Twenty-nine students from the University of Texas will arrive in Estes Park on Wednesday, June 19 by bicycle from Denver. And the next morning, they will head on to Steamboat Springs. But that is just part of their journey – the students are participating in the Texas 4000, a ride from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska, to raise money and awareness for cancer. It is the longest annual charity bike ride in the world.
After Wednesday's ride (about 100 miles, climbing 4300 feet) the students will be hosted in comfort thanks to the Estes Park YMCA of the Rockies. Volunteers will greet them with dinner from Antonio's Real New York Pizza. They'll get to hear the stories of why teenagers would tackle such a daunting journey, how each of them embodies the organization's mission to share hope, knowledge, and charity in the fight against cancer. Michelle Chen, a neuroscience major, rides for her grandfather, her grandmother, her aunt, and a good friend. Of the four, only one has survived cancer.
The Rockies route is one of three blazed by the college students: other groups are making the 70 day ride up the west coast, or through the Midwest. Over the past fifteen years, more than 750 UT students have made the trek from Austin to Anchorage, collectively raising more than $8.4 million. For example, while in Denver, the 2019 Rockies team will present their annual donation to Brent's Place, an Aurora long-term "home away from home" for children and families with cancer.
Texas 4000 empowers each student to raise $4,500, ride 2,000 training miles with his/her team, volunteer more than 50 hours in the community, and play an active role in planning every aspect of the ride to Alaska. The riders arrange all accommodations in advance during the training year. They rely on the generosity of host families, churches, and schools for shelter and are prepared to camp when housing is not available. Riders provide their own “SAG” support, rotating through the duties of driving the support vehicles, setting up rest stops, securing food donations, and preparing meals that are not provided.
Thursday morning, the 29 cyclists will mount their saddles for that day's ride, over 100 miles to Steamboat Springs. It will be Day 20 on the bike, with 50 more to go, until they pedal into Anchorage on August 9.