32nd Annual El Tour de Tucson – 2014 Race Review
Click here for 2014 Race Results
Competing in this year’s race was a far cry from last years wet and rainy day. This year it was cold in the morning, yet it warmed up nicely by the end. Of course, for Phillip Tinstman the weather seemed to be no problem at all. Phillip Tinstman finished as the first place winner overall with an astonishing official time of 4:07:06.98, averaging 25.1 mph!
This year there were approximately 6,700 total riders. About 1,200 short from last year’s rainy event. I really enjoyed this year’s race, and not just because I made Platinum with a finish time of 4:54:57.57 and an average of 21.1 mph, but the whole atmosphere was upbeat and energetic! Cyclists from all over the world stopped by our booth at the expo the two days before the race – cyclists from Canada, Michigan, Mexico, Colorado, California, New York, Utah, Idaho, France, Germany, and more. I even met an older gentleman about 68 years old who completed 40 full length Ironman triathlons. What an inspiration to meet so many dedicated cyclists, new cyclists, and of course the returning cycling junkies who just can’t get enough. Like always, we were giving away a couple of bikes to everyone who signed up for our monthly newsletter. This year we had two fat tire beach cruisers. So many people had questions as to where you would ride them… often I would simply answer: “With tires like that you can ride them anywhere you want.” And that is the truth, those bikes are seriously fun to cruise around on.
El Tour de Tucson is typically one of the largest cycling events in the country and you can feel it in the air as you walk around and participate in this great ride/race. This year our firm sponsored 12 cyclists and we formed a team for the race. Most of the team wanted to make the Platinum cutoff. A few of them had already made the cutoff the prior year. To make Platinum a cyclist has to finish the course in less than 5 hours. This puts you in the top 15-16% of the cyclists competing. Your only chance at making Platinum is to line up early at the start line to get behind the fast cyclists, and at 3:30am it was a very brisk 41 degrees when many of us began to line up. Fortunately this year we had our team pop up shade setup and ready complete with hot chocolate, propane heaters, blankets and the works. So many of us on the Bike Accident Attorneys Team simply put our bikes in position at the start line and then made our way quickly to the team tent to stay warm until the start at 7:00am. The stories and nervous ticks played out well in the early morning hours and we mostly just laughed a ton resting warmly and comfortably until the start.
The race started out with a pretty quick pace continued for the first several miles with surges in speed and sudden bottle neck slowing that required braking so much that you could smell the carbon fiber race wheels all around you hot and burning with friction. Then of course quick sprints to catch up with the lead peloton, followed up with more sudden stops made for higher heart rates for most of us for the first 5 miles of the race. Lots of cyclists yelling out “slowing slowing slowing” in a panic of getting rear ended.
Somewhere in the 7-10 mile range there was the first wash we had to go through. This was comical at best. Some tried to ride through the sandy wash and most unclipped and walked through it. I was towards the front of the pack at this time and attempted to ride through it navigating around the walking cyclists. Then all of sudden one guy in front of me decided to unclip and walk without any notice. I tried to dodge him but to no avail I found myself unclipping one foot and braking too fast and instantly I was over my handle bars and face planted in the soft sand. Yes, the sand was soft as I can testify how soft as my face left a nice imprint in it! Feeling lucky it was sand and not at any other part of the course I checked out my bike briefly and began running it up the hill with the rest of the herd. Clipped in and kept going none the wiser of any other issues.
About 10-15 miles later a team mate riding alongside me notice my rear skewer was loosened and completely open. Every time I hit a bump I felt like my entire back end of my bike was coming out or my tire was so flat that the road conditions would surely require a complete bike tune up after the race. Of course, my skewer being completely open explained what I had been feeling the whole time! The roads are in fact terrible – but not that terrible. I had to tighten my skewer now or risk a dangerous accident later on. I must have kicked it open in my sandy face plant early on in the race. I felt lucky that nothing too terrible had happened thus far and decided that tightening it was a must. Stopping now for the 2nd time (1st the face plant) I quickly tightened the skewer and watched the main peloton surge forward. I jumped back on and sprinted to catch them. 2 miles later and completely winded I resigned to the fact that I was not going to catch them alone.
I found myself riding solo for a couple of miles until the next fastest peloton swallowed me up and offered the sweet relief of drafting. Sooner or later we ran into the first of several hills and I slowly fell off the back and met up with another quick group that I stayed with up until I had to use the restroom. Ever since we lined up at the start of the race I had to use the facilities BADLY. But with no time before the start I just decided to hold it. That decision came back to haunt me at about mile 60ish I couldn’t hold it any longer. A teammate riding with me also couldn’t hold it any longer. We decided that it was worth the stop and that we would try to make up the time later. We stopped at an aid station, grabbed a banana and hit the porta-john. It didn’t take long after that to realize that the stop was totally worth it. We both felt like new!
It was a grind the rest of the way to the finish line, especially the last 15-20 miles of head wind along the frontage road back into town. We did our fair share of pulling and kept our eye on the clock to make sure we came in under 5 hours. Then amidst the cramping and fatigue, we rolled in across the finish line with about 5 minutes to spare. What a relief. What a cool day. I love competing, and pushing alongside others who are giving their all for a goal. Its always a great experience and builds incredible camaraderie.
Of the 12 cyclists who competed, all but one made Platinum status. It was awesome to see so many on our team do so well. It’s even better to learn that most of the cyclists competing that day were able to avoid bike accidents and serious injury. In race that size there is always bound to be some injuries and some bicycle accidents. Racing can be tricky business with some many cyclists competing for a fast time. Fortunately this year there were only a few accidents and injuries. One of my own friends went over his handlebars and broke his collarbone. Even one accident is one too many. I love this sport, and love that my job is representing my fellow cyclists. Hope you all enjoyed the race as much as we did and look forward to seeing you out there again next year!