Riders raising money for cancer research make overnight stay in Vicksburg

Published 9:46 am Friday, June 16, 2017

While much of Vicksburg was just getting their day started Friday morning, 21 students from the University of Texas at Austin were jumping onto their bicycles with a hard day of riding ahead.

Friday was a challenge day for them and they had 105 miles to look forward to on their route from Vicksburg to Greensville.

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The 21 riders are participants in the Ozarks route of the Texas 4000, an annual bike ride across the country from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska to raise money and awareness for cancer research. The ride has taken place every year since 2004.

“It is an 18-month leadership program at UT,” cyclist Liz Schasel said. “Each of us have a personal connection to cancer, which is what drew us there initially. There is an application process and from there if you get in you train for about a year.”

The riders arrived in Vicksburg Thursday evening following a 70-mile ride from Brookhaven. The ride started June 2 in Austin and will finish in Anchorage on August 11, after a ride of more than 4,500 miles.

The Ozark route has already passed through Houston and New Orleans and will continue through Nashville, Chicago and Minneapolis before they cross through Winnipeg and Edmonton in Canada. By the end of Friday, the riders will have completed 948 miles of their trip.

“I think today was the first time on the bike that I was riding and I kind of just stopped and looked and was taken away and finally realized that I am biking across the country,” cyclist Mikaela Casas said. “Mississippi is absolutely beautiful. I’ve never been to this state before so I was pleasently surprised.”

The riders spent the night at the W.K. Purks YMCA and were treated to dinner at Holy Trinity before giving a presentation on cancer prevention.

“What we love to do is come into a community and once we get showered of course, we love to put on cancer prevention programs,” Schasel said. “We give a 15 to 30 minute spiel, depending on the environment, about what the community can do to prevent cancer in their own lives and share our stories.”

Along their trip, the riders also make donation to cancer centers throughout the country. So far, the Ozark riders have donated grants to MD Anderson in Houston and the Ochsner Cancer Center in New Orleans.

The Texas 4000 features two other routes that riders take on their way from Austin to Anchorage. The Rockies route takes the riders through Oklahoma, Colorado and Utah and the Sierra route traverses along the coast of California before heading into Canada.

“Our Ozarks route goes the furthest out of the way so we have the highest mileage of all the routes,” Casas said. “We have about 500 to 600 more biking miles. That means we typically average the upper scale. The other routes may average about 70, we typically average closer to 90.”

The riders began training for the trip in November and many of them had never “clipped into a bike” before joining the Texas 4000 program Casas said.