4,500-mile bike ride: Gabriel Cintron

This time next year, Gabriel Cintron plans to be pedaling his way to Alaska.

Cintron, however, isn’t bicycling to Alaska just for fun. The 20-year-old pre-med student is raising money for cancer research as part of Sense Corp Texas 4000 For Cancer, an organization that coordinates a group bike ride each year from Austin to Anchorage. Riders, about 50 per team, find sponsors to donate money for cancer research.

“Each rider has to raise at least $4,500, which is how many miles the ride is,” said the junior at University of Texas-Austin. “I wanted to be involved in something positive. I saw a flier, and I thought it was a really great thing to do.”

The Harlingen native, who is home for the summer and teaching a tennis camp, said a friend who survived breast cancer also inspired him to raise the money.

“She’s recovered, she’s doing alright,” said Cintron, who is thinking about specializing in anesthesia or orthopedics. He joined the Texas 4,000 group last fall.

“It’s an organization where we have to apply,” he said. “We get picked like a team. Right now we don’t have any formal training, but during the year we go on group rides. We get our bicycles pretty early, and we go on rides at least three times a week.”

A business in Austin sold him and other riders their bikes at a big discount.

While most practice rides are 30-60 miles, a few are stretched to 100 miles, which can take six to eight hours.

“It’s called the century test,” he said. “We have to make sure that we complete it to be able to do the ride. During our training, we ride all around Austin. We ride south of Austin, west Austin. A lot of times we go out east. We just form loops and stuff because it’s like 100 miles.”

He’s already ridden about 400 miles with the organization and is currently staying in shape with his own road bike, very similar to the one he will use in the trek to Alaska.

“It’s a lot of cardio (training),” he said. “It’s also a lot of upper body. Since you’re holding yourself on the bike, it’s a lot of shoulder and back work, and a lot of (abdominal) work.”

Cintron said the team will ride about two days together through Texas and then split into two separate groups of 25 riders. They will meet again just before entering Canada.

“I believe it’s going to be a worthwhile challenge,” he said.

People wishing to sponsor Cintron can go to www.texas4000.org. Click on “Give” and then “Make a Financial Contribution.” Type his name under “Purpose” and then, to the right, the amount of the donation.

By Travis M. Whitehead