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Jeff Conaway said he knows the aches and burns in his muscles after biking hundreds of miles pale in comparison to the suffering of those that fall victim to human trafficking.

That is what will keep him going state after state in his first transcontinental race.

“It’s that cause that really keeps us going,” Conaway said. “And knowing that it’s not about us, it’s about the bigger picture. We kind of live by a motto that ‘our fuel is their freedom,’ and it really keeps us motivated.”

Conaway, 43, is part of an eight-person team that will cycle more than 3,000 miles in six days in a nonstop race against six other teams from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland.

The lengthy ride will begin on June 17. 

The team’s sponsor is ZOE International, a nonprofit founded in 2002 that works to fight human trafficking by raising awareness and collecting donations, as they compete in the 2023 Race Across America. 

It is Conaway’s first year participating, though he was an unused alternate cyclist for ZOE in 2021. 

During the race, the team works in four-man shifts over 12 hours. Conaway will make the trek between noon and midnight each day.

He said he will go all out for 15 minutes for up to six miles for his part, then sit and ride for about 45 minutes in a vehicle while teammates take their turns. 

Conaway is the only Coloradan on a team of Pennsylvanians, though he lived in Lititz, Pennsylvania — which is the home of ZOE International’s east coast location — until about a year ago.

Conaway currently lives with his family in Littleton and is the vice president of operations at Encompass Services in Denver. 

Conaway has been what he would call an “avid cyclist” for about four years.

It started during the pandemic as an escape with friends, and quickly developed into a growing passion.

Now, he is trained to take on his first coast-to-coast race, and he knows it will not be a leisurely ride. 

Since the start of 2023, training has involved up to six-mile weekly bike rides in the mountains, running a half marathon (although he said he prefers wheels), weightlifting, and switching to a plant-based diet. 

“Truth be told, with the training I’ve done, I definitely feel like I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said. “But I assure you I can’t wait to dig into a steak as soon as we’re done with this race.”

ZOE International’s team finished third in the 2019 Race Across America, raising more than $175,000 to fight human trafficking.

ZOE won in 2021, receiving more than $380,000.

This year, the team’s goal is $750,000.

There are only two returners from the 2021 team. The other six are all new to the race.

Conaway said he is confident they can win it again. 

“We’re going to win,” he said. “I give 100 percent confidence we’re going to win. That’s the only motto we go by. Our stance is our cause is the greatest. And that’s not to say that no one else has a great cause that they’re fighting for, but we really want to persevere to bring awareness to child trafficking as a whole. But we’ve been training hard, and we always like our odds.” 

For more information about ZOE International, the 2023 Race Across America, and how you can support the cause and its riders, visit this link.