“You bond more with people through pain,” – Courtney Schutze, Texas 4000 rider.
If that’s the case then the Texas 4000 riders who rode through Vanderhoof on Thursday, July 17 are blood brothers (and sisters).
The Texas 4000 is a cancer awareness charity that raises money for cancer research as they peddle their way from Austin, TX to Anchorage, Alaska. The trip is over 6,000 kilometres and takes a total of 70 days to complete. Riders stopping in Vanderhoof have been on the road for 48 consecutive days. “the experience has been nothing like I had expected – nothing like anyone expected,” said Courtney Schutze, one of the 79 Texas 4000 cyclists.
The Texas 4000 is an 11 year old program based out of the University of Texas at Austin. Started by alumnus Chris Condit, a cancer survivor himself, the Texas 4000 has raised has seen 400 students participate in the ride with a collective odometer of more than 3 million kilometres.
The charity has raised more than $4 million towards cancer research through fundraising and donations to their cause.
Prior to making the trip, Schutze says riders undergo 18 months of intensive training to be physically and mentally prepared for the two and a half month bicycle ride.
Schutze said the experience has been incredibly difficult but rewarding saying “No one can prepare you for what it will be like emotionally and physically to bike for 48 days straight and eventually 70 days straight. Its been the most rewarding and healing experience that I’ve ever had before and I think I can speak on behalf of a lot of my teammates that its been extremely bonding. You bond more with people through pain than anything I think and we’ve definitely had that experience.”
The teams bond is apparent in their morning ritual of coming together to hold a “dedication circle” where riders share personal accounts of the damage done by cancer and are able to dedicate their ride that day to someone important they may have lost or who is still fighting the illness.
Throughout their journey, cyclists stop at various communities fundraising and meeting with cancer survivors, patients and caregivers in the communities.
The Texas 4000 executive director Jen Garza said in a press release, “it’s incredibly encouraging for the riders to be supported by the people of Vanderhoof and to have the opportunity to chair their stories about how they pursue this ride in hopes of living in a cancer -free society.”
The sentiment was echoed by cyclists as they prepared to leave Vanderhoof for Burns Lake (their next destination) saying “thank you Vanderhoof for hosting us and providing us with food. We can’t thank you enough.”
Riders may apply to the trip and participate in it only once, meaning each year a new group of cyclists and students make the 6,000 km pilgrimage.