I’ve never seen anything quite like it. El Tour is off the hook.
What is El Tour de Tucson?
Founded in 1983 with 198 cyclists, El Tour de Tucson has grown into “America’s largest perimeter bicycling event” with over 9,000 cyclists, 2,000 volunteers and 27,000 spectators. In its 24-year history, El Tour has raised over $24 million for different charitable agencies.
In 1993, Bicycling Magazine selected El Tour as “one of America’s ten best centuries”; in 1998, Bicycling Magazine declared El Tour de Tucson “The Great Ride of the State of Arizona”; and, more recently, El Tour has become known as the most prestigious bicycling event for cyclists of all ages and abilities. El Tour de Tucson is held annually the Saturday before Thanksgiving and is hosted by The City of Tucson, Pima County and Perimeter Bicycling Association of America, Inc.). Source: perimeterbicycling.com
It’s almost indescribably huge. Enormous. Gigantic. Colossal. Gargantuan. I heard this year, the 25th anniversary edition, had nearly 14,000 entrants. I can tell you there are one hell of a lot of people listed.
Take a look at this years start.
That is two separate two lane roadways divided by a large median. There are the platinum folks up front (determined by finishing time in a previous PBAA event), followed by gold, silver and so on. I pedaled down with Jackass and his father (who is a very, very nice fellow) about a half hour before the start.
Gold (which was had “passes” for) had been “closed” for “over and hour” by cops and fences. Unreal. We toed the line at the back of the bronze group.
The thing started at 7:00 am and it took minutes and minutes (seriously, for fucking ever) for anything resembling movement to start happening near where we were. The gold and platinum groups were on the left hand roadway, and they went off first. I was at the back of the right hand roadway and we went last.
I actually walked most of the 200 yards from where I was up to the start line. It was that slow.
We rode at a reasonable pace, keeping it all pretty straightforward until my man Bacardi found a new friend in the sanitation field. Mother fucker was driving a honey dipper truck down the road, surrounded by cyclists, and he was pissed off about it. Bacardi yells at him, “One day! We want the road for one day of the year!”
Guy tell Bacardi to fuck off while I’m stuck between some rather large wheels and the edge of the roadway, a voice in my head saying, “Is this how it ends?” Zero fun right there.
Luckily ShitBomber McDipperTruck was held up by all the cyclists on a short ride and I was able to surge around him with a few others. Damn, that sucked. I had me some cars.
At about 9:00am or so, we stopped at the first feed past the 80 miles start (they stagger it so folks can finish together) and waited for Pineapple and his lovely wife to come through. Bacardi bought a few Tecates from a Circle K across the street and then the real fun began. We continued drinking for the rest of the day – full on Ragbrai style. At a few points near Oro Valley, man, I was in Iowa. Oh, the humanity.
I came in 3,246th place @ 8 and a quarter hours, with at least an hour spent off the bike sitting on curbs drinking beer, eating cookies, talking shit and yelling at Cougars. I even stopped at one point and bought a chicken sandwich. Fuck racing.
I knew I couldn’t ride anywhere near the front of that mess, it ain’t the distance or the time, it’s the intensity. Nor, in all honesty, could I expect to handle standing around with all those assholes for hours to try to get near the front of the starting group. I’m an at the back kind of guy. Start easy and taper off.
I figured I had about six hours of tide time in me. And a thirst for cold Mexican lager. Done and done.
And there were a lot of Cougars. Kid, lemme tell ya, they should start calling that one El Tour de Cougar for all the Mature Ladies out there with breast implants and collagen injections. Damn. I was scared at times. Thought I’d end up in the bushed somewhere with my eyes clawed out.
What else happened? Shit. Where do I start? Bacardi was throwing pieces of his banana at me and I pushed him off the road into the gravel. That was fun. For me anyway. I had to apologize to him later. I would have felt bad if he fell off. He got me with some water a few times. And, after Gordo handed me a bottle after the second wash, I got him back with some energy drink on his back. Game, set, match.
I find two things interesting about my finishing number: One, there thousands and thousands of people “racing” that category. And, two, I somehow managed to finish in front of 987 of them.
After taking the first two City Limit sprints, I lost the third to Bacardi. Truth be told, I never saw it coming and it was over before I knew what was happening – par for the course. Still, my two put me at the top for the Inter-Giro points. I lost the finishing sprint to Pineapple. My chain fell off. I don’t know it if mattered. His legs were far fresher than mine (remember, he rode the 80) and he wanted it more. He played division three ice hockey in college, and I knew in my heart that even through we are friends, he would not hesitate to put me in the barriers when it was game time.
I’d like to thank Bacardi Marti and the rest of the folks at Clif Bar for the entry and motivation. It’s nice to know my fat ass can still off the couch a century.by