Saturday, November 17, 2007

El Tour de Tucson: 25th Anniversery Edition

It was a great day for bike racing with 10,000 of your closest friends at the 25th El Tour de Tucson. This years event drew a record number of cyclists, pushing the entries over 10,000 for the first time in history. I think that this is also the biggest one day cycling event in the country, pretty cool that it is right here in Tucson. To finish well here is a bit of a crapshoot, even if the fitness is good, as there are two wash crossings and a ton of other variables that can get in the way of a good ride.

My day started well, as I went into the first river crossing top 15 and made it through with no problems. The sand was a little deeper than in years past due to the lack of rain, which made riding the wash pretty difficult. After this my plan was to sit back and recover, eat, and stay hydrated until the second river crossing 45 miles into the event, which is where the significant splits usually happen.

Once again, things were going well for me as I led the field into the final corner before the creek crossing, only to get swarmed coming into it, but still able to ride most of the way and coming out the other side somewhere around tenth while sitting on the wheel of 2006 winner Michael Grabinger of the Successful Living team. Great spot to be, as once we made it over the steep climb of Snyder hill and turned onto Sunrise Rd with 70 miles to go, the race was starting to look like it had been made with an elite group of 30 riders at the front. The eventual winning breakaway formed from this group and I screwed up and missed it, but otherwise, things were looking pretty good at this point.

Fast forward about 30 miles and now we are on Tangerine Rd, which has a significant downhill section coming after the previous ten or so miles of rolling hills. A good counter move formed off the front the group and I made the split. The break was five guys with myself, Alexie Martinez (2006 3rd place finisher), Nick Schrieber (2006 AZ Pro points champ), and two others. We quickly put a minute into the pack and I started to think that we may have a chance if we could make it over Rattlesnake Pass, the last major obstacle of the course coming with about 20 miles to go. Unfortunately for me, I had the legs to ride with the break, but didn't have the legs to drive it like it needed to be driven, and I don't think that anyone else had great legs either, except maybe Nick, who was taking some monster pulls at the front. So it was looking like were going to be caught on the flat road leading up to Rattlesnake. One guy sat-up, while the rest of us pressed on towards the hill. Here was where the race changed for everyone. I could see the pack coming up to us, but I was thinking that it surely was only the remnants of the 30 strong pack I had been riding with for the last 50 miles. When we were caught halfway up the pass, I was shocked to see that the pack had swelled to about 150 riders! It was the biggest front pack I'd seen this late in the race. So the tactics changed once again and the options were to wait for a field sprint for the remaining places, or try and get to the line in a small group by attacking on the run-in back to town on Silverbell Rd.

I was able to try one short lived move on the way back towards town. A dangerous group of three riders had formed and was dangling about 600 meters in front of the pack. I attacked solo and tried to bridge with about ten miles to go, but couldn't make it with the headwind and gradual rolling hills slowing me down. I ended up sitting in no-mans-land about 200 meters behind the break for 3-4 miles before I sat up and came back to the pack, which was closing in on me very quickly. So it was going to be a field sprint with about 100 guys left, not a good situation.

The finish was crazy as there were a line of cars that the police hadn't moved out of our lane, causing the pack to fan out on both sides of the road. I was forced to bunnyhop the median and went straight up the middle through the pack. Saw a wicked crash right in front of me, which I was able to avoid, afterwhich I decided that since I had dropped back to around 20th position, I would not sprint and only wanted to make it around the final corner safely. Mission accomplished with the end result being a 42nd place finish, time was 4:16 for 109 miles with a 25.6mph average speed. Adios.


leslie said...

I took a bunch of photos of el Tour at the Houghton Road hill at Pantano Wash. I posted them on my blog for everyone to enjoy.

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