Cyclists pedal for a purpose

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Some 65 riders sped off from the starting line of the 6th Annual Action Cycling 200 early Saturday, beginning a two-day, 200-mile journey. But the hard work was already done, as the participants raised more than $78,000 before the first wheel turned.

All of the proceeds benefit the Emory Vaccine Center, a facility that develops vaccines for AIDS and other infectious diseases. In its first five years, the event has raised more than $300,000 for the center.

Bill Carrillo, who took part in the ride for the first time, was among a group of four friends who raised more than $6,000 for the event. Riders paid a $75 registration fee and were asked to raise at least $500 to take part.

“You go out and ride because some way, some how this could be the one that makes a difference,” Carrillo says.

Anthony Nardis, who split the 200-mile ride with a friend, says the event is an enjoyable way to spend a weekend, but admitted that there’s a deeper meaning to his participation.

“I haven’t been as exposed to the disease as some other friends,” says Nardis, who was taking part for the second consecutive year. “But the older I get and the more I see, the more HIV is impacting my friends. Once you lose a couple of friends, you change your behavior a little bit.”

Pete Wicker, who owns Outback Bikes in Little Five Points, was at the starting line before sunrise on Saturday, tweaking bikes and working out the kinks as he’s done each race weekend since its inception in 2003.

“I’ve just been a supporter of the cause,” Wicker says. “These guys are raising money for a good cause and if we can be a part of it, that’s what we’re here for.”

Check out previous posts about the event and read more about it in my Southern Voice sports column, which will be published on Friday.

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