A long, worthy journey

The Texas 4000 for Cancer team is completing a 4,687-mile bike trek from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, in support of cancer research. Pictured are, from left, Brett Bowlin, Mahek Mehta, Whitney Yang, Dyar Bentz, Andrew Porter, Jordan Deathe and Jackson Reynolds.

A team of fit, young college students glided down the streets of Ardmore, decked out in cycling gear on streamlined black Trek bikes. The group of 27 isn’t here for long.

If you miss them, they’ll be back next year. Thursday was day 6 of an arduous journey.

The pack of University of Texas students is part of the Texas 4000 for Cancer team, which is in its seventh year of an annual south-north bike expedition. Fifty riders total are divided into two groups that attack two routes starting in Austin and ending at the tip-top of the United States: Anchorage, Alaska.

“All the people riding are very closely involved with the disease,” said Jordan Deathe, 24.

“It’s a really tangible way of us getting our hands dirty and making any difference we can.

“I’m a survivor and there are other survivors on this team. It’s a personal mission.”

The 70-day, 4,687-mile ride — twice as long as the Tour de France — starts every day with a dedication to someone fighting cancer. The riders make stops along the route to educate people about the disease and raise funds for cancer research.

On Thursday, Ardmore was on the map. Since its maiden voyage in 2004, the Texas 4000 riders have stayed in high-school gyms and with host families. In Ardmore, the group set up camp at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, Catholic Church, where the men and women of the church prepared and served dinner Thursday and breakfast early today for the riders.

St. Mary has housed and fed the group for the past four years.

“That’s a lot of time on the road together riding all that way,” said Joan Price, office manager at St. Mary. “They are doing a valiant effort.”

It’s an extremely organized setup. The teams attack set mileage each day, with a typical day covering 70-90 miles. Today’s ride will be a bit longer: A 113-mile uphill battle to Oklahoma City.

And bad weather or not, the Texas 4000 team rides on.

“When the roads become too slick, we pack up and wait it out,” said Joel Bixler, 24, a native of Albequerque, N.M. “Otherwise we ride. We ride right through pretty much everything.”

The team that came through Ardmore is on the Rocky route. The other team will reach Alaska via the Coastal route — along the Pacific coast.

And next year’s ride is already in motion. Nearly 200 riders applied with the final group whittled down to close to 60.

The expected date of arrival in Anchorage is Aug. 13, with days of rest planned in between. Deathe and his young companions have eyes ahead. They ride for the fight against cancer. Sixty-four days to go.

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By Erik Horne