Austin to Anchorage: Woman to bike against cancer with group in June

Mission resident Andrea Austin has hardly traveled outside Texas and really doesn’t know how to ride a real mountain bike.

But the 20-year-old jumped at the chance to ride from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, to raise money and awareness for cancer research and prevention with the University of Texas’ Texas 4000.

The pre med student at UT Austin will depart along with 58 other students on the 4,678-mile trek.

The group will ride from 70 to 120 miles a day, from five to 10 hours depending on the weather conditions.

“You really have to have that passion and drive to actually know why you are doing this and to inspire other people,” Andrea said.

The student acknowledges it is going to be tough, but has been training hard.

“We’ve been doing a lot of aerobic, running, a lot of core strengthening because you have to build up those muscles before you actually get on the bike, a lot of sit-ups.” Andrea said.

The 2008 Veterans Memorial High School graduate will begin her approximately 70-day trip June 4. The Texas 4000 is the longest charity bike ride in the world.

“I lost my grandfather and my friend Joe and have two more friends battling cancer, it’s just a horrible disease, you see it everywhere,” Andrea said.

The 58 students will divide into two routes. The “Rocky Route” team will travel through the Rocky Mountains, Wyoming and Canada, while the “Coastal Route” team bikes west through Arizona, then through California, Oregon, Washington and Canada. The teams rejoin in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory and ride into Anchorage together.

Andrea will ride the Rocky Route, camping most of the time or being hosted by generous families. Along the way they will stop in small-town hospitals and community centers to talk to people and raise awareness.

“This is more like a mind thing, you have to be able to tell yourself, you know I want to do this, I know people that are battling cancer and this is the least thing I can do,” Andrea said.

This is not only about having the ability and the skills to ride a bike, but is also about wanting and having a passion to fight cancer.

Texas 4000 was founded by Chris Condit, a cancer survivor himself who wanted to give back to MD Anderson Cancer Center. This will be Texas 4000’s seventh annual tour.

The biology major is not the only Valley resident participating in the Texas 4000. Two students from Harlingen, Angela Loya and Gabriel Cintron, are participating as well.

Andrea will graduate next year and plans to go to med school and specialize in oncology.

“I definitely want to help people during their battle, want to be there to encourage them, this is what you need to do, this is how we are going to treat it, I do want to cure the patients, of course I want as many to be cure as possible, I don’t think I will be the one to come up with the cure, hopefully I will be the one to use it,” Andrea said.

By Martha L. Hernández