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NorCal Aids Cycle Rides for a Cause

04/22/2015 12:32PM ● By Claudia Mosby

Ride On

May 2015
By Claudia Mosby

On Thursday, May 14, 125 riders will gather at 7 am at Folsom Lake for the most important ride of their lives: a four-day, 330-mile odyssey by bicycle. Neither pro cyclists nor elite athletes, the goal of the NorCal AIDS Cycle endurance riders is fundraising rather than fame.

Scott Lewis, president of the Shasta-Trinity-Tehama HIV Food Bank, initially became involved with the cycle because he saw it as a funding source for his 100-percent-volunteer-operated organization. “I decided to participate because we did not just want to be a recipient (of funding), “ he says. “We wanted to contribute to the ride itself.”

NorCal AIDS Cycle supports organizations throughout Northern California that are working to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic and provide care to those living with and affected by the virus. Educating local communities that HIV/AIDS still persists is key. “It is important that everyone knows their (HIV) status and protects themselves,” says Lewis.

While newer drugs are keeping infected people healthier longer, funding for services is an ongoing challenge for the 14 organizations in 12 Northern California counties that will receive proceeds from the ride.

This month marks the ride’s 11th anniversary, and the fourth for Lewis. “Many people have heard about the AIDS Life Cycle ride that goes from San Francisco to Los Angeles,” he says. “Those dollars only stay in those two communities. Th e founders of NorCal AIDS Cycle decided we needed a ride that would serve Northern California—the greater Sacramento area, the Sierra Foothills and the far North Valley.”

Fundraising supports children’s services, as well. Sunburst Projects is a camp for kids affected by or infected with HIV and AIDS. “A child might go to camp who is not HIV positive, but who has a family member who has the virus,” says Lewis. “Or, they might be infected themselves and have family who are not.”

Over the course of four days, riders traverse all kinds of terrain throughout the North Valley. Day one involves a 102-mile trek through Lincoln, Marysville and Gridley.

On day two, another century ride follows Highway 70 into Oroville, Durham and Williams. With a goal of a mere 80 miles on day three, the route through the orchards to Highway 20 (toward Clear Lake and Napa) is more scenic, before riders take a 1,200-foot climb over the mountains and down into the Capay Valley. From there, feet are to the pedals toward Woodland for the night.

The final 50-mile leg of the trip cuts through Winters and Davis to the I-80 causeway and through West Sacramento, where fatigued riders assemble at Crocker Park for a full crew ride to the West Capitol steps at noon.

Although riders vary by age and body type, preparation is key. “We ran 16 training weekends in preparation for this year’s ride,” says Lewis. “Four are Benchmark Rides, kind of a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the longer ride, and they run 40-60 miles each. One of the four is a century ride (100 miles), which takes 8-10 hours.”

NorCal AIDS Cycle is working to increase ridership among people ages 16-25, but Lewis notes some challenges. “Th is time of year is tough for us because schools are going into finals and the end of the school year,” he says.

Forward momentum is evident, however; recently a Sacramento high school contacted Lewis about putting together a team. He hopes a grant the event received last year will help draw younger riders who need financial assistance. “We can help by supplying them with a bicycle and gear,” he adds.

Riders pack for all kinds of weather, from hail to 100-plus-degree temperatures, from severe headwinds to dust storms. A crew of 65, including vehicle, medical and massage support, travel with riders for the duration.

“This is not a gay issue, but a public health issue,” Lewis emphasizes. “People have forgotten about HIV/AIDS because we have such effective medications. Those infected can now actually live a healthy, active lifestyle and not be sick. But the infection does not go away.”

(530) 524-8798 •

NorCal AIDS Cycle 2015 Beneficiaries: Cares Community Health •
Caring Choices • Gender Health Center • Golden Rule Services • Harm
Reduction Services • Nevada County Public Health Department HIV/
HCV Rapid Testing Program • River City Food Bank • Sacramento LGBT
Community Center • SANE (Safer Alternatives thru Networking and
Education) • Shasta-Trinity-Tehama HIV Food Bank • Sierra Foothills
AIDS Foundation • Sierra Hope (Health Opportunities, Programs and
Education) • Strategies For Change • Sunburst Projects • Volunteers of
America (Northern California and Northern Nevada) • Women’s Health