Turlock resident Karin Weller has endured and understands the hardships of domestic abuse, but it wasn’t until discovering her passion of cycling that she was truly able to give back to those who have suffered as well.
Weller, along with her racing partner Jim Pyatt of Modesto, make up Team Eland and will be participating in the Race Across the West, an 850-mile, 60-hour race that starts in Oceanside, California and concludes in Durango, Colorado. Team Eland, named after the quick and sturdy African antelope, hopes to win RAW while also raising at least $20,000 for the Freedom Woman’s Home serving Stanislaus County.
Pyatt recently opened the Freedom Woman’s Home in Modesto, seeing his vision of the past five years come to life. The home offers women who have completed alcohol or drug rehabilitation or are coming out of abuse the chance to regain their footing. The home helps women as they prepare to transition back into the “real world” by providing counseling, helping them to find work and even providing assistance with opening bank accounts, according to Pyatt.
“I saw a need in the community for women who come out of rehabilitation programs,” said Pyatt. “They finish and then where do they go?”
The home already has two residents, and it’s Pyatt’s hope that within the next six months they will be ready to find success in society once more.
“It’s a cause that’s needed, especially in our county,” said Weller. “Women need a place to go not just for physical abuse, but for addiction as well.”
As part of Team Eland, Weller saw racing as an opportunity to get involved in something bigger than simply racing for her own personal gain. After purchasing her first road bike in 2012, she joined a local cycling club shortly after where she met Pyatt. They didn’t speak much at first, but connected through Strava, a sort of “athletic Facebook,” where Weller would often post information such as the distance of her rides and the courses she took. Pyatt noticed that Weller seemed to be a skilled long-distance cycler and emailed her, asking if she would be willing to race with him in the upcoming Furnace Creek 508 — a 508-mile race in Southern California.
“At first I thought, ‘That’s crazy,’ so I told him no,” said Weller.
But, Weller changed her mind and joined Pyatt, taking first place in their age group and forming the dynamic cycling duo that they are today. Soon after, Team Eland also placed first in the age group for the 2015 24-Hour World Championships.
“We just work really well as a team,” said Weller. “We have different strengths and weaknesses.”
Team Eland’s next challenge quickly approaches with RAW on June 14.
Unlike other well-known road races like the Tour de France, RAW is not a stage race, but a single event race. Once the clock starts in Oceanside, it does not stop until the racer crosses the finish line in Durango. As the second longest endurance cycling race in the United States, RAW is often referred to as “the race of truth,” testing the willpower of its participants. RAW is a shorter version of the Race Across America, which spans the width of the continental U.S.A. Both races have served as high profile vehicles for racers raising money for charitable causes.
While training for the upcoming race, Weller has focused on Team Eland’s cause and the opportunity to help women facing the same problems she fought to overcome.
“I’ve never had a race where I was doing it for someone other than myself,” said Weller. “It helps my mindset. You don’t want to let the sponsors down, the Home down.”
As the survivor of an abusive 16-year marriage, Weller has focused on helping other women have the courage and strength to escape the violence and take charge of their lives. She hopes to become more involved with the Freedom Woman’s Home in the future, but for now, she’s doing her part by gathering sponsors for Team Eland’s participation in RAW.
“She’s a great resource as far as a teammate,” said Pyatt. “She pours her desire to help people into everything she does.”
Weller hopes that her success in a sport that is typically dominated by men can be a beacon of hope for women who may be victims of domestic violence.
“Anyone who was made to feel like they’re not worthy of anything can see my success and know that they can feel good about themselves,” said Weller. “They can escape that relationship. They can pull themselves out of a bad situation.”
Weller encourages those who would like to help the cause to sponsor or donate to Team Eland. Pne hundred percent of donations go to the Freedom Woman’s Home and help to furnish bedrooms, the kitchen and bathrooms of the home. Funds will also help provide for the basic needs of the women in the home and go toward subsidized rent and counseling. Donations allow the home to provide services to the women free of charge.
To donate to Team Eland, visit freedomwomanshome.com. Those who wish to sponsor the team can email Weller at firstname.lastname@example.org or Pyatt at email@example.com. For updates on Team Eland, their crew and sponsors, visit their Facebook page, “Team Eland x2.”