By Jared Eborn
Started by cancer survivor Jeff Warren 11 years ago as a way to personally fight the dreaded disease and prove he was not about to slow down because of it, what has now become known as the Huntsman 140 is picking up momentum.
Originally a group ride for a few friends starting in Reno and traveling through the desert of the Great Basin before finishing at the steps of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the ride has taken on new life in recent years after officially partnering with HCI and becoming the Huntsman 140 – one of the state’s most challenging, and rewarding, point-to-point bicycle rides.
But because the final day of the Warren’s ride was a 140-mile stretch from Delta to Salt Lake City, it was always a challenge to attract many riders to join him – even with HCI’s help.
That’s changing this year, though, as the Huntsman 140 has added a variety of out-and-back ride options that will eliminate one of the more discouraging factors in signing up for the event.
“The different distances will start at different times so we can all ride in together,” Cindy Yorgason, a part of the organizing committee and a cancer survivor herself. “By having the out-and-back options this year, I think we’ll have more participation.”
In addition to the 140-mile ride from Delta, riders can sign up for 140-mile, 75-mile or 25-mile out-and-back ride. Each rider receives a jersey, lunch, fuel at aid stations and a finish line celebration that is very much an emotional event rather than a simple roll underneath a banner.
“That’s really what makes the Huntsman 140 different,” Yorgason said. “For so many of us, it’s very emotional. We’re all either survivors or we’re connected to someone who has had cancer. So that last mile, after we all wait to group up and ride in together, it’s incredible.”
This year, the event hopes to have several hundred riders cover that final mile together and raise tens of thousands of dollars to fight cancer.
Cancer is a disease that has affected virtually everyone in one way or another. It’s no surprise, then, that Huntsman 140 participants feel a special connection to the ride. For some, the event is a way to remember those they have lost. For others, it is a way to prove they are stronger than the disease.
“For myself, being a survivor … people have a very hard time understanding just how difficult it can be just to get back into a normal kind of life,” Yorgason said. “The treatment, the chemo, the drugs, they all just leave you so unable to resume life as you know it.”
Yorgason participated in the event a year ago, when her cancer was very fresh in her mind. The fatigue and weakness associated with her recovery added to the emotion of the day and she said she was in tears after her short ride.
She’s feeling much better this year – “I just barely got back into my bike shoes,” she said – and has signed up for the 75-mile ride and will partner with her husband on a tandem.
The event provides cancer survivors a chance to regain some fitness, gather with their fellow cancer fighters and friends while raising funds. Though registration is ‘free’ it does come with a $500 commitment to raise funds through the Huntsman Hometown Heroes organization. Unlike other cancer charities, every dollar of those funds goes to cancer research and treatment. The highly-visible yellow Huntsman 140 jersey is a trophy of sorts to many of the riders.
“I have more jerseys than I can count,” Yorgason said. “But this one is way up there. I earned it in many ways.”