Tour de Tucson 2017: Emmett's Race Report
The season has come to migrate south to warmer climates for our pedaling expeditions. At Western Bikeworks, this means loading up the van and driving down to Arizona for the El Tour de Tucson. The annual event brings thousands of riders from all across the continent to the city of Tucson for a one-day ride at varying lengths for all skill levels. The trip's become something of a tradition for a group of Portland riders who have been attending the ride for over a decade.
I've always loved road trips, so I happily volunteered to make the drive from Portland to Tucson. With the bikes and gear loaded, I sent it down I-5 and arrived in Arizona after a couple of days. The weather couldn't have been better with the temperature in the mid-70's and clear skies. We spent Friday acclimating to the warmth and spinning the travel out of our legs with a serene cruise through the Saguaro National Park.
The day of the ride started just before dawn. I rode to the staging area with just enough time for my typical "pre-race" rituals: portable toilet and espresso. My racing license allowed me to jump to the front of the line where the speeds would be higher throughout the 106-mile course (an unexpected surprise!).
There were thousands of riders on the road, but after we crossed the first sand-filled wash, the front group was reduced to a couple of hundred. A breakaway group went up the road and achieved a serious time advantage, however, there was no organized chase effort and the group rode steadily across the valley until we reached the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The pace stayed high over the short, punchy climbs and into the gravel backroads at the base of Mt. Lemmon where our skills were put to the test. After these selective sections of the course the even greater diminished group came back together and continued north to Oro Valley. Things were calm until we turned south into a strong crosswind. All of a sudden, riders were struggling to find a draft to follow and stay sheltered. Amidst the chaos, a massive crash separated the field and I found myself gapped off from the front group. For a handful of miles, several of us chased to bridge back to the selection, but I quickly realized that this was not to be the case. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery for the rest of the ride, and conversed with fellow riders as we rode into the finish.
All along the course, people were gathered with signs cheering us along, as police provided a rolling enclosure. The course presented its challenges with off-road sections, climbs, and crosswinds. It was a phenomenal ride and we enjoyed every minute of it. I can't wait for next year's edition of the El Tour de Tucson tradition!