29th El Tour de Tucson

Bob Smith

http://www.perimeterbicycling.com/!ETT/ETThome.html . This year the main event distances were 111, 85, 60 and 42 miles. All the distances follow a portion of the same route with different start locations and times along the route. Only the 111 mile route started at the start/finish area on 6th Ave adjacent to Armory Park where the El Tour’s Ride Day Fiesta was held.

Anne and I have been riding the El Tour since 2004. Last year we missed the event because we needed to return to Colorado Springs prior to the event. We always sign up for the long route regardless the distance we choose to ride. This year we arrived in Tucson on October 20th and began our training on the 21st thinking we’d probably ride the 85 mile route. We were still in pretty good shape from our 800 miles of riding in August. Our longest ride of the year had been 65 miles so 85 sounded doable.

Between October 21 and November 17 we rode 17 training rides varying in distance from 32 to 79 miles totaling 773 miles. Our longest rides were 63 and 79 miles. All the rides were from our home on the west side of Tucson in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains. Three weeks prior to El Tour we rode 63 miles from home encompassing the southern portion of the El Tour route. A week later we rode 79 miles returning to the point on the El Tour route where we left off the prior week completing the northern portion of the route. Our combined average speed for the 2 rides was 14.8 MPH. Our two training rides on the El Tour route bypassed the two washes/off-road sections. These two rides gave us confidence that we should be able to complete the 111 miles averaging around 14.5 MPH on the bike.

Our home is about 5.5 miles from the start of the El Tour and the route passes within 3 miles. On race day we rode from our home to meet the El Tour at the Silverlake and Mission turn. We arrived about 5 minutes prior to the main field. We took photos of the field rounding the turn and after the field began to separate we merged into the race. Our average speed at the merge was 14.5 MPH. By the time we reach the 1st wash (Santa Cruz River) on Drexel Road our average had increased to 16.5 MPH. We rode most of the way through the river bed except for the east bank. Our average speed dropped to 16 miles per hour.

The route continued east on Drexel and south on Nogales Highway and east on the Hughes Access Road. After several other turns the route worked its away east across the valley to the high point of the El Tour at Freeman Road and Old Spanish Trail near the entrance to Saguaro National Monument. We took our first break at the Irvington and Kolb aid station about 8 miles from the high point. Our average speed had climbed to 17 and dropped back to 16.5 at the high point. The route continued north and downhill on Freeman Road before turning west toward the 2nd wash through Sabino Creek at 48 miles. The passage through Sabino Creek is ¾ of a mile in length, narrow, rocky and very sandy. We entered the wash averaging 17.5. Really fast riders typically ride the wash. We ran and walked this section taking advantage of the rest stop near the end of the wash. Our average speed dropped back to 16.5. The route continued north and west with some climbing and finally flatted out on Ina Road before heading north with gradually climbing on Oracle Road towards Catalina State Park at 67 miles. We made our 3rd pit stop at the park and met several tandem teams from the Colorado Tandem Club. This turned out to be our longest stop on the tour and we were still on a 16.5 mile pace.

 From Catalina State the route continued north and turned west through Rancho Vistoso to the 2nd highest point on the tour. From there the route was due west and approximately 15 miles of downhill to our 4th and final rest stop on Tangerine Road near I-10 at 85 miles. Tangerine Road is a fast downhill on a tandem and our average speed increased to 17.2. The remaining 26 miles through Avra Valley and Marana was gradual climbing south with headwind most of way. Due to construction on the I-10 Frontage Road the route continued south on Silverbell Road from Marana instead of the Frontage Road. Silverbell is a very rough road from Ina Road to Grant Road.

We crossed the finish line at Armory Park in 33rd place in the tandem category at 7:37:59 minutes with an average speed of 14.5 MPH. Our on the bike average was 16.5. The Garmin Edge 705 had our distance at 111.8 miles. We collected our Silver El Tour Medal and hung out a bit at the El Tour Fiesta before riding the final 6 miles mostly uphill home.

El Tour 29 was our best El Tour ever and only the second time we rode the full tour. It was an ideal day for a long ride with mostly overcast skies and high of around 70° F. We encountered some headwinds out of the south on the final 20 miles or so but they weren’t severe. We felt our four weeks of training were right on. Riding the El Tour excluding the washes in two segments really prepared us for the tour. We knew the route and the road surface and knew when we needed push and where we could make up time lost on the hilly sections. We maintained a much better average speed than we anticipated. We surprised ourselves with our performance and we didn’t feel totally exhausted from the effort. We drew enthusiasm from the other participants. There was always a rabbit to chase making the effort seem more fun than strenuous.
It takes about 3,000 volunteers to make El Tour happen. There were tens of thousands of spectators along the 111 route cheering for every rider. There were hundreds of police officers, sheriff deputies and auxiliary patrols directing traffic and patrolling throughout the day to ensure the safety of everyone. El Tour is a collaborative effort between the communities of Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana and Pima County. In some areas there were partial road closures. The El Tour benefits local and national charities and brings over a million dollars to the area.

We uploaded our Garmin data to Garmin Connect. Our elevation gain is high by around 20% and we don’t understand why. Here is the link of our entire ride http://connect.garmin.com/player/129879926. Click on the play button to play our entire route.

We did take time out to take some photos besides the ones of the actual race rounding the corner at Silverlake and Mission. Here is the link to our web album https://picasaweb.google.com/wetandem/ElTour2011.

Photograph courtesy of Bob Smith

December 2011 Issue - Vol 4 Issue 6, 1 December 2011

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