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AIDS Bicycle Challenge Will Take It To the Streets in September
July 30, 2009
by John Long

Click For Full Size Elizabeth Bejan said that the number of smaller activities throughout the year is helping her and the other co-chairs achieve their goals for the AIDS Bicycle Challenge: to sign up the most riders and raise the most money yet. She credits Theresa Van Ackeren, who has hosted the training rides and has also offered to pay the registration fee of $25 for anyone who purchases a bike through Family Bicycles to ride in ABC.

“I’m trying to make it as easy as possible for people,” Bejan said. “I’m taking pictures of people myself and emailing it to them so that they have a picture to post on their fundraising page and make it as personal as possible.”

Bejan has been hosting information tables and LGBT events and leading Monday night training rides. She said that based on that experience, with many novice riders, she is guessing that most of the people in the LGBT community will be riding the 11-mile route.

“Getting on bicycles is somewhat new to our community. However in the cycling community overall, they expect a hard, challenging ride, so those folks who have been riding for years will do the 50-mile route.”

She’s hopeful that she will be able to ride that day, but not certain she will because of her duties as a ride organizer.

“I want to be available if something were to happen. I would like to be able to ride and do the rah-rah and encourage people that I’ve recruited. But I’m not sure if I’m going to be … comfortable enough to ride. I’m going to be a little nervous nellie, I guarantee you.”

One idea she has from other bicycle rides is to have riders do their own “Bike Fights” where they challenge another rider $10 each to see who does better in the ride and raises more money for ABC on other levels. She said they’re doing this “to get a certain level of crank power going on their power meter, so we’re trying to bring in some other things like that.”

Bejan said that she and Van Ackeren are talking to groups that might have refurbished bicycles for sale for the ride, but that hasn’t been finalized. Check the September issue of Camp and on the ABC website for more information on this and possible updates to the post-ride party at the Power & Light District.

Bejan has been riding in local bicycle rides for many years. She was one of the original bicycle riders in the PrideRide that preceded the AIDS Bicycle Challenge.

But beyond fundraising bike rides, she said, “I used to race. My very first race was in 1986 and I still have that T-shirt. I’ve just been riding and racing off and on for about 22 years and you know, I never could tell who was LGBT who was out there riding, but more and more the LGBT community is getting into it. To be honest with you, I first wanted to be involved to promote cycling to the LGBT community. But then a young family member confided in me, a gay family member, that he has been HIV-positive for two years and he’s only 25. So that’s added a whole new dimension as to why I’m doing this. I haven’t even gotten my mind around that in terms of what’s it going to take for prevention and where do we go from here.”

She said she had done 100-mile rides about five times. She rode her first MS150 in 1989. She’s ridden the ride across the state of Iowa, the RagBrai ride, four times. She rode in some races in Omaha while working on her graduate degree in social work. “I rode with them as a licensed racer for a short time and won a little bit of money doing that. There’s some money to be made out there if you want to dedicate your time to train.”

Before the AIDS Bicycle Challenge, she rode in the AIDS Walk-sponsored AIDS Bike Tour on the Katy Trail, and she was also a sponsor through her job at U.S. Bank at the time.

Bejan’s ridden with OutSpokin, the LGBT bicycling group in Kansas City but she said that she often rides too fast for that group. “When I have my own personal time to cycle, I need to go fast.” She said she rides at an average pace of 15-17 m.p.h. and for 30 or 40 miles.

Bejan, who helped plan the bike route, said they deliberately structured the ride to be early in the day on a Saturday morning on routes with as little traffic as possible. Organizers will also have route monitors along the way, especially at critical intersections.

Bejan knows the risks of riding with automobile traffic personally.

“I’m very vigilant when I’m on my bike,” she said. “I was hit by a car in 1985 and in 1995. The first accident I was in the hospital for six days. I love it that more young people are on bikes more than ever. It’s trendy, it’s hip, it’s cool to eschew the car and ride a bike where you need to go. But, please, can’t we wear a helmet?”

She and Van Ackeren are looking into starting a nonprofit group that will promote bicycling safety and sharing the road with automobiles through city planners and others.

The ABC Steering committee has three co-chairs, Patti Abshier, Theresa Van Ackeren, and Bejan, along with Ken Johnson, Dan Chancellor Amy Hutton, Jan Hensler and others.

“We have a good core group of five or six people who attend the meetings on a regular basis to execute all the planning that we’ve done. On our steering committee we’ve had about three people that have also been on the local organizing committee for the Tour of Missouri,” Bejan said.

The committee has been working on ABC for nearly a year and members have attended countless events with tables promoting the event and signing up riders.

“I still have Tour of Missouri freebies, so they just need to come out for a training ride or contact me and I’ll give them freebies. I’m still out there beating the bushes for riders,” Bejan said.

For the fifth-anniversary ride, organizers are hoping to sign up the most riders they’ve ever had. They are well on their way.

Registration for the fifth annual AIDS Bicycle Challenge, scheduled for Sept. 12 in Kansas City, Mo., has been strong, organizers say. The ride benefits the AIDS Service Foundation of Kansas City. This year’s event will be downtown, with routes on the city streets rather than the suburban park trails of previous years.

ABC co-producer Michael Lintecum said, “We’re going to have so many people riding with us this year. Just look at the registration. It’s the third week of July, and we’ve got nearly 65-70 riders signed up and raising money!”

Co-producer Josh Strodtman said that last year at this time, they had far fewer riders signed up, and that most register closer to the event or even on the day of the ride.

Lintecum said, “By being on the streets in Kansas City, fighting HIV/AIDS on our bicycles, it’s going to make a tremendous statement.”

As previously reported in Camp, ABC was selected to be the official charity ride of Stage 7 (final leg) of the Tour of Missouri bicycle race, which will arrive in Kansas City the day after the AIDS Bicycle Challenge. The racers will be heading from Clinton, Mo., to Kansas City, Mo., on Sept. 13.

Last year’s charity ride for the Tour of Missouri drew nearly 600 riders, so the organizers of the ABC hope this will attract their biggest number of riders ever.

Lintecum and Strodtman credit much of this year’s strength to the ABC steering committee of Elizabeth Bejan, Patti Abshier, Theresa Van Ackeren, Ken Johnson, Dan Chancellor, Amy Hutton, Jan Hensler and others who have helped plan the ride this year.

Some, like Abshier and Johnson, are returning organizers from previous bicycle rides, and most of those involved have ridden in previous ABCs.

Lintecum said he was enthusiastic about this year’s ride because of the connection to the Tour of Missouri and “because of the great chairpeople that we have. The committee is so enthusiastic, and it’s spilling over to everybody. Of course Patti [Abshier"> brings a lot of great experience, but the infusion of Theresa and Elizabeth has just been electric for all of us. I cannot say enough about the leadership of the committee this year.”

Strodtman spoke highly of Bejan’s dedication to this year’s ride as well. “She has personally registered, oh, probably at least 25 people.”

Also, Lintecum said, “the excitement that comes with State Sen. Jolie Justus out there doing her thing for it has really been important. It’s pretty amazing that someone like her would attach her name for something that doesn’t have a lot of glamour,”

Justus, who is the event’s honorary chair, bought a bicycle and has been riding on the training rides as well as various other rides with her wife, Shonda Garrison.

Strodtman said the rides have raised close to $100,000 in four years.

“The first year was around $10,000 or $15,000. The money raised per year has more than tripled,” Strodtman said

This year, Strodtman said, “We’re excited to have the event in the Live Block of the Power and Light District, and with that it gives us the opportunity to have a more festive after-party celebration.”

He invites all non-riders to come out to the post-ride party, which will be only $10 for beer and food.

The money raised by the event comes from a combination of riders and sponsors. Strodtman said they’ve received at least $15,000 of actual sponsor cash already, in addition to in-kind donations.

“Sponsorship is great! Miller Lite is in again at a significant level, as they have been in the past. We have a new sponsor this year, AT&T. We also have Truman Medical Center, Isle of Capri Casino. We have a new radio sponsor, KCUR.”

Strodtman also credited the sponsorship assistance of Family Bike and Trek bike stores and assistance from sites like Local Cycling.com and other area bike clubs, such as the Kansas City Bicycling Club.

This year ABC has a new website, independent of the AIDS Walk host site, also created by their media sponsor, Salva O’Renick advertising.

Lintecum said the money from this year’s AIDS Walk has recently been distributed to the beneficiaries of the AIDS Service Foundation, which are the Kansas City Free Health Clinic, SAVE Inc., Hope Care Center and Good Samaritan Project, along with some smaller grants.

“We have three events in the fall now: The AIDS Bicycle Challenge, KC Beer Fest and World AIDS Day. All the money collected by those three events will be distributed in January,” Lintecum said.

The Details of ABC:

• To register for the Sept. 12 AIDS Bicycle Challenge, visit www.aidsbicyclechallenge.org or call 816-931-0959.

• The advance registration cutoff is Sept. 11 for the $25 pre-registration fee; registration will be $50 on the day of the event. Organizers ask that people try to raise a minimum of $80, and more is greatly desired. The top overall fundraiser will receive a Trek bike.

• Training rides for ABC are held most Monday nights at Family Bicycles, 7140 Wornall Rd., Kansas City, Mo. To sign up for training rides, email Elizabeth Bejan: embejan@yahoo.com.

• Volunteers are still needed. They can contact Strodtman and Lintecum at ride@aidsbicyclechallenge.org.

• The ride’s kickoff party will be Monday, Aug. 3, at Family Bicycles and will coincide with the training ride. There will be a social meeting at 6:15 p.m., the training ride at 6:30 p.m., and cookout and drinks for the party at 7:30 p.m.

• Trek will set up shop for bike mechanics the day of the ride. Unlike the Tour of Missouri, which is a bike race, ABC does not close off streets.

• Three routes are offered. Organizers expect the most popular to be the 11-mile ride. Those wishing to ride 22 or 33 miles can do a double or triple loop of that ride. For those who prefer a longer and more competitive ride, there is a 50-mile route offered that goes north of the river up to Farley, Mo., and returns. All ride routes are posted on www.aidsbicyclechallenge.org.
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