Gus Kenworthy

Local Olympian Gus Kenworthy, with his Cannondale road bike, aims to raise $1 million for AIDS/LifeCycle  event in June. (Photo courtesy of Maegan Gindi)

Local Olympian Gus Kenworthy lives in Los Angeles now. While competing at Mammoth Mountain last weekend, he took a fall and broke some ribs. But he will still travel to Switzerland in two weeks to ski in the final competition of the season. Then he’ll train in preparation for next season with his sights set on competing in his third Winter Olympics in China in 2022. 

Before that, however, Kenworthy, 27, will ride in the AIDS/LifeCycle event, a seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, co-produced by and benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The event raises awareness about the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic and funds services, including HIV testing, prevention and care. Since 1993, participants have raised more than $200 million and completed more than 42,000 journeys on bikes from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Kenworthy has not participated in the event before; in fact, he’d never ridden a road bike before last week.

“I had friends who did it last year. We went to the finish line to cheer people on and it was incredible,” Kenworthy said. “There were so many people who were riding and there in support. I felt very inspired.”

So inspired that he signed up to ride in the 2019 event, pledging $1 million on the spot.

“I think the highest earner last year raised like $84,000 and I think the highest they’ve raised from an individual was $150,000,” Kenworthy said. “I have the advantage of a huge platform so I set my sights really high and I realize it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.”

Kenworthy is no stranger to supporting causes, having raised money for homeless LGBT youths, suicide prevention and The Humane Society over the years.

“I need to recognize my place in the world. I’ve been very privileged,” Kenworthy said. “I’m a cisgender white male who grew up in a supportive family in an affluent town in Colorado and had access to skiing, which has led me to this incredible career path. I owe it to everybody to try to give back in any way that I can. I want to be a positive role model and make a positive difference.”

Kenworthy believes that AIDS and HIV aren’t discussed enough and that a younger generation of children may not necessarily be aware of the disease. He wants to help end the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and claims people don’t necessarily know the facts: notably, that medication can stop transmission by an infected person and can also protect people from contracting the disease. But that medicine is expensive.

Kenworthy added that 75 percent of people who are HIV-positive in the United States are living below the poverty line.

The AIDS/LifeCycle ride takes place June 2-8. As the event draws closer, Kenworthy becomes a little more nervous about the long-haul ride. 

“I feel like I’m in good shape and it’s also a very doable ride for everyone,” he said. “You see a wide variety of ages, shapes, sizes and experience among riders and they all cross the finish line. I’m nervous because it’s going to be hard, but I’m not nervous about finishing.”

He will ride with a half-dozen members of “TeamWorthy,” comprised of friends who have ridden in the event before and some who haven’t, like Kenworthy’s boyfriend, Matt, who also has never ridden a road bike.

So far Kenworthy has raised $80,000 towards his $1 million goal and he’s looking to his hometown to help support the cause. 

“I think that people in Telluride believe in the cause,” Kenworthy said. “The Telluride AIDS Benefit raises so much money and has such a great pull and audience.

“As a town, Telluride is one of the most generous I’ve ever know,” he added. “I remember when people were protecting the Valley Floor, raising the most insane amount of money in the shortest amount of time. And the support Telluride shows when a community member is lost … it’s just a tight-knit community.”

All donations are tax-deductible and 100 percent of the money raised goes to fight HIV/AIDS. For more information and to pledge, visit tofighthiv.org/goto/guskenworthy.