DERRY — A local cyclist hopes to help people by taking to the highway on his bike.
Rich DiSalvo, a former president of the Greater Derry Track Club and longtime Derry resident, began a multi-year mission last weekend to ride his bike and raise awareness for the organization Autism Speaks.
For DiSalvo, that group hits home.
Last weekend, DiSalvo began his efforts with a two-day cycle trip from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border, covering approximately 240 miles.
The next leg will take place next summer with a two-week, 1,300-mile journey from Maine to Florida. The final stage of the mission is in the summer of 2015 with DiSalvo tackling a one-month trip from Oregon to Hampton Beach, riding more than 3,000 miles.
DiSalvo will ride solo for most of his trips, but calls the effort a family affair.
Last weekend’s trip including his oldest son, riding part of the time.
“The goal for the follow-up rides is that my oldest son and I will do the rides together with support from the rest of the family along the way,” DiSalvo said. “This includes the scheduled cross-country ride two years from now.”
It take a lot of stamina and training to prepare.
“I’ve actually been training for this for a couple of years, increasing my mileage on my bike since last year and I’m on track to ride well over 5,000 miles this year,” he said.
He also doesn’t consider himself to be a cycling expert.
“I’ve been a runner and marathoner for 30 years, but took up cycling after being forced to give up marathon training after surgery on my cervical spine more than five years ago,” he said. “While I still run and enter an occasional 5K, I mainly stay in shape by cycling.”
As a member of the Greater Derry Track Club, DiSalvo also immersed himself in many efforts to support charities including a Boston Marathon team that raised money and awareness for the National Kidney Foundation.
When his marathon efforts stopped, DiSalvo said he missed helping people.
The bike event will put him back in the saddle to raise money and also hits home as one of his older brothers is autistic, as is a nephew.,
“This really makes the cause personal,” he said, “and has inspired me to give it everything I’ve got.”
Putting his mission on a course over several years is also a tribute to those with autism.
“I know that battling autism and all its challenges isn’t a one-day, one-week, or one-year struggle for families affected,” DiSalvo said. “That’s why I thought it was appropriate to set up a long-term campaign with a series of three events with lots of preparation and training in between.”
To support DiSalvo’s mission, visit http://fundraise.autismspeaks.org the search “Three Stage Tour” to find the correct page.