From Texas to Alaska, University of Texas students hope to bike 7,200 kilometres to help put an end to cancer

Ross McGarity

Halfway through a gruelling 70-day bike tour from Texas to Alaska, students from the Uni+versity of Texas stopped in Edmonton over the weekend for some rest. The students are part of the Texas 4000, the longest annual charity bike ride in the world, 4,000 miles to fight cancer.

“Texas 4000 is supposed to be a humble metaphor of the fight against cancer,” said Ross McGarity, the assistant ride director for the Ozarks tour. “It’s hard, and it’s meant to be. We think about the people that we ride for every day.”

Since the end of May, 79 students have braved rain, snow, heat, sleet and wind on a 7,200-kilometre journey in support of the fight to end cancer through both treatment and prevention.

After starting together, the riders split into three routes — Sierra, which follows the West Coast, Rockies, a winding route through the Rocky Mountains, and the Ozarks, the newest route which sees cyclists cross the American Midwest and Canadian Prairies. The riders stop to volunteer at community events and participate in presentations about the importance of early detection and prevention.

Raising a minimum of a dollar per mile, many of the 27 members of the Ozarks Route team have gone above and beyond, already raising over $587,000 to be shared between the MD Anderson Cancer Centre, the LIVESTRONG Foundation, the University of Texas at Austin Department of Biomedical Engineering and Brent’s Place, a safe, clean home away from home for children undergoing cancer treatment.

“All of the stories we have are what push us and really motivate us and want us to fight, no matter how hard it is,” said McGarity.

Many of the riders have been personally affected by cancer, whether they are survivors themselves or are close to someone who has battled the disease. McGarity is riding for his mother, who is in remission after being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, still picking up the pieces of her life after cancer.

When she returned to work after being forced to quit her job, McGarity said she confided in him that, “it was the first time in two years that she had felt like a real person,” reminding him of the emotional and physical toll cancer takes on its victims.

“It just really showed how cancer affects more than just the physical side,” McGarity said.

Riders tackle between 60 and 210 km of cycling a day, averaging around 130 km. Before each ride, participants gather together and remind each other for whom they are riding.

“These stories help push us up each hill or through headwinds,” McGarity said.

Students selected to participate spend 18 months raising funds and planning their routes. As a self-supported initiative, students must organize their own rest stops, sleeping in churches, community halls, or, if they are lucky, a family will open their home. If they can’t find anywhere to stay, they camp.

Already exhausted by day 45 when they rolled into Edmonton and found refuge at the All Saints Anglican Cathedral on Monday, while their physical strength diminishes their emotional strength is fortified by their message.

“You learn a lot about yourself and a lot about what you can do,” said McGarity. “Sometimes you think that riding your bike from Austin, Texas, to Alaska is insurmountable, but it’s not. It really teaches you that, if you’re willing to put yourself out there, you can accomplish a lot and you can really make a difference.”

To follow the team’s progress, read their blogs and hear their personal stories, go to

by Claire Theobald, Edmonton Examiner