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AIDS/LifeCycle 11: Cyclists begin their journey, successfully completing day 1 | VIDEO

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- AIDS/LifeCycle 11 participants have successfully completed their first day of riding, reports Team San Diego member Sean Suydam.

After Sunday's early morning opening ceremony at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, the nearly 3,000 riders, staff, and volunteers embarked on their 575-mile journey to Los Angeles in an effort to raise support, funds, and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The ride, which is organized by the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, benefits numerous California HIV/AIDS charities and is in its 11th year.

Suydam said that while day 1 was a success, he faced some personal and physical challenges, which were expected.

"Because I was unable to train as much as I had in past years, day 1 challenged me physically," Suydam said.

As for the full group, there were no major injuries reported on the road and everyone made it to camp safely.

At Sunday night's dinner, Suydam said he was particularly moved by remarks made by Neil Giuliano, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Giuliano spoke about his organization's 30-years of serving the HIV/AIDS community and the fact that they have never had to turn away anyone who has requested their services, largely due to the support it has received from AIDS/LifeCycle.
"We have made a difference, we give people hope when they feel their backs are against a wall, and help them realize they aren't alone," Suydam said of the reason he participates in AIDS/LifeCycle.

With HIV and AIDS now being a part of the worldwide dialogue for over 30 years now, Suydam says that the epidemic has reached a milestone.

"It's not gone yet, and we're still out riding," Suydam said. "We always look forward to the day when we can host the last AIDS/LifeCycle, which will be a victory ride at the end of the epidemic. But until that day comes, we will continue to do this."

For more information about AIDS/LifeCycle, click HERE. Follow @AidsLifeCycle on Twitter for additional updates.