Bicyclists end 4,500-mile charity bike trip in Anchorage

Friday should be the end of a 4,500-mile LIFESTRONG ride for charity. Loren Holmes photo

After 70 days of bicycling through the United States and Canada, the 2013 LIVESTRONG Texas 4000 team will rest their weary feet Friday in Anchorage, the final destination of the 4,500-mile, annual charity ride. And the race’s organizers are hosting a community barbecue at Kincaid Park, the finish line.

Sixty-nine undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Texas at Austin trained for the journey, which has ended in Alaska’s largest city for its 10 years of existence. The riders began their expedition in Austin on June 1, with a 70-mile jaunt during which more than 700 Texans came out to join the team. Over the next two months, the students pushed their way toward Alaska on three different routes, volunteering at community events on cancer awareness and treatment.

Each day, team members dedicate their daily rides in memory of a cancer victim or in honor of someone fighting cancer. This year, they dedicated rides to more than 5,000 people.

The team goes through 18 months of training, which includes supporting the charity’s mission. They are required to raise $4,500 for cancer research and support services, volunteer at least 50 hours to local organizations, and bike 1,500 miles together before getting the OK to participate in the annual ride that’s more than twice as long as the Tour de France.

None of the riders have called it quits this year. “For those who make it through the training process, they’re pretty adamant about finishing,” said Lance Pyburn, the Texas 4000 program director.

After departing Texas, the cyclists separated into three routes through the Sierras, Rockies or the Ozarks. The Ozarks route was just added to celebrate the race’s 10th year, and team members on the route hit about double the population of the two other routes; it went through Houston, St. Louis and Chicago.

The three groups eventually met up in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, the largest city in northern Canada, located along the Alaska Highway. From there, the 69 riders still in the event followed the highway for nine days. They rested in Palmer Thursday night, preparing for Friday’s finish in Anchorage.

This year, Alaska’s unpredictable weather has fallen in favor of the charity ride. “It’s been pretty good so far in comparison to what the weather has been other years,” Pyburn said. In fact, it’s been more than pretty good, with temperature records broken around the state during July.

The terrain in Alaska can be mountainous. But the team is well-trained for ascents, as the riders pedaled at elevations ranging from 500 feet to 14,000 feet through the trip. “Very beautiful” scenery helped, Pyburn said.

And on Friday, the riders will head south from Mirror Lake, making their way to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and ending in the Kincaid Chalet lower parking lot. The community is invited to join the riders for a barbecue and to hear about cancer research and prevention, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Kincaid.

By Jerzy Shedlock

Alaska Dispatch