A glimpse of the long road ahead for the 80 UT Austin students. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS 4000 FACEBOOK

4,000 miles to fight cancer

The Texas 4,000 bike race comes through Big Sky

On June 5, 80 students embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

Students from the University of Texas at Austin began riding in the Texas 4000. A 4,000 plus mile bike ride across the country with the mission of fighting cancer.

The Texas 4000 is the longest annual charity bike ride in the world that, for the first time ever, will both begin and end in Austin, Texas. The ride is a 70- day journey with the mission of fighting cancer by sharing hope, knowledge, and charity in more than 200 communities along four routes - Sierra, Rockies, Ozarks and Smoky Mountains, according to a Texas 4000 press release).

It was on the Rockies route that the Texas 4000 team passed through Big Sky on Thursday July, 8. The team then rode through Bozeman the next day and will continue north until they reach the Montana-Canadian border.

This is year 18 for Texas 4000. During that time, the students of UT Austin who have participated have led the fight against cancer across the 4,000 mile bike ride. Each year, students from UT Austin begin an 18-month leadership development program, preparing their bodies, their minds and their hearts for this mission, which culminates in this life-changing journey, according to a Texas 4000 press release.

Each rider from UT Austin has a direct connection to cancer. Whether it’s a family member, teacher or friend, all 80 have been impacted by the insidious disease that cancer is. During the 18 years collectively, 980 riders who have completed the ride have helped raise more than $12.1 million dollars, pedaled more than 5.3 million collective miles and impacted countless lives.

The riders pass through 200 communities along their 4,000 mile journey. They stop for a few days in many of the communities to spread cancer prevention information through their Cancer Awareness and Prevention Program, “At least half of all cancers are preventable,” Texas 4000 Associate Development Director Shannon Cunningham said.

The riders try to help the communities they ride through by encouraging cancer screenings and checkups. They organize meetings in event spaces in many of these communities to discuss the benefits of early screenings and cancer prevention methods. They mainly focus on encouraging a healthy diet to help stop many types of cancer before they happen. This is incredibly important in communities that may not have access to this medical information or resources.

The journey is especially important this year because the riders did not make the trek in 2020. In that time there has been a large drop in preventive cancer checks, which the UT Austin team will continue to promote this year. “All of us at Texas 4000 for Cancer realize the importance of our cancer awareness and prevention message having seen the significant drops in cancer preventive checks since the start of the global pandemic. The 2021 team knows that cancer hasn’t stopped and that spreading our cancer fighting message is needed more now than ever,” said Scott Crews, Texas 4000 Executive Director.

The 80 riders from UT Austin will continue their trek across the country until August 13 when they all arrive back in Austin, Texas. Although Cunningham and the rest of the Texas 4000 team believe their work is never done, they do realize the power impacts their organization has. “Our organization raising funds and being able to support cancer patients is amazing, and it’s such a big part of what we do and what we will continue to do going forward,” Cunningham said.

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