When Junko Matsumoto rode in her first Pelotonia in 2014, she joined the charity race as a way to give to the community and also support a friend.

Matsumoto, a 42-year-old Columbus resident who lives just outside of Reynoldsburg, is preparing for her fourth race in support of Matt Wagner, who lost a family member to cancer, and is the leader of the 22-person TS Tech Americas peloton.

She also rides in memory of Polimnia Fernandez, a friend who died Jan. 1, 2016, from kidney cancer and someone Matsumoto considered a "second mother."

She said she will ride her mountain bike 180 miles as a "tribute" to Fernandez.

"Riding my mountain bike for two days in the Pelotonia might be a bit of a crazy idea for someone, but it was very special to pay tribute to my second mother, Polimnia Fernandez," Matsumoto said.

She said she will ride with Wagner and six other riders from the team on the 180-mile route. Cyclists cover 100 miles from Columbus to Gambier on the first day, Aug. 5, and 80 from Gambier to New Albany on the second, Aug. 6.

She also rode the 180-mile route last year and in the 100-mile tour her first two years. She said Fernandez's death motivated her to increase her miles.

"Although it's a tough two days for me to move forward by pedaling the heavy bike, my only two-day journey is incomparable to what my friends had been striving through on their long journey," she said.

Matsumoto said each cyclist who rides 180 miles must commit to raising a minimum of $2,500. As of June 29, she had raised $1,905.

Last year, she raised $2,550.

Matsumoto first became interested in mountain biking when she moved from Texas to Ohio in 2007.

She was born and raised in Japan and moved to Wichita, Kansas, in 1999 to study English and take general college courses.

She moved to Dallas in 2003 to continue her education before moving to Ohio in 2007 and later beginning work at TS Tech Americas in Reynoldsburg in 2008, where she is an assistant chief engineer.

"I hope my experience helps," Matsumoto said. "Raising money is important. This is a really good charity. Anybody can get pretty good experience. If you can support something and join, that is great."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank