“North to Alaska for Davis cycling visitors”

Their trek started deep in the heart of Texas — and will end in Anchorage, Alaska, 4,771 miles and 70 days later.

The Austin 4000, a group of about 20 cyclists from the University of Texas, were scheduled to arrive in Davis on Friday after blazing down the Sierra from South Lake Tahoe. Their touchdown in town coincides with the Livestrong Challenge events of Saturday and Sunday.

Their visit to Davis is part of a two-pronged assault on the Alaskan outback as another team from Austin is traversing the Rockies. Both teams are working to raise money for Livestrong and to focus attention on the fight to beat cancer.

“They train, fundraise, educate and bring hope to those with cancer,” says team general manager Jamille Ruebsahm.

“It’s terrific to have these guys … and other groups like Team Fatty involved in the Livestrong Challenge,” Davis Public Relations Manager Bob Bowen adds. “Livestrong is massive, and things are shaping up nicely for the weekend.

“We’re getting a break on the weather. It will be in 80s and it is going to be perfect.”

A highlight of the two-celebration event, headquartered in Central Park, is expected to be the appearance of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.

With as many as 1,500 riders expected to participate in the 20- to 105-mile bicycle rides to raise cancer-fighting money, Armstrong’s will be the most recognizable face in the crowd.

He will attend a sponsors’ invitation-only dinner at the Robert Mondavi Institute on Saturday and shove off on the Challenge around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Bowen.

Music, merchandise, health-related vendors, information booths and race registration will take place at Central Park (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) on Saturday. The Davis Farmers Market also operates its normal festivities that day and the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame is expected to have expanded weekend hours.

There will be a post-ride party at Central Park after Sunday’s ride and Davis Bike Club volunteers will be hosting a rest area at the Adventist Church on Allendale Road.

To handle the huge registration numbers for the Livestrong Challenge, a 40×60-foot tent has been erected at the northwest corner of Central Park. B Street between Third and Fifth is closed now through Sunday evening. Other street closure and no-parking information is available at http://cityofdavis.org/gis/livestrong.

Two other Livestrong Challenges will be conducted in Philadelphia (Aug. 20-21) and Austin (Oct. 15-16). Last year, the western venue for Livestrong was San Jose. More than 1,500 cyclists participated, raising more than $1.1 million.

Notes: The Austin 4000 riders will leave Davis with the early pack of participants and continue straight through to San Francisco. They will ride up the West Coast en route to Alaska. … Davis Community Church will be home to the 20-plus riders while in town Friday and Saturday evenings. … For additional Challenge information, visit http://www.livestrong.org/DavisChallenge. Get more information about the visitors from Austin at http://texas4000.org.

By Bruce Gallaudet