Cycling 3,000 miles for a charitable cause

By on June 12, 2019
The eight bicyclists who will be competing in the Race Across America to raise funds for ZOE International in their fight against child trafficking are (left to right) Matt Lapp, Kyle Sensenig, Allan Fisher, Brad Ortenzi, Allen Fisher, Sam Jay Lapp, Jonathan Fisher and Elmer Fisher.

The eight bicyclists who will be competing in the Race Across America to raise funds for ZOE International in their fight against child trafficking are (left to right) Matt Lapp, Kyle Sensenig, Allan Fisher, Brad Ortenzi, Allen Fisher, Sam Jay Lapp, Jonathan Fisher and Elmer Fisher.

Starting this Saturday, Brad Ortenzi will be working a midnight to noon shift.

The Lititz resident won’t be behind a desk, though.

Instead, he will be on a bicycle.

Ortenzi will be among a relay team of eight riders who will cover 3,000 miles in six days beginning in Oceanside, Calif. and finishing up in Annapolis, Md. as part of The Race Across America.

Brad’s wife, Lori, is one of 19 crew members.

All have one common goal — to raise money for ZOE International to fight child trafficking.

“This is a cause much bigger than all of us put together,” said Ortenzi, a former U.S. Marine, “so many of us feel that if we can help just one child amongst all of this, then it is absolutely worth it.”

The challenge is nothing new for the Ortenzis, who lived in Thailand working for ZOE International for five years until this April, before moving to Lititz to help its expansion to the east coast. A year ago, Brad and Lori bicycled 3,700 miles from Virginia to California in 64 days, raising nearly $300,000 for the same cause.

The ride has become a platform for racers to raise awareness and money for charities of their choice. It’s considered the “world’s toughest bike race.”

“We had 46 riders join us at certain parts of the ride,” Ortenzi said. “Some would join us for a day, some as many as two weeks. But that was more or less of a slower ride. This one is an actual race that goes 24 hours a day from the time it starts to the time it ends.”

There will be two relay teams of four for the race, each alternating on 12-hour shifts.

“When one four-man team is on the road, the other team is resting for 12 hours,” Ortenzi said. “We have hotels spaced throughout the course.”

One bicyclist is on the road at a time, sprinting for roughly 15 minutes. The riders are supported by crew members in six vehicles, with one assigned to follow the cycler, as others leap-frog and shuttle team members down the road.

“A crew vehicle drives maybe five, six miles ahead and gets the (next) rider ready,” Ortenzi said. “The rider who just finished gets in the van and they keep leap-frogging like that.”

When their journey is complete, the Ortenzis and Co. will have traversed across 12 states and climbed approximately 175,000 feet.

“We’ve all been training a lot,” Ortenzi said. “Lots of riding, lots of gym time.”

The fact that most of the team members are marathoners or tri-athletes is a bonus. All cyclists and all but three crew members are from Lancaster County. But given what lies in front of them, their training “has been really challenging,” according to Ortenzi.

“We’re really training for 15-minute sprints for 12 hours over a six-day period,” he remarked. “So it’s a sprint, but it’s also an endurance as well. So it’s a lot of gym time and a lot of running time.”

If all goes well, they should be prepared for the for the many challenges which the course will offer.

Last year, Brad and Lori were bracing for the Rockies. To their surprise, the Appalachian Mountains in the east presented the bigger obstacle.

“The Appalachians are steep up, steep down, steep up, steep down, and you keep going up and down as you gain altitude,” Ortenzi said, “where the Rockies are a more general rolling, slow grind up to a higher elevation.”

This time, the cyclists will hit the Appalachians having already spent about 2,000 miles on the road.

“The Appalachians on the east coast are something we’re very aware of,” Ortenzi said, “but then there’s also the fact we have to climb the Rockies, we have to come across the desert and then we have the winds of the Midwest. So all those things are kinda playing into our mind.”

In the end, however, they know all of their efforts are going for a good cause. In addition to having corporate sponsors, each cyclist is also fundraising on their own for the event. Their goal is to raise $150,000 and Ortenzi said they are already more than halfway to that target. People are also invited to donate by visiting gozoe.org/raam.

“I think we’re close to $90,000 before it starts,” Ortenzi said. “My wife and I shared awareness (last year) as we went across the country and the fund-raising was successful, so we wanted to do something again.”

Even if it means doing the midnight shift, Ortenzi is on board to do his part.

“There’s certainly an excitement about it. The teamwork amongst the team and the crew is really solid,” he said. “And again, it’s all for the cause. Our motto is, ‘Their freedom is our fuel,’ so we’re really focused on what we can do to bring awareness to child trafficking.”

 

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