It bills itself as the longest annual charity bike ride in the world and on Wednesday, a number of university students from Texas pedalled into Edmonton as they continue a trek taking them from the Lone Star State to the Last Frontier, a.k.a. Alaska.
“It’s going well,” said Revanth Poondla, the group’s head mechanic who recently graduated from the University of Texas. “I think we’ve gotten used to the biking by now and so we’ve kind of gotten into gear, got into a groove — things are running pretty smoothly these days.”
The cyclists are on Day 47 of their journey, dubbed Texas 4000 for Cancer. They aim to raise money for a non-profit organization by the same name.
The fundraiser sees University of Texas students take part in an “18-month program designed to cultivate the next generation to lead the fight against cancer” and participants are expected to, among other things, raise $4,500 for the charity. The charity then distributes the money raised to various “organizations with a focus on cancer research or cancer support services.”
“It was started 15 years ago by Christ Condit,” Poondla said. “He was a student at the University of Texas back in the day and he was actually a cancer survivor himself.
“He was inspired by, for one thing, the Livestrong cancer foundation as well as some other charity bike rides. And he said, ‘You know what? I wanna do something to make a difference.’ And so, he started the longest charity bike ride in the world.”
The 69 students and recent graduates who are sweating on their cycles for the 4,000-mile ride (6,437 kilometres for us Canadian folk), began their trip in Austin on June 1. The ride lasts 70 days and sees them accomplish their goal in Anchorage.
“My favourite part has been the people that we’ve met and the stories that we’ve heard,” Hannah Simon said. “It’s really encouraging when you get off of a really long ride.”
Simon said she chose to ride for her uncle who died of cancer seven years ago.
“I ride for him because I felt like I didn’t do enough for him while he was still alive so this is a very tangible thing that I can do,” she said.
“We meet a lot of people who have also lost family members and when you meet those people and you get to say, ‘Hey, I would like to ride for your mother or your sister or your daughter even — in honour of them — the look on their faces is so inspiring.”
View photos of the Texas cyclists as they rode through Strathcona County on Wednesday in the gallery below.
Not all of the cyclists taking on the Texas 4000 are crossing through Alberta’s capital, only those taking the Ozarks route — which also saw them pass through Winnipeg. A number of cyclists are also rolling through various parts of Canada on two other routes: the Sierra route — which passes through Vancouver — and the Rockies route — which takes riders through Calgary.
Simon said her group has been welcomed into strangers homes and churches when they’re not sleeping in a campground.
While stopping in Edmonton on Wednesday night, the group was expected to stay at dorms provided to them by McEwan University, free of charge.
To donate to the Texas 4000 for Cancer or to follow along as the cyclists continue their trip, click here.
“Basically, our mission is to raise money for cancer research but also spread awareness, hope, knowledge and charity all the way from Austin, Tex. to Alaska,” Poondla said. “We kind of go through the midwest and the rustbelt because there’s a high incidence of cancer in that area.”
The first-ever Texas 4000 for Cancer ride took place in 2004.