“Long ride, good cause”

Liz Peters of Austin, Texas, takes her bags to her room at St. Mary Catholic Center Thursday after a 70-mile ride from Lindsay, Texas.

From Lindsay, Texas, to Ardmore it’s approximately 44.5 miles, but a group of cyclists took the long way Thursday — 70 miles in the summer sun.

But if you’re a part of the Texas 4000, that’s only a little more than one percent of the ultimate goal.

The longest charity ride in the world stopped in Ardmore again, in the beginning stages of a 4,687-mile bike ride from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, all in the name of cancer research and education on the disease.

Forty-five University of Texas students divided between two routes will be on the road for more than two months — from June 4 to Aug. 12. Ardmore was a rest point on the Rocky route on Thursday, as 25 riders were housed and fed by members of St. Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, Catholic Church.

“The bikes are such a small part of it,” said Adam Laurenzo, 21. “At times, we’re putting 40 hours a week into it. The riders are responsible for every aspect of it.

“From the day you get accepted you’re working. It never lets up from the beginning.”

A majority of the people who come in contact with the Texas 4000 don’t take into account all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it. In addition to the riders staying with gracious hosts such as St. Mary, the journey toward the Texas 4000 starts nearly two years in advance. Every year, hundreds of riders apply for the exclusive spots. A new group gets to ride every year, with this year’s riders receiving their acceptance notification in the fall of 2009.

Some have experience on a bike. Some don’t. But by the time the Texas 4000 rolls around, the riders, and the sponsors, are ready.

The group has its own website, is sponsored by a bike shop in Austin and at first glance, could be mistaken for a team training for the Tour de France — decked out in team colors and sporty black bikes. But the south-to-north trek is no glamour ride for the Texas 4000. The group presents information on cancer awareness every few days at various cities and 100 percent of general public donations they receive go to cancer research.

On Friday, the group will ride into Oklahoma City and on Saturday will participate in a “Bike Rodeo” for kids at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond. The group’s last talk was in Dallas at the UT-Southwestern Medical Center.

Along the way, riders will meet people who have been affected by cancer, and each rider has a connection to the disease in some way.

Taylor Ortiz, a former University of Oklahoma student who transferred to UT, said he was inspired by friends who had cancer. Shannon Kintner, who had no experience cycling prior to the Texas 4000, said she was inspired by her mother’s cousin, who passed away from lung cancer. All of the riders share stories of their past and the current trip on their online journals (www.texas4000.org).

By Erik Horne