The postponed Joe Martin Stage Race will have a three-day virtual edition on the Zwift platform in mid-June, during which the organisers hope to raise awareness and bring communities together on a number of issues, including the rehabilitation of armed-forces veterans, the Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus pandemic.
In light of the protests happening now in cities around the world, the organisers of the virtual race, Project Echelon, said in a press release on World Bike Day on Wednesday: "Sport has long been a place for people to come together and celebrate human achievement on a unified front. Furthermore, sport has been a place to give people of colour and the oppressed a voice and a platform that they might not otherwise have."
The three-day virtual race is open to both men's and women's teams, and will be made up of an 8km (5mi) individual time trial on the opening stage on June 19, followed the next day by a 71km (44mi) road race and a final road stage on June 21 over 65km (40.4mi).
"Out of respect for the current Black Lives Matter movement and the need to address inequities in our society, racers will observe a one-minute moment of silence after the banner drops for the race start during stage 2 of the race," the statement read.
"Additionally, to honour and remember those who have lost their lives and their family members from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, riders will observe a 1km neutral roll-out during stage 2, following the moment of silence.
"We hope to use our virtual event to bring people together in a positive way and share a unified message of hope, because together, we are more," it read.
"We look forward to continuing to use these events to bring the cycling community together through competition, while also building a stronger sense of connectedness through the media and outreach around the event."
The aim of the Project Echelon team – which races as a squad on the US circuit – is to "educate, equip and empower veterans through physical activity", which consists of a mentorship programme, partnerships with cycling companies to provide discounted bikes and equipment, and subsequent empowerment through physical fitness.
The race normally takes place at the start of April in Arkansas, and in 2019 the men's race was won overall by First Internet Bank Cycling's Stephen Bassett, while Chloé Dygert (Sho-Air Twenty20) won the women's edition.
Read more about Project Echelon and the upcoming Virtual Joe Martin Stage Race here.
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