Three University of Minnesota grads will blend their twin passions of biking and biology next month when they begin a 3,400-mile bike tour to support cancer research.

If all goes as planned, the young men will leave Chanhassen on July 9 and wind up in Naples, Fla., 34 days later. No doubt sunburned and sore, they’ll raise at least $10,000 for the American Cancer Society.

“We’re just three guys who pulled together this event,” said Zach Zelickson, 22, who will ride with buddies Nate Schalmo and Aaron Weinard. “Our mission is to help the Cancer Society and do what we love.”

The fundraiser is personal and professional for the three biology majors who graduated last month. All worked in cancer research labs at the U, they said. All have relatives or friends who battled the disease.

The riders, who were on the U of M Cycling Team, will bike about 90 miles a day. A two-person support crew will accompany them, complete with a grill for cooking meals to save money for the cause.

For an event dreamed up by three students just this spring, Touring for a Cure has rolled out remarkably well. Its website,, provides day-by-day itineraries, the bikers’ profiles, a list of sponsors, and it pledges to update supporters as they bike.

Local businesses such as Penn Cycle and Park Tool pledged tires and tools. Hotels such as Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express have pledged lodging. Aspire and MuscleMilk have signed on for drinks. The cyclists are still seeking donations for the ever-important Power Bars and other items.

The biggest challenge, said the young men, will be biking in the blazing summer heat, and pedaling over the Appalachian Mountains. Plus, they’ll need to tap sheer endurance. None of them has cycled more than four 100-mile days in a row.

“The mental factor of getting on a bike every morning, knowing you have a hundred miles ahead of you, is a huge factor to overcome,” said Schalmo.

Both he and Zelickson acknowledge they’re a bit nervous. “But for now,” said Zelickson, “I’m more excited.”