Their inspirations for joining the Texas 4000 team were different, but they both agree about the ride’s ultimate reward. Evan Holtzman and Todd Bondy are two of 51 University of Texas at Austin students who have been raising money for cancer research, and will take part on a 4,500-mile bike ride from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska. Bondy will be part of the group that will ride through Brownwood, stopping here overnight on Sunday.

“I initially read about it in the Texas Exes magazine. My dad handed it to me about a year ago today almost,” Holtzman said. “Fighting cancer is one of those things. We’re all affected by cancer.”

Bondy said he was inspired to join the ride because two of his football coaches and his grandmother were each stricken by cancer.

“My high school football coach was diagnosed with melanoma stage 4 cancer right before my senior year. He was only given months to live, but he was at every game. He passed away right after I graduated,” Bondy said. “I was kind of looking for a way to honor them, to be proactive to keep it from happening to someone else.”

Bondy and other members of the Coastal team will arrive in Brownwood on Sunday, around 3:30 p.m. Holtzman is the travel and logistics coordinator for the Rockies group — which will split off after the riders spend the first night of their trip in Lampasas.

“This is a new endeavor of physical activity for me,” Bondy said. He played fullback for the Longhorns and finished his eligibility last fall. “It fills the void after football. I like the teamwork and doing it for a specific reason. It fits so well with my personal goals.”

Holtzman said that he played soccer in high school, but has not trained for or participated in an endurance event like this. He said that the skill level of the riders was pretty wide.

“There’s a wide variety of people involved,” he said. “Our team leader has done the Boston Marathon and the Ironman (Triathalon) down to people who it’s their first time on a road bike.”

What those different riders are planning to bring to Brownwood, and to every stop they make along the way, are a common theme — messages of hope and inspiration to the people they meet along the route.

“It means so much to us because it means so much to others. We set up programs in each town we stop in. There’s a presentation that we give — what we do, why we’re doing it and where we’re going,” Holtzman said.

“It’s a unique group of individuals,” Bondy said about the riders. “I think we’ll be a breath of fresh air. The 25 riders in our group really want to have a positive impact on the world. I think people will be impacted by that optimism.”

After arriving in Brownwood on Sunday, June 8, and having a short rest, the riders will enjoy music and barbecue at a private reception held at the Bike Peddler that evening. During that event the riders will share their messages of hope and their testimonial stories about how cancer has touched their lives with a group of invited guests, many of whom have been touched by cancer also.

According to Bondy, that will be the most rewarding part of the experience.

“The interaction with people we meet along the route. Hearing their stories, the inspiration they give. We already experience it some with our fund-raising. People tell us (their stories). We’ll have that on a much greater scale along the route,” he said.

According to Vonne Cornett, co-owner of the Bike Peddler and the local stop organizers, the Texas 4000 riders will share their three pillars — hope, knowledge and charity.

“These young people would like to spread their positive message to any and all people in our community affected by or struggling with cancer. They feel cancer awareness is an integral part of fighting cancer and they wish to pass on their knowledge regarding early detection, prevention, and general cancer awareness to as many people as possible,” she said.

Bondy said that since he signed on for the ride, he’s gotten support from friends, family members, professors and even some people he has never met.

“A lot of my professors are doing the first day of the ride. Even people I don’t know, people I’ve never met before, have donated. There’s been support on the home front, from friends, the university and the Austin community. People have been extremely generous going out of their way supporting the ride,” Bondy said.

To join the ride, cyclists commit to raising $1 for every mile of the course, or $4,500. As of Tuesday Bondy said he had raised about $10,000 and hopes to reach $12,000 before the ride starts. Holtzman was not far behind, approaching $9,000 with more checks coming in.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Executive Director Chris Condit said. “I think they’ve done an incredible, fantastic job raising money.”

Cornett hopes that there will be a large public welcome for the riders as they enter town, and says the west side of Festival Park near the Brown County Humane Society is an ideal place for the public to do just that. She said that the arrival time will depend on when the riders leave Lampasas, but she expects it to be around 3:30 or 4 p.m.

The Texas 4000 Coastal Team has also invited local and area cyclists to join the Team as they enter Brownwood.

There will be three designated “hop-on” places for local cyclists:

1 — Highway 183 in Mullin, for the longer distance riders.

2 — FM 2126 (Access Road) at Hwy 183

3 — Lori Lane at FM 2126.

The group will ride on FM 2126 to FM 45 (west) and turn right on FM 2376. They will ride past the Humane Society, the west side of Festival Park, and continue on to 14th Street. They will then turn right on Asbury, leading directly to Brownwood First United Methodist Church parking lot on 11th Street. The cyclists will spend the night at the church before leaving on their next leg, when they will ride to Winters.