Cyclists on cancer mission roll through Dallas on way to Alaska

It has been almost 18 months since 23-year-old Matthew Atwell learned he would bike from Texas to Alaska — a trip of 70 days and more than 4,500 miles.

Atwell, an aerospace engineering graduate from the University of Texas, is part of an annual cancer awareness ride, the Texas 4000, which rolled through Dallas on Wednesday morning from Austin, bound for Alaska. He and 78 other cyclists are dedicating their miles to cancer victims and survivors.

The Texas 4000 was founded in 2004 by Chris Condit, a former UT student who survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma after being diagnosed at age 11.

Fanning out from Austin, the riders set out on three northward routes — the Sierras, the Rockies and the Ozarks.

Atwell, traveling the Rockies route with more than 25 others, will cycle through Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Canada before reaching the Texas 4000 destination in Anchorage.
Riders on the Sierras route will travel up the Pacific coast. Those on the Ozarks route will pass through Southern and Midwestern states.

Each route is designed so cyclists can stop along the way to talk about the Texas 4000’s mission and offer information on cancer prevention.

Atwell and his companions paused in Dallas to pledge $30,000 to UT Southwestern Medical Center for cancer research by Dr. Pier Paolo Scaglioni.

Scaglioni’s lab focuses primarily on the study of treatments for acute prolymoscitic leukemia and lung cancer. This involves the use of targeted cancer therapies, which seek to identify a “linchpin” that can effectively disintegrate the disease and put a patient into remission.

“It’s very useful to get these sources of funding, because these are researches at the early stages,” Scaglioni said. “So we need to generate the data to get the larger funding sources.”
Before heading out of town, the team of riders formed a “dedication circle” and shared the stories of those for whom they’re riding.

Atwell lost both of his grandfathers to cancer when he was young. “I missed knowing them growing up,” he said.

The cyclists are required to raise at least $4,500 before their ride, complete 50 hours of community service and put in 1,500 training miles.

Kathryn Flowers, development and program coordinator for the Texas 4000, said the physical rigors of the long trip aren’t the most difficult part. The cyclists must coordinate and lead many aspects of their journey, from lining up sleeping accommodations across the country to dealing with cycling injuries along the way.

Flowers, who took part in the 2010 Texas 4000 ride — the Sierra route — said that for all the difficulties, nothing would dampen the cyclists’ motivation to reach Anchorage.
“There’s really nothing the Texas 4000 can’t overcome,” she said.

by Danielle Grobmeier