping US veterans of the armed services get into endurance training as an alternative to the fallout of lingering, chronic issues like PTSD, traumatic brain injury, depression, and substance abuse.

Those are serious issues – far more serious than our own obsessions with racing, training, and endurance nutrition – so we’re feeling excited, privileged, and humbled to announce our partnership with Project Echelon.


We recently connected with Eric Hill, one of two Erics who founded and continue to lead Project Echelon, about what PE is, what it does, and how it does it. Notably, we’re not saying what it’s trying to do, because PE actually has confirmable, trackable results – starting with the other founding Eric, Eric Beach.

Beach is himself a veteran who left the service in 2005 and became the test case for Project Echelon, using Hill as a springboard into triathlon as an alternative to a destructive cycle of self-medication. Following that success, Beach and Hill decided to try to help others, and Project Echelon was born to, as Hill puts it, “educate, equip, and empower veterans through physical activity and self-discovery.”

It’s since sprouted from grassroots to a global canopy of racing results and – more importantly – support and advocacy for US veterans. In PE’s first year, 12 people participated; now, Hill says almost 1,500 participants have used the program as a gateway to anything from endurance training to smarter nutrition and physically active wellness practice.


The two Erics describe themselves as passionate advocates for veterans, though the description really isn’t necessary as the work they’ve done (and Eric Beach’s own service) speaks for itself. According to Eric Hill, that passion informs Project Echelon’s mission, a two-fold approach that aims “to help veterans reclaim their health and purpose through physical activity” while also managing a cycling team “to compete at the highest levels of professional cycling.”

And yes, the Project Echelon team is, well, a team, so they compete domestically and in Europe. While the visibility at some of cycling’s biggest events does provide a stage for awareness raising and broadcasting the organization’s mission, the real work begins after the competition ends.

“By using the platform of professional cycling,” Hill writes, “we inspire and encourage veterans to overcome their personal battles, set new goals, and rebuild their lives with purpose and confidence. We achieve this mission through several key avenues,” which the org identifies as three pillars: 1) Racing, 2) Outreach and Education, and 3) Mentorship and Support.


The first of those pillars, Racing, is self explanatory. It’s also not the real point of the org, but PE does have some impressive results for a club built around a 501c3:

  • National Championships: Criterium podium sweep, TT 2nd, RR 4th
  • International Races: 2 UCI Europe Tour stage wins, 11 top 10 finishes
  • Stage Races: 3 consecutive Redlands Bicycle Classic GC, Tour of the Gila GC

In addition to raising awareness among the civilian public, Hill says seeing the team in action also “provides veterans a team to cheer for, call their own, and build community around.”

That idea of community plays a much bigger role in PE’s operation than competition does, as embodied in the org’s second pillar, which is really a pair of pillars bundled as one: Outreach and Education.

“We conduct monthly workshops and community events aimed at educating veterans about the benefits of physical activity, nutrition, and wellness,” Hill explained. “These events also serve to build a supportive community where veterans can connect and share their experiences.”

The third pillar of PE’s mission is another two-for, combining Mentorship and Support. In action, Hill describes this pillar as pairing “veterans with mentors who provide guidance, encouragement, and practical support as they navigate their journey toward health and personal fulfillment.”

This is a more intensive and less transitory realization of the Education pillar, and it also reinforces the program’s foundation of personal achievement and community connection – a final piece that’s meant to help foster permanent benefits beyond things like diet and exercise alone.

“We believe that physical fitness, mental well-being, and community support are critical to helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life and achieve their full potential and helping veterans set and achieve their goals, both in cycling and in life.” Hill said. “And they feel connected to both worlds, right? Their prior service and this new community.”


In a video recorded for the International Red Cross, Eric Beach explains how Project Echelon found inspiration in the idea of cross-wind echelons, with a lead rider providing cover for the rest of the riders, angled across the road in the slipstream. The idea of rotating through at the front, with each rider doing their turn to contribute to the group, is a tidy encapsulation for how PE operates and what it hopes to achieve.

“What a beautiful metaphor for what we wanted to do for veterans through endurance sport,” Beach explained, describing a mutual service loop where veterans, after performing their military service, can rely on PE’s athlete mentors and the broader endurance community to serve and support them.

“When I’m strong, I’m going to serve you,” Beach concluded. “And there’s going to come a time when I’m weak, and I need you to serve me.”

June 15, 2024 — First Endurance

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