Whether you’ve been cycling for quite a while or only started a few years ago, the Texas 4000 is not something you can prepare for quickly.
The Livestrong Texas 4000 for Cancer bills itself as “the longest charity ride in the world,” and it certainly does its best to live up to that title.
The riders on this year’s tour from Texas to Alaska came into Prince George Sunday and left Tuesday morning, bound for Vanderhoof. That is to say, half of the riders on this year’s tour came into Prince George.
The tour is split into two groups of students from the University of Texas (UT). On June 4, the first day of this year’s tour, the groups rode together. After that, they split up. The Coastal Route headed west towards California, then turned north up the Pacific coast, and will cross into Canada on July 27.
The Rockies Route took a more northerly route to begin, coming into Alberta on July 9, then going up to Jasper and crossing over to Prince George. The Coastal Route will catch a ride from Clinton to Whitehorse on Aug. 2, where the two groups will again combine for the final days, ending up in Anchorage, Alaska on Aug. 12.
For Adam Laurenzo, a native of the Czech Republic who is a senior in communications at UT, the idea to do the ride took some time to develop.
“The first day I got to the campus, I saw a flyer for the ride, but I thought, I don’t have time for this’.
“A friend of mine went on the ride in 2010, and it suddenly hit me. This was a way that I could help to change the world in a small way, by doing something a lot of people would think of as crazy.”
Laurenzo got his first bike when he got to UT (“In Austin it seems like everybody has a bike.”), but didn’t start full training until after he was accepted for this year’s ride.
“It’s been great so far,” he said, relaxing at a potluck supper Sunday put on by members of the Prince George cycling community. “The first couple of weeks were tough, but that’s because I wasn’t used to long rides.”
Danielle Villasana, a junior in photojournalism and Spanish, may have been a little more accustomed to distance-riding, but nothing like what the tour demands.
“I’ve been interested in cycling for years, but not long-distance riding. About the longest I’d ever ridden was 50 miles, so I had to work on my endurance during our training sessions.”
Villasana, who is from Houston, knew she wanted to go to UT and knew she wanted to go on the Texas 4000, even though she had no personal connection to cancer.
“Then, about a year before we started the ride, my stepmom was diagnosed with breast cancer. So that made it more of a personal thing.”
Laurenzo says he has had two or three people in his family die from cancer, but none recently enough to make the ride in memory of them.
“My grandfather used to say, Leave things better than you found them’. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
For Villasana, the entire tour has been a journey of discovery.
“It’s my first time to Canada, and I’d actually never been to any of the states we passed through on the way here.”
Like the rest of the riders in their group, the two were looking forward to Monday’s rest day in Prince George.
And then Tuesday morning, they were on the road again, heading west towards Smithers before turning north to Alaska and the end of a long road.