Cyclist’s Alaska trip to boost cancer awareness

Photo By Courtesy Hilary Haze

Riding a bike for 4,500 hundred miles is not the usual way most travel from Texas to Alaska, but Hilary Hazel has a special reason for relying on pedal power.

She and 22 other cyclists of the Sierra Riders are pedaling their way to Anchorage to raise money and awareness for the fight against cancer, which has afflicted friends and many members of her family and took the life of her fiancĂ©’s father.

“It’s not supposed to be easy,” said Hazel, 23, who attended Lamar High School in Houston and recently graduated from the University of Texas-Austin with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “The only way I can get through is thinking how much easier it is to ride a bicycle than it to fight cancer, and how I am doing this for cancer (awareness), the families.”

Her group is part of the Texas 4000, an organization of University of Texas students seeking to raise funds and awareness in the cancer battle. Each group is taking a different route and all will meet in Anchorage this month as part of Texas 4000’s 10th anniversary. The ride began June 1 from Austin.

Texas 4,000 members spend much time arranging pledges and training. Each year, a new group of riders heads toward the Last Frontier state.

“After I complete the ride, I’m marrying my high school sweetheart (James Everett Newman),” Hazel said.

Her father, Reese Hazel, said the inspiration for his daughter’s ride occurred when a Texas 4000 rider last summer rode in honor of Newman’s father and invited Newman to a gala honoring those who died or struggle with cancer. Hilary Hazel attended with Newman.

Reese Hazel’s mother had succumbed to cancer, and Hilary Hazel’s great-grandmother on her mother’s side of the family also died from the disease.

Before the trip, Hilary Hazel said she hadn’t been an avid cyclists before her training began.

“I have been biking, training, riding a minimum of 1,500 miles the last six months, but I barely did anything before this.”

Her mother, Sarah Hazel, said, “She had to pass a physical and trained every weekend.”

Much of the training included volunteer work such as visiting patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Before the trek to Alaska, each rider has to complete a 100-mile training ride in no more than 10 hours. When the real journey starts, riders must complete 70 miles a day to stay on schedule.

“The 100-mile test is a safety precaution,” Hilary Hazel said.

“If we are unable to ride 100 miles before dark, it won’t be safe. We have to show we have endurance to compete the ride.”

Each rider is expected to raise $4,500, a dollar per mile. Hazel’s personal goal is $8,000. In some cities, they present programs about the ride and cancer. Host families or groups provide places to rest.

“If we can’t get a donated house, then we are going to camp. We are not going to spend the money we raise paying for lodging,” Hazel said. “We want to donate as much as possible.”

For more on the Texas 4000, visit

By Tom Behrens

The Houston Chronicle