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Texas riders make case for conquering cancer

 

The ride is long. For many, the battle against cancer is much longer and with much more at stake.

Students from the University of Texas are sacrificing much of their summer to help raise more than half a million dollars through the Texas 4000 for Cancer, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

About two dozen riders on one of Texas 4000's three teams in the midst of a cross country tour biked in from Olympia to Sequim today, July 17, stopping briefly at 7 Cedars Casino for lunch before heading on to Lake Crescent.

The team, known as the Sierra group, will spend tomorrow, July 18, at the lake before heading on to Seattle on July 19, Oak Harbor on July 20 and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Bicyclists doing the full Sierra ride will complete about 4,000 miles — hence the name Texas 4000 — in about 70 days (June 1-Sept. 9), as they pedal from Cedar Park, Texas, to the finish line in Anchorage, Alaska.

Other rides include the Rocky group that takes a northern route through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, and the Ozark group, winding through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota before making a westward trek through Canada. All three wind up in Anchorage.

"I wanted to give something back," said David Martin, a Houston native who recently graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in bioengineering.

"My dad has had skin cancer four or five times, some in my family and friends have a history (of cancer)," he said. "And my dad has battled MS (multiple sclerosis) for 21 years, but he's so full of life."

Now in its 10th year, the Texas 4000 group's goal for this year is $600,000. The three teams are well on their way, with $438,503.49 raised as of July 17.

Jay Shah, a Dallas native who is a junior at the university studying finance and computer science, said he has three reasons compelling him to make the journey, now about 2,500 miles complete: "One, it's an opportunity to help. In everyday life, you never get to help people this much. Two, my grandfather had cancer and seeing how it affected my mother. Three, this is a very humbling experience."

Shah said he's been impressed with how supportive people are along the way, volunteering their time and resources and more to help a group of students from halfway across the country. 

One family, Shah said, put riders up for the night and gave them cars keys to meet up with them later that day.

"That just shows how much trust they have and how giving they can be," Shah said. "It kind of restores my faith in humanity."

The toughest part of the ride, Martin said, has been the mental side; The prospect of spending eight hours on a bike riding into headwinds of up to 20 miles per hour, he said, is daunting.

"Everybody has their particular reasons for riding and how they get through it," Martin said. "It's incredible, meeting all the people and sharing their stories."

Martin, who won't be able to complete the ride because he's starting medical school next week, said a highlight of the trip was a "Challenge Day" in which riders trekked 113 miles at elevations nearing 13,000 feet near South Lake Tahoe. Just six riders finished the challenge.

 

It's Martin's first time in the Northwest.

"That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this route," he said.

For more information, see www.texas4000.org. To donate, go to support.texas4000.org.

The websites feature personal rider pages, rider journals and blogs, photos, tributes and more.
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