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Team Alliance rides again, for the first time ...

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You're probably scratching your head on the title of this article, but maybe when I explain a little further it will make sense. My name is Ken Krulik, I'm a Raleigh resident these last six years, a Yankee transplant from the Washington, D.C., metro area (anyone ever heard of Bowie, Md.?). Since moving here I've been a volunteer with the Alliance of AIDS Services Carolina (AAS-C), specifically with special events including a little bicycle ride that from 1997 to 2003 started in Raleigh and ended four days later in Washington (one year it was Norfolk to D.C.). These rides covered between 330 and 360 miles each year, with a biking team of novice and experienced riders representing AAS-C, Team Alliance.

Team Alliance (riders and crew) has participated in the Washington, D.C., AIDSRide from 1997 to 2002, and then again in an "under new management" event called Tour de Friends in 2003. You may be seeing a trend in the events, always riding from Raleigh to D.C. (the very first such event was in 1996 from Philadelphia to D.C.). AAS-C, in addition to having a bike team, partnered with the D.C. organizations (Whitman Walk Clinic, Food and Friends, and in 2003 Fan Free Clinic--a Richmond, Va., organization). All of these non-profit organizations provide much needed services to those living with HIV/AIDS in D.C., Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. AAS-C provides services to clients living with HIV/AIDS in Wake, Durham and Orange counties. As a partner providing volunteers and a team of bikers (and crew), there was modest financial return received by AAS-C to further the services provided to its clients.

Over the years of the Raleigh to D.C. ride, Team Alliance slowly grew in number, from a handful of individuals willing to sit in the "saddle" (a bike seat is no saddle) for four days, to 120 registered riders and crew members in 2003. Historically, the D.C. ride would bring in from $3 million to $7 million, which after event company/production expenses were taken out would mean a fair amount of money to the D.C.-based organizations, and a small thank you gift to AAS-C.

Well, as the event promoter started to get a little big for his own ego (with many great causes he promoted), it seemed that a rather large percentage of the money raised was going back to that company with less money going to the benefiting agencies and ultimately the clients.

This resulted in a change in management after the 2002 event, and thus was born the Tour de Friends in 2003. Team Alliance again rode to represent AAS-C and with brand new team jerseys as the result of the efforts of two volunteers that year, Ray Richardson and Javier Gayo. That year I heard often, "Man, you Team Alliance riders are everywhere!" It was especially moving on Day 4 of the event to see our team jerseys spread along the bridge heading into D.C.!

While Tour de Friends was a first-time event for AAS-C to be a major partner with Food and Friends and Fan Free Clinic (Team Alliance had the largest team of riders and crew at 120 and raised almost $275,000), the event did not generate quite the financial return that the three sponsors were anticipating. And thus there was no event in 2004, much to the despair of many a rider, crew (veteran and newbie) and to Warrenton, N.C., which provided a huge outpouring of support for the riders as they pedaled up the hills of U.S. 401 into their small town.

So what could be done to bring back the magic and the experience of riding many miles and ending the event to the cheers of many?

Why not put on our own North Carolina-only event to raise money for AAS-C and its clients, with those intrepid members of Team Alliance being the steering committee and the folks at AAS-C to kick start this first-time event? So in late summer of 2004, an effort was started to get the ball rolling, which has culminated in combining this riding event with AAS-C's AIDSWALK.

And so was born AIDSWALK + RIDE 2005, the first event of its kind in North Carolina!

With Team Alliance riding again, for the first time!

AIDSWALK + RIDE is a one day event (starting small with the hopes of making a multi-day event in the near future) that includes a 101.5-mile bike ride (not a race). Riders can opt for a 30-mile or 60-mile route. This ride will end as the AIDSWALK ends the same day, with options for a one-mile or three-mile walk. Riders have a fund-raising minimum of $300 to participate; walkers are encouraged to raise money as well, at least $100.

And what's my role in all of this? I'm the team captain (my fifth year), which simply means I'm the coordinator of the team (I'm not Lance Armstrong by any means). I'm also the local training ride coordinator; I've been doing that since 2000 and continue in that role. My involvement stems from one of my two older brothers being gay (the sister I always wanted but never had), losing friends to AIDS, and having developed an amazing circle of friends in the gay and lesbian community over the years. This is my way of being supportive of my brother for who he is, honoring the memory of my friends lost, and supporting my friends for who they are.

And so on Saturday, Aug. 20, at 6:30 a.m., Team Alliance will be back in the saddle, along with many other riders (veterans and newbies) to raise money for the Alliance of AIDS Services Carolina and its clients, to continue educating and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, and maybe have a little fun pedaling through Wake, Durham and Orange Counties.

Interested in riding, walking, volunteering or making a pledge? Go to the Alliance Web site at www.aas-c.org or the event Web site at www.aidswalkandride.org to get more information.

See y'all on the road--and please be respectful of people on bikes!

Ken Krulik lives in North Raleigh and is a planner for Vance County.

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