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Houston 2 Denver bike team visits Pagosa Country

While five cyclists from Houston, Texas, enjoyed beer and pizza after a long, hot day of riding on Monday, their fellow teammates were still on the road as part of the Houston 2 Denver bicycle relay team that rides 24 hours a day.

The team consists of four groups of five riders that represent the Houston Police Department. Along with four vans and two patrol cars with lights, the cyclists are on a trip from Houston to Denver to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Five of the cyclists enjoyed a well-deserved rest after riding from Clines Corners, N.M., to Espanola, a distance of about 83 miles, in temperatures that reached nearly 100 degrees. Each team rides for eight hours before they are met by the next group. They then get 24 hours to rest and relax before the next leg of the relay. Last year, the team of Houston police officers rode to Providence, R.I., and they have a tentative plan to ride to Niagara Falls by way of Canada in 2011.

The Houston 2 Denver team has raised $130,000 this year for leukemia and lymphoma research, and over $4 million since their fund-raiser began 29 years ago. The members of the team use their vacation time to participate in the event, but all feel it is well worth it.

“We only have to ride 60 miles tomorrow,” jokes Glen Mayo, the team captain who is a member of the Marine Unit Dive Team for the Houston Police Department. The legs of the relay are split by hours, not miles, meaning eight hours of uphill cycling won’t yield as many miles as a flat or downhill leg.

Each of the team cyclists wears at least one dogtag around their neck with either “in honor of” or “in memory of” on each tag. Mayo, in his second year as a rider on the Houston 2 Denver team, pulls out the four tags hanging under his shirt and explains that three are in honor of his children, and one is in memory of a friend whom he lost to lymphoma.

“I ride with the dog tags on the outside of my shirt,” Mayo says, “and when I get tired, I look down at them and remember why I’m doing this.”

To be a part of the relay team, each rider was required to raise a minimum of $4,500, which they said is not an easy feat in this economy. But the team riders have found much support from friends, family, colleagues and strangers who support the cause and the effort that the cyclists are putting in. And, if there is a negative to the long, hot ride north from Houston, it is the bicycle seat on the road bikes that can leave a cyclist feeling stiff and numb after eight hours of riding.

“This is a really comfortable plastic chair,” says Jesse Fite seriously as he leans back in the evening shade.

Two of the teams spent Monday night in Pagosa Springs, hosted by Sam Conti of the Pagosa Mountain Morning Rotary group. The president of a Rotary group in Houston is a big supporter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and got the idea to contact Rotary groups along the relay route to arrange places for the cyclists to stay.

In addition to Conti providing lodging for the night and a hot breakfast for two of the teams on Wednesday morning, members of the Pagosa Mountain Morning Rotary group treated one group to dinner and drinks after their eight hours of riding in the heat of northern New Mexico.

After their 24-hour rest, the group of five will take their next turn on bicycles and continue on towards Denver, then head back home to their jobs with the Houston Police Department, satisfied knowing that their hard work raised funds for research initiatives, patient services and education programs to get closer to a cure for Leukemia and Lymphoma.

For more information about LLS, visit LLS.org.