Pedaling for a Purpose

This time a year ago, Courtney Somerville was just learning how to handle a road bike after having not ridden any kind of bicycle since grade school. And her first experience had not gone well. Yeah, those darned pedal clips.

“I got clipped in, and I couldn’t get out,” Somerville said.

Down she went. But we’ve all been there, right? Somerville later returned to her apartment with a bloodied knee, bruises and chain grease all over her hands.

“My girlfriends looked at each other, shook their heads and said, ‘She’s done.’ ”

But she wasn’t. Today, the 22-year-old Somerville pedals into Jasper, Alberta, with her Texas 4000 mates, 41 days after they left Austin. Other than being “a little sore,” she’s doing fine. When you’re pedaling for something that matters, you always find a way to keep going.

Courtney’s mother died of cancer two years ago. The Texas 4000 peloton — or pelotons, because there are two groups making their way more than 2,200 miles to Anchorage, Alaska — is raising money for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“There’s a moment every day,” Somerville admits, “where I ask myself, ‘Am I going to make it?’ But that parallels fighting cancer. You have good days and bad days. You just get back on the bike and keep going. That’s what people who have the disease have to do.”

Ironically, Somerville found out about the Texas 4000 when a former Episcopal High School classmate contacted her mother about making a donation to support his participation. After cancer took her mom, she couldn’t get the idea of attempting the long ride out of her mind. Finally, at the outset of her senior year at the University of Texas — the riders are all UT students — she applied on a whim.

“They choose you based more on your passion for the cause than for your riding ability,” Somerville said.

When the group arrives in Anchorage on Aug. 14, it “will be the best day of our lives,” she said. “We’ve seen so many beautiful places — the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone (National Park) — and the people have been wonderful. It’s been a great bonding experience for all of us because we’ve all been touched by cancer in some way.”

Launched in 2004, the Texas 4000 has raised $1,411,250 for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Each rider is required to pledge $4,500 and log 1,000 training miles.

To contribute or to learn more about this amazing endeavor, go to