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VIEW MORE PHOTOS | 2011 AIDS Vaccine 200 with Action Cycling Atlanta

imageA record number of riders pushed off from the Emory campus on Saturday, helping the AIDS Vaccine 200 raise a record amount of cash for HIV vaccine research and two non-profit caregivers.

The annual two-day, 200-mile trek to north Georgia and back helped raise $223,479 for the event organized by Action Cycling Atlanta. A $2,000 gift announced on Monday pushed the organization’s donations to slightly more than $1 million since is inception in 2003.

Awash in a sea of colorful Spandex cycling shorts, the cyclists departed about 7:30 a.m. from their starting point on Clifton Road. Energized from a kick-off dinner the night before, they trekked to Camp Rock Eagle in the Oconee National Forest where they recuperated and rested overnight. On Sunday, they headed south and by late afternoon, cruised en masse onto the Emory campus for a finish line celebration.

imageThe Emory Vaccine Center is the chief beneficiary of the ride, though Positive Impact and Jerusalem House also receive funds from it.

“The support of the AIDS Vaccine 200 bike ride is critical,” Mark Mulligan executive director of the Hope Clinic at the Emory Vaccine Center, said during an event last year celebrating participants in the ride.

“Your passion for bike riding and for making a difference kind of come together in a wonderful way and you make a difference for HIV/AIDS. In doing this, you are all vaccine soldiers—ambassadors—and we certainly appreciate it. You get it and it is absolutely critical,” added Mulligan, who was on hand Saturday to cheer on the riders and volunteers.

imageThe clinic is enrolling about 120 local men in its portion of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network Lifeforward Study, which is testing a preventative vaccine on 1,350 men in 12 U.S. cities. A handful of spots remain available for the trial in Atlanta.

If proven, the preventative vaccine could slow the progression of HIV by decreasing the viral load of people already infected. The study will also investigate what impact the vaccine may have on people who become infected during the testing.

Last year, some 130 riders raised $198,200 for the Emory Vaccine Center, Positive Impact and Jerusalem House. In 2009, 85 riders helped raise $175,000. Some 65 riders helped raised $106,000 with the ride in 2008.

AV200 organizers warmed up in February with a six-hour cycling event at Emory (photos). In early May, they cooled off in the pool of the W Atlanta – Downtown with a 16th floor fundraiser.