Illustration by Ramille Baguio.
Illustration by Ramille Baguio.

Hundreds of cyclists will take off Sunday, racing to raise funds for the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP). The tenth annual ride kicks off at San Lorenzo Park, where there will be live music, food and HIV/AIDS education booths.

The Surf City AIDS Ride, which has been under the direction of SCAP for five years, has revamped the event to attract a diversity of attendees.

“Our intention is not just to attract people who can ride 60 and 100 miles; it is to attract people in the community,” said event co-chair Trevor Davis. “My best-case scenario is that a family who has never been on a bike before will drop by.”

The ride began in 2000 with a group of cyclists who created the event, originally called the Santa Cruz Century Ride. After five years with nearly 700 cyclists participating and fundraising, the cyclists who started the ride decided to turn it over to Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP).

When the ride came under SCAP control the group took a one-year hiatus, and as a result of the break and a higher participation fee, the number of riders declined. However, each year since, the ride has gained more riders and SCAP Executive Director Merle Smith expects that there will be a turnout of between two hundred and four hundred riders on Sunday.

The increase in participants comes at an important time for SCAP. Two years ago, the program was dealt a crushing blow when funding for HIV/AIDS education and prevention was cut completely from the state budget after California slashed $85 million from AIDS programs.

Event organizers changed the venue of this year’s ride in hopes of attracting a larger and different crowd than in years past. By bringing the event to downtown Santa Cruz from Cabrillo College, where it was previously held, and making it an all-day festival, SCAP expects that attendance and awareness will increase. The group has focused its efforts on making the day a family event in the hope of attracting a more diverse audience.

“We want to get the families involved,” Smith said. “While the riders are out, the family can be involved in the festival.”

The group wants to reach a younger audience with their message by making the event more family-oriented. SCAP hopes to become a trusted resource in the community for condoms, information and HIV testing.

Registration cost for the event varies – participants must pay $20 to race in the 12 mile ride, $60 for the 30 mile ride and $90 for the 60 and 100 mile rides. Riders can choose to fundraise and pay a reduced registration fee. Online registration closes at 12 p.m. Friday, but riders can register on the day of the event.