MADISON (WKOW) -- The Sheraton Hotel was filled with laughter and spirit, along with worries of unpreparedness. It is the typical atmosphere that marks Day Zero for those who are setting out on the ACT/AIDS Ride.
This year's seventh installment begins Thursday morning with a departing ceremony at 7 a.m. Overall, bicyclists will ride 292 miles, making stops for the night in Argyle, Albany, and Columbus, before finishing at Capitol Square on Sunday.
The charity cycling event is typically the largest fundraiser of the year for AIDS Network. The agency, which offers services for those living with HIV and AIDS in 13 counties in southern Wisconsin, has a budget of $1.8 million. Historically, the ride brings in about $250,000 to $300,000.
About 150 bicyclists signed up for this year's ride, along with 92 volunteers to serve as crew members.
Wednesday's Day Zero events included final registrations and last-minute pledges. Everyone there had to attend an orientation session, which includes information on dehydration and reminders to stop at all stop signs.
Anecdotally, it appears about half of the bicyclists this year are first time riders, including 27 News' Carl Agnelly. In the following days, Carl will be reporting live from each night's camp, featuring personal stories of riders, crew members, and those living with HIV in our community, along with response to the criticism in recent months that AIDS Network hasn't done enough for them.