Cyclists were swarming city streets at lunch hour today, part of a 600-km journey from Toronto to Montreal to draw awareness to the plight of AIDS victims.
Nearly 300 cyclists were weaving their way through Cornwall on the fifth day of a six-day trip that has contributed $10 million to HIV and AIDS research over the last 13 years.
Fred Pitt, one of the cyclists on the Friends for Life Bike Rally and a Toronto native, said while the global goal of helping the lives of AIDS patients is important, the journey is also a personal one for many of the riders.
“This is just such a challenge,” said the 53-year-old, who was only recently released from hospital following hip surgery. “To get out and do this really has been a lot of fun.
“But for some of us it’s a real personal goal.”
Rob Walker, another Toronto rider, said the weather has been a real positive for cyclists.
“We’ve only had one day of overcast, the rest has been great,” he said, adding the “personal challenge” of completing the rally has resonated with riders. “It’s such a great cause. And we’re really privileged to be healthy and able to do this.”
The riders, supported by a crew of more than 100 volunteers, began their journey in Toronto on Sunday.
A strong tail wind Thursday had many riders arriving in Cornwall well ahead of their 1 p.m. schedule. A collection area at the Cornwall Civic Complex saw riders enjoying a rest and some refreshments before heading back out on the road to end their journey in Lancaster.
They are slated to arrive in Montreal Friday.
The bike rally is a grassroots, volunteer-driven fundraiser that began in 1999 when two friends challenged each other to cycle from Toronto to Montreal to support people struggling with HIV and AIDS.
Scotiabank is a sponsor of the ride.
“Scotiabank is proud to be back as presenting sponsor of the Bike Rally, and I’m really looking forward to welcoming this year’s set of riders to our beautiful city,” said Earl McBean, manager of the Brookdale Avenue Scotiabank in Cornwall. “In addition to our corporate support, we have a number of Scotiabankers who will participate by cycling, fundraising and volunteering at the many stops along the route.”