Participants in Trek Across Maine, a statewide bicycle tour and fundraising event for the American Lung Association, will take a more rural route this year, after a cyclist last year was struck and killed on U.S. Route 2 during last year’s event.

More than 2,000 cyclists are expected to ride the 180-mile route. The trek also includes 700 volunteers to help coordinate the weekend event, which is in its 30th year.

The three-day ride starts Friday at Sunday River in Newry and finishes the day at University of Maine at Farmington, ends Saturday at Colby College in Waterville and ends Sunday in Belfast.

Scott Cowger, a member of the American Lung Association in Maine’s leadership board, said the route, which in the past has gone on heavily traveled Route 2 — the primary east-west route across the state — will veer off on side routes more often this year as a safety precaution.

Cowger said the change will also allow riders to mingle more and enjoy the camaraderie of other riders, rather than watching for traffic.

Besides Route 2, the course includes state routes 232, 108, 140, 4, 17, 156 and 41 the first day; routes 27, 146, 16, U.S. Route 201A, state routes 139 and 104 the second day; and routes 11, 137, U.S. Route 202, state routes 3, 173, 131 and 52 the final day. For a detailed mapy and itinerary of the route, go to action.lung.org and click on “downloadable files.”

The Trek Across Maine fundraising goal is $2 million this year, and the leading fundraising team is athenahealth, a Massachusetts company that David LeClair, 23, was riding with when he was struck and killed on Route 2 the first night of last year’s trek. So far, the cycling team for athenahealth has raised more than $164,000 for the cause.

“This year it’s personal for all of us,” the company says on the team website. “This year, we ride for David and all those that struggle for clean air.”

LeClair’s June 14, 2013, death also prompted discussion last year about safety on highways like Route 2.

Police said after the investigation that it appeared air turbulence from a passing tractor-trailer knocked him off balance and he died either when he hit his head on the truck or after his arm hit the truck and he was thrown onto the road.

Cowger said the more than 700 volunteers and staff that help with the well-coordinated event is a change from his first year cycling in the trek.

Cowger, 54, of Hallowell, said he is one of three cyclists that have participated every year since the first trek 30 years ago, when 100 riders turned out for the inaugural event.

He said there were no route signs, just maps handed out to the original participants. He recalls the first of what became an annual event as being an intimate bonding experience for the riders.

“I remember I got a flat tire and I just had to wait for the one mechanic,” he said.

Cowger said riders on the trek participate for variety of reasons, from a desire to travel the state to a love of cycling, but whatever the reason for participating, he said, they become more aware of lung disease and the need for clean air. He said this year he has raised $4,000 toward his $5,000 fundraising goal.

He said that the association’s leadership board, on which he serves, includes a number of cyclists who first got involved with the lung association through the trek.

“I started as a way to get in shape and then I learned about what a good cause the American Lung Association was,” he said.

Cowger said donations to the American Lung Association can be made either through his website 30TreksAcrossMaine.com or search for a specific team or rider to donate through the American Lung Association’s website Lung.org.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

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