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A new mission for Intel’s former star exec

Former Intel exec Sean Maloney Former Intel exec Sean Maloney
Former Intel exec Sean Maloney Photograph by Jaril Valenciano

Sean Maloney was first in line to be the next CEO of Intel when he had a massive stroke in 2010. He made an extraordinary recovery, learning to speak out of the other side of his brain. Maloney returned to Intel(INTL) and led the company’s business in China, its largest market, but he got passed over for CEO and retired.

He has hardly slowed down since. The American Heart Association announced yesterday — World Stroke Day — that Maloney, who chairs its Silicon Valley chapter, will ride his bike from San Francisco to New York City to raise money and awareness about stroke and heart-attack prevention. “Heart attacks are the No. 1 killer in the world, and strokes are almost as common. Too many people die because they didn’t have an ultrasound of their arteries,” says Maloney, who suffered his stroke at 54. The father of six had been an avid rower and runner and kept himself in excellent physical condition — so he thought. “I did everything I was supposed to do, except one. I hadn’t had a carotid artery ultrasound. I didn’t know I had a blocked artery, a silent ticking time bomb waiting to go off.”

The stunning success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, which the ALS Foundation used to raise more than $100 million over the summer, gave Maloney the idea for the “Heart Across America” bike ride. He plans to begin his journey next March. “It’ll take two months, going 100 miles per days,” he says. The former Intel EVP is already training by biking 60 miles daily. And he’s recruiting friends in the tech industry — execs at companies such as Apple (AAPL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Dell and Google (GOOG)–to ride at least part of the 5,000-mile route with him through Dallas, Chicago and a dozen other cities, where the American Heart Association will host events and offer free medical checkups.

The idea, Maloney says, is to build a movement. He wants bike-riders of all ages across the U.S. to ride, take pictures with their bike and a sign saying, “I rode 1 mile (or 10 miles or 100 miles) to save lives,” and then post the photos and pledge donations to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association on the “Heart Across America” website. And challenge a friend, family member or colleague to do the same.

The cross-country journey is just one of Maloney’s endeavors to help reduce strokes and heart attacks. He’s working with some friends in Silicon Valley on a project to develop a cheap ultrasound for people to check their arteries via mobile devices and kiosks that could be places in Walmart (WMT) and CVS (CVS). “Twenty-five years ago, ultrasounds were supposed to replace stethoscopes. It never happened,” says Maloney. “Ultrasounds are very expensive. They cost around $10,000. They need to go for much lower than that.” With his executive impatience intact, he’s working to fix that.

And here is Maloney talking about his recovery and his big ride ahead, which he says will be “the second-hardest thing I’ve ever done.”