On May 20, University of Texas students embarked on a 70-day, 4,000-mile bike ride from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, to raise funds for and support the fight against cancer. Beginning 18 months prior to the ride, called the Texas 4000, each student trains for the race, raises $4,500, completes 50 volunteer hours, and maps out each element of their approaching adventure.
Meet Elena Walch
Elena Walch, niece of Grand Valley Power CEO Tom Walch, rides the Texas 4000 this summer in honor of her Oma (grandmother), as well as several other family members and close friends whose lives are affected by cancer.
Elena’s training began Spring 2022, and team workouts followed soon after. Things ramped up in the fall when team members received their official bikes and began participating in skills clinics and safety training. By January 2023, the team started tracking mileage to reach the required 2,000 training miles.
An all-student team from a previous ride takes a breather off their bikes to pose for a picture.
The all-student team is responsible for planning the route; finding hosts; arranging provisions; ordering gear and bike parts; planning programs for community engagement; organizing volunteer events; and tracking financials, Elena explained. “My team is incredibly mission driven — everyone is super passionate about a future without cancer,” Elena said. “I ride because cancer is a tragedy, but the lives it affects are not tragedies — lives are still worth living, even in the face of death.”
Waves of Encouragement
Elena’s Texas 4000 team is traveling through a number of Colorado towns, including a handful of electric cooperative communities.
Elena connected with several people who are hosting Texas 4000 team members as they pass through and camp overnight in their communities. “It will be super fun to see the people who have been so willing to help us out,” she said before the ride.
The team will cover some difficult terrain as they pass through Colorado electric cooperative service territories such as Durango (La Plata Electric Association), Telluride (San Miguel Power Association), Great Sand Dunes National Park (San Luis Valley REC), Buena Vista (SDCEA), Colorado Springs (MVEA), Granby (Mountain Parks Electric) and Steamboat Springs (Yampa Valley Electric Association).
“It’s a bunch of flatlanders from Texas and the altitude is going to be an impact on top of everything else, but they’re young,” Tom Walch said with a laugh.
The team isn’t riding through Grand Junction, but GVP and the community will support them with snacks and drinks for the road, and hot food when they arrive at Dinosaur National Monument, where the riders are camping for the night on June 13.
Tom and his wife Theresa also enlisted the help of White River Electric Association CEO Alan Michalewicz and his wife Karolyn, and Delta-Montrose Electric Association CEO Jack Johnston and his wife Bernice to help with the cooking.
“We are really proud of Elena’s dedication to this ride, and it is a cause that is dear to so many,” Theresa said. She hopes to spread the word about the Texas 4000 mission and garner local support, “even if it’s just a wave of encouragement.”
Elena said, “I think the only other thing I could hope to gain from this [experience] is just memories with my teammates and the connections we make with communities on the ride.”
Show your support for this young group with a friendly greeting as they ride through Colorado on their way to Alaska. See the map for specific dates.