By Austin Dave / SCVNews.com
Chains clicking, riders panting, tires gripping asphalt. All of these sounds reverberated down city streets Saturday as thousands of cycling enthusiasts – including Major League Baseball's Barry Bonds - flocked to Santa Clarita to strengthen their physiques and improve the lives of local youths.
“A Ride for Life” is a trek that attracts cyclists of all endurance levels to promote athleticism and benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita.
The event drew 1,100 cyclists and roughly double that number of spectators.
Event planners arranged the ride into three courses of different lengths: 30, 60 and 100 miles, each beginning promptly at 8 a.m. at the western-most edge of Central Park.
More than 1,100 athletes took to the streets on a warmer than usual New Year’s Eve morning to improve their health, enjoy the fresh winter air, and perhaps get a head start on some New Year’s resolutions.
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“I’m starting the new year off on the right foot,” said cyclist Gregory Paggi.
Paggi participated in the 30-mile ride and finished first, a hair over an hour and a half.
“It’s something good to do. I’m dedicated to fitness,” he said. “(The ride) supports a lot of good causes.”
“It’s about you,” said A Ride for Life spokesman Luther White. “It’s about developing life skills, lifestyles and a healthy way of living.”
“It’s taken me from being a 365-pound individual that’s very focused on work to a 225-pound athlete,” White said.
“I’m more focused (and) healthy,” he said. “It’s allowed me to measure my strengths and weaknesses.”
The event also touted a kids' 5K bike-ride for strong-willed bikers with feet not quite as large as the 30-plus mile riders. Participants in the 5K ranged in ages from 19 months to 61 years.
Participants in the shorter trek rode along the perimeter of Central Park. Each child was awarded a medal and a T-shirt after completing two laps around the 30-acre park.
“Events like this get people outside and together to see similarities in who we all are,” said timekeeper Eric Gilsenan.
A Ride for Life partnered with 15-time Tour de France veteran cyclist George Hincapie, providing riders with a shot at biking with the only American to win the Ghent-Wevelgem and Kuurne-Brissel-Kuurne classic.
Hincapie - one of the leaders of Team BMC - participated in the 100-mile ride and signed onto a five-year contract to participate in A Ride for Life.
The New York native was on hand afterward to sign jerseys, helmets and other sports memorabilia.
Former MLB outfielder Bonds was also on hand during the event and participated in the 100-mile trek.
City Managers Ken Pulskamp and Ken Striplin participated in the 30-mile ride and finished in the top 30.
“We’re really proud to have people come to Santa Clarita. A lot of folks are from out of town, and it’s an opportunity to showcase our city,” Pulskamp said.
Pulskamp said events such as A Ride for Life help to boost the local economy and Santa Clarita's stature in Southern California.
“We’re proud of our city and glad to have people come see it - and see it on a bicycle,” Pulskamp said.
Spokesperson White said he wants to take the race further next year and hopes it remains in Santa Clarita.
For more information, visit ARideForLife.com .