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Join Team4HIVHope as It Prepares to Compete in the 3,000-Mile Race Across America

By Carol Hyman

June 6, 2011

The Race Across America (RAAM), a bicycle race that some have called even tougher than the Tour de France, happens every June. This year, its 30th anniversary is also the 30th anniversary of the AIDS pandemic, and four men have formed a RAAM team -- Team4HIVHope, to show that with the right treatment, people living with HIV can do anything, including competing in RAAM.

Steven Berveling.

Steven Berveling.

Jim Williams.

Jim Williams.

Don Smith.

Don Smith.

Francisco Liuzzi.

Francisco Liuzzi.

Sandra Smith.

Sandra Smith.

Carol Hyman.

Carol Hyman.

Three of the four members of Team4HIVHope are living with HIV, and the fourth is committed to see this disease eradicated in his lifetime.

"The decision to enter this race was not taken lightly by its members," says Steven Berveling, 52, of Sydney, Australia, who had the original idea to field a RAAM team with HIV-positive racers. "We have consulted with our physicians and are rigorously training with their blessings. We are taking this race very seriously, because we will be representing the hopes, and fears, of the millions of people around the world living with HIV."

Berveling has wanted to race in RAAM for some time, and with the relaxation of visa entry into the USA, racing RAAM has become possible. "I am determined to complete it," he says. "I ride because it confirms that I am alive, and to show that HIV need not be an impediment against participating in major sports. I'm determined to live life to the fullest, even with HIV."

"Although HIV is part of my life, I am not defined by and refuse to be limited by those three letters -- I am much more than that," says Jim Williams, 52, a New York City attorney. "By competing in RAAM, I hope to show others living with HIV that it is not a barrier to sports such as cycling, and in fact, cycling is a great way to get and stay healthy."

Don Smith, 52, of Vancouver BC, was diagnosed with HIV in 1986, and his doctor told him to put his affairs in order as he'd likely be dead within two years. Rather than give in, he became very proactive about health and nutrition and added keeping fit to his regimen. He became involved in triathlon in 2002 and progressed to longer races in 2004.

While Smith has several heroes among athletes, "my personal heroes are all of the other persons living with HIV," he says. "They are my brothers and sisters who bravely live their lives in spite of the stigma that living with HIV can bring. This race is really for all of them."

Francisco Liuzzi, 34, is the one racer in Team4HIVHope who is not HIV positive, but he acknowledges that "while not infected, we are all affected by HIV and AIDS." He trains with Williams in New York, and they will work as partners on RAAM.

Team4HIVHope is part of UTACVelo, the cycling team of the organization, Until There's A Cure,® a national organization dedicated to eradicating HIV/AIDS by raising awareness and funds to combat this pandemic.

In addition to three of the four riders, many of the crew are HIV positive and will be working nonstop to keep the team on the road 24 hours a day.

The team has a Website with additional information on the race with a link to Steven's blog. In addition, the team has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. Look us up and become fans!

Another place to keep current with the team will be on this very Website. Team4HIVHope and are partnering for this significant endeavor with regular posts, expanded profiles of the riders and crew as well as training updates will featured. During the race, the team will be posting daily so you can experience the race right along with the racers and crew.

There are bound to be high and low points during the training and then the grueling race, and the team hopes you'll be following them and cheering them on.

The Crew

Along with the four racers, the team has 12 people supporting them, and many of us know team members through AIDS Lifecycle (ALC), a 550-mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles that raises money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. Several of us are riding or roadie-ing for ALC this year, and that ride ends on June 12, so we'll barely have time to wash our clothes before we need to once again be in Southern California on June 14 to meet up with the team to learn our crew roles, meet each other and get ready for the big adventure.

Heading up the crew is Sandra Smith, who is a childhood friend of Jim Williams and famous for her organizing abilities. She has been keeping the racers and crew apprised of every detail on what has turned out to be more involved -- and expensive -- than any of us had imagined.

I joined the crew after one of the crew members, Brendan Patrick, posted on his Facebook page that more crew were needed. I can't ride ALC this year due to knee surgery, though I will be a roadie. I am very involved as a supporter with the Positive Pedalers, a group of HIV-positive cyclists who raise funds for AIDS-related organizations, so I jumped at the chance to be involved with Team4HIVHope.

Get e-mail notifications every time Team4HIVHope's blog is updated.

See Also
Race Across America: Team4HIVHope Cycles to Raise Awareness and to Win

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Race Across America: Team4HIV Hope Cycles to Raise Awareness and to Win


Team 4 HIV Hope

The Race Across America is a bicycle race in which cyclists ride 3,000 miles/4,800km from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., in June each year. There is about 110,000 feet of climbing involved. This year for relay teams begins on June 18.

RAAM is not a stage race such as the Tour de France. In RAAM, there is only one stage: start to finish. It is essentially a time trial, but a very long one! Challenges include heat, deserts, violent winds, thunderstorms, riding at night, sleep deprivation, muscle injuries and mental acuity. And for the HIV-positive riders, there are more health challenges. An HIV-trained nurse is part of their crew.

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