Emory Grad Students Cycling for AIDS Vaccine Research

By Rachel Ann Cliburn

emory photo card (1)As the crow flies, it’s about 200 miles from London to Paris. Of course, no one in London or Paris would dare use miles instead of kilometers, but that’s beside the point. 200 miles is also the distance of the May 17th-18th AIDS Vaccine 200 Ride (simply “the AV200,” for those in the know). Each rider is asked to raise at least $500 for HIV/AIDS vaccine research at the Emory Vaccine Center.

I first heard about the AV200 from 3rd year NSC student and Biker Extraordinaire Jordan Kohn, who not only completed the ride last year, but finished first on the first day. He is also the captain of this year’s GDBBS AV200 team, the Restless Legs. Jordan praised how the AV200 is “superbly managed and organized.” Leading up to the event, there’s an abundance of free training opportunities. During the ride, there are regular snack-laden pit stops, constantly patrolling vehicles, and an on-site bike repair shop. As someone who had long used biking for transportation, had tried her hand (body?) at triathlons, and was itching to properly break in her new yellow road bike (Sunshine Pegasus, currently making its second home at the Yerkes corral), the idea of training for and completing such a rigorous ride sounded extremely attractive.

My idea of attractive was redefined when I met the legs of 4th year NSC student and AV200 rider Tom Hennessey. His ankles have made girls swoon. I’ve seen it. I wrote a song about it. His motivation in taking part of the AV200 last year and again this year is “a) to raise to money for AIDS research, obv, because it’s important stuff and also research generally I like supporting and b) to test myself and my magnificent legs.” Exactly Tom. Exactly.

Claire Thurman, Rachel Ann Cliburn, Tom Hennessey, and Jordan Kohn
Claire Thurman, Rachel Ann Cliburn, Tom Hennessey, and Jordan Kohn

Though training with the Restless Legs will be fun, and I know the ride itself will be a blast, there is so much more to the AV200 than a long, 2-day bike ride. 100% of funds raised through the AV200 will go towards the Emory Vaccine Center’s effort to develop a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Part of what interests me in research is the ability to work towards knowledge that can alleviate current suffering. This ride is a way to do so immediately, to physically work towards that goal. 200 miles is a measurable distance: one could eat a proper English breakfast and 200 miles later have escargot for dinner. But in this case, 200 miles is the tangible representation of something intangible—it is the distance to a promising future for those exposed to a devastating disease.

If the AV200 sounds like something you’d like to support, there are a couple of ways you can get involved. If you would like to be a part of our team, we would love to have you! Jordan says, “People of all skill levels participated. It’s not a race, just a casual, friendly ride.” You don’t have to be in perfect condition right now, or even own a top-of-the-line bike (Tom rode last year without clips…because with legs like that, who needs efficiency?). We currently have 6 members on team Restless Legs, and are looking for 4 more. It’s absolutely not too late to start training and fundraising, and Emory will reimburse your registration fee. If biking isn’t for you but you’d still like to help out, check out our team fundraising page. We would be grateful for any donation, no matter the size. Lastly, if you see one of us in the halls, we’d love your encouragement. Ask us about training, or complement our sore gams. We’re excited to be representing Emory in the AV200–go team Restless Legs!


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