79 crazy Texans volunteer to bicycle 4,000 miles to Alaska

Texas 4000 2014

A group of University of Texas students are doing their final preparations before setting off this weekend on the bike ride of their lives, all the way to Alaska.

The 70-day, 4,000-mile grueling haul to America’s Last Frontier starts on Saturday and is the eleventh time for what is the longest charity cycle ride in the world, twice as long as the Tour de France.

Riders have three routes to choose from, the Rockies takes them up through Colorado, then across Canada, the Sierra takes them up and down the coastal hills of California’s Highway 1 and the Ozarks, which brings them down to Houston then up the center of the country to join the others in Canada.

“I heard about it on campus, people were like, have you heard about these people riding 4,000 miles, they’re crazy,” said Houston native Reid O’Conor, who’s one of the 79 taking on the epic challenge designed to raise money to fight cancer.

“I lost my grandmother to lung cancer three years ago. When the moment hit, I felt so helpless,” said O’Conor. “I’m a film major I’m not a scientist, I don’t have money to donate but I have time. I can do this thing and be one of the crazy people.”

O’Conor and the team will ride sometimes 100 miles a day from sun up to sun down staying with guest families on route or just camping out where they fall. Two backup vans follow for support only.

“When I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe college kids were capable of riding to Alaska,” said 2009 rider and Bellaire High School alum Courtney Somerville. “The ride was grueling, if you get a head wind it just pounds you and you feel like you not getting anywhere.”

Somerville raised a massive $70,000 for cancer charities on her trip, which she says was pivotal in her recovery from grief after losing her mom when she was 20.

“I lost my mother to cancer in 2007 and I was still really struggling with the loss, I met other riders who had been affected by cancer and I could empathize with them, it made it such a great experience.” Somerville said.

In total, the riders have raised over $4 million for cancer charities. This year they will stop off in Houston to give a check for $135,000 to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“I like to say it is the greatest thing I’ll never do again,” said Somerville.

by Heather Alexander