The ninth annual CT Challenge bike ride took full advantage of the sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures on Saturday as the Southport-based organization brought together riders from around the state and region to raise money to support cancer survivors.

A total of 1,030 cyclists participated, supported by another 365 volunteers, turning the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport into a sea of colorful riding jerseys worn by teams and individuals that helped raise $1.2 million by day’s end.

Money from the ride support the CT Challenge’s Center for Survivorship, which opened in October 2012 in Southport. The center provides programs for cancer survivors focused on exercise, nutrition and psychosocial support.

With fund-raising continuing through Sept. 27, CT Challenge looks to surpass last year’s total of $1.6 million and reaching it’s goal of $2 million. The Challenge received a boost with it’s new two-day ride, which saw 70 riders (each raising $2,250 per rider) travel more than 80 miles from Lakeville down to Westport on Friday afternoon.

The creation of riding teams continues to be the backbone of the Challenge’s fund-raising efforts, with 96 teams being formed this year. A total of 82 cancer survivors rode various distances, several as much as 100 miles, while 67 survivors volunteered to provide encouragement and support to those pedaling throughout the day.

At the start of the ride, new Sacred Heart University Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Bobby Valentine gave the riders a send-off and then the former New York Mets and Boston Red Sox manager joined them for a 50-mile ride of support.

Information on the CT Challenge and how to donate can be found at ctchallenge.org.CT Chall