Tuesday, November 25, 2008

El Tour Race Report.

El Tour de Tucson

A few facts: First and foremost it’s a charity event with over 8000 participants. There are a number of distances with close to 5000 of the entrants entering the 109 mile category. In that category you can enter as a pro which allows you to line up at the head of the pack in a reserved section. If you have a CAT ½ license or have done the event previously in under 5 hours for males or 6 for females you are reserved a section behind the pro’s in the platinum category and so on. Many individuals are just trying to finish the event however the racing is very serious upfront with many races forming up within the race. (see my face in the picture, I’m suffering sprinting for the finish and I haven’t sprinted for anything all year. Ok I can’t sprint but that beside the point, there was a group of riders I was not going to let cross the line before me)

I showed up at the platinum pre-race meeting a minute late and thought I was in the wrong room. There were hundreds and hundreds of riders, at first I thought I was at sales convention. I was sort of freaked out.I was up at 4:00AM as my lovely wife Elaine wanted to be upfront in the Gold category which allowed me to get her settled and have two breakfasts. As I headed into the platinum staging area at 5:30AM there were already 200-300 riders in front of me.

The game was on at 7:00AM with the big guns leading everyone out. Now there is a reason I don’t like crits and this was sort of like a crit with 400-500 people in the peloton. Within a very short distance riders had to cross the first of 2 dry river beds. If you dared to get off your bike you would have been run over and never found again so I had to put my amazing cycle cross skills to work, I have none ,and the freak-out meter was in the red. Next the whole group was stopped at a rail crossing by a freight train which allowed the peloton to bunch back up.

The riding was crazy for me until the next river crossing. There were six crashes within 1-2 bike lengths of me and I heard many others. I was up on curbs and even closed my eyes once as I threaded my way through one mess of bikes and bodies. Then guys would get flats in the middle of all of this and you had to avoid nailing them. Lastly I just did not have the skill to find my way to the front of the unwashed masses. Every time I thought I was getting there I would get boxed in and 100 riders would move up from the other side of the road. Now I know Trev and the lot of you like this kind of Sh!!!t but there was no joy in Whoville for this Rando rider. The race was all surges, at every corner and even on the straight sections, for no discernable reason; this took a real toll on my legs.

Most , if not all riders were off their bikes at the second river crossing running like mad through the sand etc. I was still with the lead group and the motorcycle escort to that point however I picked something up in my cleat and couldn’t clip in. By the time I got that sorted out I was off the back. Now we were into my kind of racing. A peloton formed up that fluctuated up to 30 riders and was eventually whittled down to 15 by the end of the race. Lots of long hard relentless pulls with a pretty good group of guys. We had one crazy Mexican in the group, that’s another story, but for the most part people tried to do what they could. When we turned south the wind took the stuffing out of the group but it was my kind of gig so the pace stayed up.

It should be noted that there was a group of 40 riders chasing us down who eventually caught us going into the finish line which had close to 60 of us doing 2 ninety degree turns then sprinting for the finish, crazy.

So great riding, great suffering and great fun, I was done in 4:49 a tad slower than my 2004 time but a much harder ride.I think I’ll go back next year, you should all come.


PS: Elaine was in under 7 hours earning her a Gold medal
Photo Courtesy of Steve of PBase.com


Paul Anderson said...

Stephen - great race report and a great race. Congrats to Elaine on a great time too.

Thanks for the race report!


DalRock said...

did you ride your cross bike?. sounds gnarly.

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