Nick Kiernan, the Firecracker 100’s defending 100-kilometer champion, has been riding for just a shade under a decade — and got his start in a charity ride similar to Saturday’s event.

Kiernan, who lives in Euless, found himself hooked by the challenge that first ride offered. From that point on, he was curious to “(see) where (cycling) would take me.”

The answer, simply put, is just about everywhere — from Stephenville and the multitude of rides around the Metroplex to more exotic sites in Brazil, Europe and Asia. “Never in a million years” did Kiernan ever expect his bike would make him a world traveler.

“I have a couple more continents I have to step on,” he said with a laugh. “It’s been a good ride.”

Kiernan will be among the 500 riders event organizers expect at this year’s Firecracker 100 Bike Race and Ride. Online registration is available at www.firecracker100.com, with information on routes for riders ranging from novices to seasoned road warriors.

Cycling was “intriguing” to Kiernan because the sport is driven by internal competition as much as it is about each athlete versus the rest of the field.

“You’re your greatest opponent,” he said. Cycling is “very much a mental sport.”

“You are your greatest competition,” he said.

And despite the emphasis on individual performance, it’s also a team sport — and each member must be up to snuff for the group to succeed.

Kiernan rides with “a bunch of buddies” based out of a Metroplex bike shop, Colonel’s Bicycles.

“We do it more or less for fun,” Kiernan said.

That isn’t to say that he and his friends haven’t been successful. Kiernan, for instance, has won the Firecracker 100 each time he has entered it — either three or four times, he said.

The race itself is “tough,” he said, due to the heat and varying terrain.

“The terrain alone makes it tough,” he said. “It’s a difficult race for sure.”

When asked if the degree of difficulty was a factor that kept him coming back, Kiernan responded quickly — “absolutely.”

Plus, the race is “very well organized,” and the volunteers who staff it are “super nice,” he said.

The Firecracker 100 also typically signals the start of Kiernan’s serious training for the National Criterium Championships of Cycling, held in Chicago in August.

That race, which Kiernan described as being “very short (and) very intense,” is what he trains for, and it attracts elite riders from all over the country.