Amgen saddles up for arthritis charity bike ride sponsorship

Participants in the the California Coast Classic have been raising money for the Arthritis Foundation (AF) for 22 years, and Amgen has been a sponsor for 21 of them. This year, AF chief Steven Taylor locked in his cleats as the first AF CEO to take part since AF restructured as a national organization in 2016.

The weeklong ride, which started on Sept. 10, is a big deal, bringing in big money for the AF, over $1 million annually. The ride gets huge accolades from the cycling community, the eight-day, 525-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles has been rated Gran Fondo Guide’s “Best Charity Bike Tour” and Outside Magazine called it one of “The 30 Best Road Biking Trips.”

Part of the reason for the buzz is that since the enrollment is kept to 250 riders, the course is allowed to go through Big Sur. In addition to the views, AF’s Taylor says that the work all the volunteers do make the whole experience special from teams putting the bikes together to breakfasts and dinners planned throughout the ride. It’s no wonder people come from all over to take part.

Taylor, who is from Virginia and flew to California for the event, is not a cyclist.

“I took it on. I run marathons—sixteen half and six full marathons, but I've never done cycling. I went out and bought a bike in June—an expensive road bike—to learn how to be a cyclist. I’ve learned a lot since June and it's been actually a blast. It's good for the joints, easier than running. And it's a challenge. I have a sign in my office that says, ‘Challenge accepted.’ So I'm always willing to accept a good challenge and of course to be alongside people that are doing stuff for organization; that’s important to me,” he said in an interview. 

As the main sponsor of the event, Amgen, which sells arthritis drug Enbrel, has not only provided financial support for the ride but also encourages its employees, who raise their own money, to participate as well. This year, Team Amgen has 25 riders from seven different states. Additional partners for this year’s Bike Tour are: Champion-Level Partners GO Sleeves, Horizon, Visit Cambria, Cycle Central Coast, DePuy Synthes, and Pfizer and Prestige-Level Partners Safeway Foundation and Setpoint Medical.

The day before the race, Taylor was looking forward to the camaraderie of the event.

“I'm sure [the ride] will be quite an emotional day standing in line with 250 riders that have given up eight days to go 525 miles for an organization that means something to them. It's always very emotional when you step off or ride off on that day.”