KAUKAUNA — Biking from Louisiana to Illinois last summer was mentally grueling and oftentimes physically painful for Kevin Biese, but he is ready to do it again.
Biese and nine other cyclists will trek 1,124.25 miles from New Orleans to Chicago, May 21 to 29, as part of Biking for Babies 2012. The mission of the ride is to collect $40,000 for eight pro-life charities and raise awareness in the fight against abortion.
The new Women's Care Center of Madison was one of the charities supported by last year's ride, which raised more than $21,000. Biese, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, recently visited the facility, which provides services ranging from free ultrasounds to parenting classes.
Kevin Biese (File photo by Rick Evans | For The Compass)
"It was very cool to see what I was biking for," he said. "I talked with the people who work there and took some video for the website. The people who work there are awesome, and they care a great deal about the women who come through the doors. When I visited, they had only been open for two weeks and they had three clients."
Biese, a member of Holy Cross Parish, Kaukauna, is the lone cyclist from the state, but he recruited another Badger for the team. His cousin and roommate, Nick Weber, will serve as a driver.
"The way Kevin and I work is when one of us needs something, the other one will just do it. It's not even a question," said Weber, also a sophomore and member of Holy Cross. "I'm excited. I like driving and I like traveling."
The 2012 team will feature four drivers to assist the cycling team, which will include five new members. Van drivers fill water bottles, buy food for the cyclists and shoot video for the website. Weber will also provide support and encouragement for Biese.
"I would really like a megaphone," joked Weber. "I always want to be there for my cousin. When he first asked me, I didn't realize how much of a big deal this was to him that I be a part of it. Not only am I fighting for this cause and helping all these people, but I'm also there for him. I will be the person who is closest to him on this trip. I will be able to push him to keep going."
"It's a ton more personal for me this year," said Biese. "I reached out to Nick because being the only Wisconsin rider is kind of tough. I want people to know that Wisconsin is in this. I want this to get bigger for the state. When we are fund-raising, I can say, 'Hey Nick, I need you to go to this parish, while I do this parish.' We will be able to bring in more money."
The trip is a faith experience, added Biese. Last summer, the team attended Mass and prayed the rosary and for the pro-life cause each day. They also found strength and encouragement from the people they met.
"The hospitality (offered) by the parishes and families in the homes where we stayed along the way was amazing," he said. "There are a lot more people for pro-life than I thought. There were a lot of people who approached us, shook our hands and thanked us for what we were doing. I think they appreciated seeing this generation fighting so hard for the cause."
Biese trained hard for the 2011 ride, but feels much more prepared this year.
"I am aware of where my body needs to be when I start," he said. "Endurance is everything. It's also hard to mentally stay focused, especially when you've been biking for six hours and still have two hours to go. It's a killer on your brain. Nick is one of my closest friends in addition to being my cousin, so it will be a big advantage having him there."
Biese hopes to recruit Wisconsin cyclists for future rides. Despite the physical and mental demands, the ride is fun, he said.
"You are a team," he said. "The cool thing is you draft (front rider cuts through wind) off of each other. You communicate on the road. You signal if you're going to hit a pothole. Most of the days, you just remember how crazy you are for doing this."
Biese and Weber are thankful for the support from family, friends and the Holy Cross Parish community. They are also raising money at Masses at Madison area churches.
The team will kick off the ride by dipping their bike tires in the Gulf of Mexico. They will close their journey by doing the same in Lake Michigan.
"It's a gift from God to be able to do this," said Biese. "We dedicate it all to the end of abortion. Biking for Babies is a peaceful way of saying we want to do everything we can for these women and their unborn babies."
To support Biking for Babies, go to www.bikingforbabies.com or send checks to: Biking for Babies, 1116 West College Ave., Peoria, IL., 61606-1728.