On Wednesday, May 1st, a group of elite cyclists, who also happen to be sworn police officers, both active duty and retired, and a handful of civilian law enforcement survivors, known as the “Long Riders” departed from the arch in St. Louis, MO and will pedal roughly 1,200 miles over the next twelve days into Washington DC for National Police Week.
“This isn’t your mother’s club ride,” ride coordinator and retired USDA-OIG Senior Special Agent Rich Gallo informed the group at their team meeting the evening before their departure. “We have a schedule, and we stick to that schedule. We are here to honor these officers who were killed in the line of duty, and to show respect to their families.This isn’t about us, it’s about them.”
Riders can expect 100 + mile days, with multiple agency stops throughout the day to meet with the co-workers and family members of officers that were killed in the line of duty. There is often media present at memorial stops. Rich spent time covering interview protocol with the riders, noting the call to action message that Law Enforcement United wants to convey to the public.
There is much discussion about security; a large group of cops cycling across the country is vulnerable and the support staff is tasked with keeping a watchful eye on the riders as they travel. Each rider has been instructed to bring along a “crash bag”, and yes, it is exactly what you think. A bag with the rider’s pertinent medical information, emergency contact information and a change of clothes that they can wear after discharge from the hospital. None of the riders care to spend a whole lot of time thinking about the necessity of the bags, but it is part of the reality of such an arduous undertaking.
There is a palpable and nervous energy in the room during the briefing, especially amongst the “newbies”, all of whom are now questioning whether or not the months of training they spent preparing for this ride will be enough to get them through. Senior team members stand and talk about the pace that is expected to be held, a jaw-dropping 20mph average. Each day the cyclists will travel over 100 miles, and with multiple stops, and that makes for a brutally long time in the saddle. And if they think the day is over after they roll into the hotel in the evening, they can think again. Laundry must be done, bikes must be cleaned, mechanical repairs must be made. Oftentimes there is an agency that hosts the team for dinner, and that time must be taken into account. Riders rarely make it into bed before 11 PM, and most days are “wheels up’ by sunrise.
The days are long, and the nights are short. The riders gather each morning before the sun rises, grabbing a bite to eat, loading their luggage into trailers, doing last minute maintenance on bikes and bowing their heads in prayer, as the team honors a fallen officer each morning, most days the end-of-watch reading is the one of a family member or co-worker on the team. It is a somber reminder of why each team member sacrifices their time, money and energy to this ride year after year.
Morning will come quickly for theses riders and their support team. Wheels up at dawn. Rain is in the forecast for the next few days. We will continue to map their progress and keep them in our thoughts and prayers as they make their journey to Washington DC.
Check out Law Enforcement United on their website, or follow them on Facebook.
If you have questions about the ride, the routes, or training email training coordinator Chris Potter at [email protected]