DeKALB – DeKalb native Ryan Newquist biked 75 miles Saturday, and he still feels nervous in preparation for his 72-day cross-country bike ride this May.
Newquist and a group of 19 other students attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will bike about 4,500 miles from New York City to San Francisco starting May 25 to raise money for cancer research.
Newquist is part of a nonprofit organization called Illini 4000, which sends riders on the cross-country journey while interviewing those affected by cancer. He recently spoke with reporter Andrea Azzo about his efforts.
Azzo: How did you train for this?
Newquist: Once they announced the team, we started training in October. Initially, it’s just running because it’s hard to bike in the winter. During all winter break, we ran a lot and did some leg workouts. The moment it starts becoming nice outside, we start biking a lot. It’s required for a rider to have ridden 700 miles before the cross-country ride. They have midweek rides, generally 30 miles. During weekends, we bike long distances. Two Saturdays ago, we went 60 miles. Last Saturday, we did 75. Next Saturday, we’ll go 90 miles. You train a lot, at bare minimum, twice a week.
Azzo: How did you first become involved with Illini 4000?
Newquist: I saw them on campus doing an event called “24-Hour Cycling” at the University of Illinois biking for 24 hours straight. That caught my attention. I went to an informational meeting and saw what it was about. The more I learned about the organization, the more I liked it. We interview people with any relationship with cancer and publish the story online so people can read about other people’s situations and get the help if they need it. Our goal is to publish the story so those with cancer can hear other stories of people beating it and how they’ve gotten by to do it. It gives them hope.
Azzo: What will the route be?
Newquist: We’ll have checkout points. For instance, we’ll pass through Champaign and also pass through Chicago. Our nearest place to Chicago is Rockford and Elgin. Unfortunately, we will not pass through DeKalb. We’ll stop at various locations, stay the night and interview people. The exact route we’re taking hasn’t been 100 percent certified. As riders, we won’t know until our route starts where we’ll be taken to.Azzo: Have you personally been affected by cancer?
Newquist: My aunt passed away from cancer. I never met her. However, my grandfather had skin cancer and I saw how that affected him. I was talking to my parents about how much the death of my aunt affected them and how breast cancer ran in my family. That was a big attribution of why I’m doing it. It’s because I want to help out. We’ve all been hit by cancer someway, somehow. We all know the severity of what cancer can do. If we can prevent this, that’s why we’re doing it.