• The 5th annual event, which played out Saturday, included locals and professionals who rode to promote bicycle safety.

APPLE VALLEY — On a warm Saturday morning, resident Ryan Jastrab, 19, decided to return to the roots of his professional cycling career to help raise awareness for road safety.

Jastrab was among more than 200 cyclists who gathered at Civic Center Park for the 5th annual Victor Valley Bicycle Tour.

Jastrab, who first participated when he was 15 years old, said the tour was his first long-length event. He has since claimed two national titles and competed around the world in far-off locales like China, France, Germany and Canada.

On Saturday, participants were able to choose from four routes that ranged from 10 to 70 miles. With the 10-mile Family Fun route open to all ages, riders were as young as 2 and as old as 73.

Jastrab led the group of 70-mile participants, finishing first.

Professional cyclist Patrick Caro, 49, of Claremont, marked his second year of competition in the 70-mile route. A previous state title holder for best time, Caro said “the strongest challenge is the mental challenge.”

Victorville resident Bruno Mancinelli, 63, was the first rider to complete the 25-mile route on a mountain bike, which he said creates more of a challenge.

“I have been here since 1978, and I think events like these are helping to promote safety,” Mancinelli said. “People are becoming more aware, whereas 15 years ago they wouldn’t even see you.”

Hesperia resident Damian Gonzales, 28, and his wife, Ashley, 26, navigated the family route with their 2-year-old son Logan. Damian Gonzales said he rode his bike to work every week in preparation for the tour, saying he was glad to see an event promoting safety for cyclists.

“I know it’s not realistic, but we need street lights on every main road,” he said. “I do a lot of night riding, and I can’t see.”

Victor Valley Bicycle Tour President Thurston “Smitty” Smith said proceeds from the event have helped provide local bike repair stations at area parks, 1,000 helmets for children in the community and 150 safety signs that remind motorists of the state law that requires them to give three feet before passing cyclists.

Hesperia resident Jeff Friend, 50, who has participated in the event each year, followed the 25-mile route on Saturday. Friend said the new signage has “been a big help in reminding motorists” to be courteous on the road.

With the event growing each year, Smith said the proceeds will “always go to something bike-related.”

The tour is set to return next year. Visit VictorValleyBicycleTour.com for more information.

Source: Joselyn Villalobos, Daily Press