Riding from Texas to Alaska against cancer

17 riders of the Texas 4000 team rolled through Vanderhoof on their Rockies route on Thursday, July 21.

On the longest annual charity bicycle ride in the world, seventeen riders of the Texas 4000 team rolled through Vanderhoof on their Rockies route on Thursday, July 21, just 48 days after departing from Austin, Texas on their way to Anchorage, Alaska.

The 67 undergraduate and graduate students from The University of Texas at Austin will brave the rain, sleet, wind, snow, heat and pedal more than 4,000 miles in the fight against cancer. After 18-months of leadership development training, volunteering, fundraising, and cycling, riders are put to the test throughout their summer ride to Alaska. Along their journey, they will visit with cancer survivors, patients, caregivers, and communities to make educational presentations about cancer prevention and early detection. They also use this time to offer hope, encouragement and share their personal stories to cancer fighters of all ages and to those who have been affected by the disease. Every encounter is an inspirational story the riders carry with them on their journey and quest to fight cancer.

Each of this year’s riders will take one of three different routes to Alaska:

•Sierra Route: These riders will head northwest from Austin and cycle through the Southwest to California, then north along the West Coast and into Canada. Major cities along the route include: Albuquerque, NM; Davis, CA; San Francisco, CA; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Vancouver, B.C.

•Rockies Route: These riders will head north from Austin and cut over to the Rocky Mountains. They’ll ride through the western U.S. before crossing the Canadian border into Alberta. Major cities along the route include: Dallas, TX; Oklahoma City, OK; Denver, CO; Helena, MT; Calgary, AB.

•Ozarks Route: These riders will head east from Austin and cut northeast through the American Midwest before crossing the Canadian border and cycling across four Canadian provinces. Major cities along the route include: Houston, TX; St. Louis, MO; Chicago, IL; Minneapolis, MN; Madison, WI; Winnipeg, MB; Edmonton, AB.

In Canada, all three groups will reunite and ride the final 10 days together to Anchorage, Alaska, where the journey has ended since the ride’s inception. On each of the three routes, the riders will make stops along the way to present grants to cancer research and treatment centers.

More than 600 students have made the trek from Austin to Alaska, collectively raising more than $7 million in the fight against cancer since the ride began in 2003.

Most of the students ride for a friend or family member who has battled cancer — and perhaps lost. A few ride in honor of their own battles with cancer, and many simply ride because they want to see an end to cancer, period.

“This is a truly inspiring group of young leaders committed to taking action and joining the fight against cancer,” said David Chayer, who was named executive director of Texas 4000 in 2015. “Texas 4000 is a journey that takes grit, determination and support — that’s why we think of it as a metaphor for the fight against cancer.”

“To me, Texas 4000 is more about the process than the payoff,” said Andrew Coulter, a University of Texas at Austin senior and Rockies Route Ride Director. “What we do is not easy. Sometimes we fail, and sometimes that failure is out of our control. Our success is in perseverance, knowing as a team that we are not alone and that our thoughts and actions can be a pillar of support for others.”