Hundreds of cyclists leave Bay Area to LA to raise money for AIDS awareness

Hundreds of cyclists pedaled away from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles on Sunday to promote AIDS research and awareness at the AIDS/LifeCyle event.

More than 1,400 people started on the 500-mile trip from Cow Palace in Daly City

To qualify to participate, each rider was required to raise at least $3,500. Collectively, this year's crew raised more than $11 million. The event started in 1994 and has raised more than $300 million over the years.

"It means a lot that the community comes out to support this event," said AJ Lewis, a cyclist from Los Angeles taking part in Sunday morning's ride.

The event has been around for nearly 30 years, and it's a collaboration between the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

"As a person living with HIV myself, this is a very personal cause," said Dr. Tyler Termeer, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "I know every dollar is making a world of difference in the lives of those we serve."

"It's wonderful that we can raise visibility from San Francisco down to LA about the fact that HIV/AIDS is still a crisis facing our communities," said Joe Hollendoner, CEO of the LGBT Center in LA.


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Many cyclists taking off Sunday have done the trip before. 

For Lewis, it's his seventh time.

"A bike ride is a great way to raise awareness and to help end stigma to all those living with HIV/AIDS and to honor those who have died from this disease," he said.

Rachel Freemon Sowers is a LifeCycle "roadie," meaning she volunteers to help support the cyclists on the road. 

She herself rode for the first time last year.

"I rode for the very first time in memory of my father James Freemon, who did the ride three times before," she said.

Each person participating will spend seven days on the road. 

They'll log 80 miles on the first day then set up camp in Santa Cruz

They'll go on to ride another 100 miles on Monday, planning to make it to Los Angeles by the end of the week.