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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    El Faithful roll out for El Tour

    Thousands of riders get off their bikes and hike across the Santa Cruz River on Saturday morning during the El Tour De Tucson. The 25th incarnation of this annual event was the largest yet, drawing more than 10,000 cyclists from across the nation.
    Thousands of riders get off their bikes and hike across the Santa Cruz River on Saturday morning during the El Tour De Tucson. The 25th incarnation of this annual event was the largest yet, drawing more than 10,000 cyclists from across the nation.

    Participating in his 25th consecutive El Tour de Tucson bicycle race, Jay Rochlin, a UA journalism professor, can recall the early days of the annual event when flashlights and bullhorns guided the race in the darkness of Sabino Canyon.

    The race has made significant progress since then, as Rochlin was just one of about 10,000 U.S. cyclists, as well as thousands more spectators, present for the event’s 25th anniversary Saturday.

    With University Medical Center as its title sponsor, the event raised nearly $1.5 million for children and family services and the fights against lymphoma, leukemia and Parkinson’s disease. In its history, the event has raised more than $30 million dollars for such causes, said Melanie Rineer, publicity director for El Tour.

    El Tour included several races, ranging from the 33-mile novice event to the 109-mile expert race. Also integrated was a four-mile race called the Kids and Family Fun Ride.

    To commemorate the anniversary, the League of American Bicyclists named El Tour its 2007 National Bike Rally, allowing LAB members to take part in two other bike races Thursday and Friday. The rally also allowed participation in several pre-El Tour activities, including a dinner, orientation and fitness expo, according to a LAB statement.

    Rochlin, who finished his 66-mile race in about 5.5 hours, insisted that relaxing and having fun should take priority over one’s finishing time.

    “”I just like to ride and enjoy myself,”” he said.

    Jared Palmer, a cycling enthusiast for 27 years, made the 2,000-mile drive from Naperville, Ill., for the race in Tucson but did not finish.

    “”I gave it everything I had,”” he said. “”How can I be disappointed in that?””

    Palmer said he plans to continue competing.

    “”I’m 58

    As long as they keep doing it, I’ll keep coming. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing like it.

    -Jared Palmer,
    cyclist

    years old, and I don’t plan on quitting any time soon,”” he said. “”I’ll be riding until I can’t get on my bike anymore.””

    Greg Reynolds, a Phoenix resident who grew up in Tucson, finished his 80-mile circuit in just over eight hours and said the event was grueling but worth it.

    “”It took a lot out of me, but I did it,”” he said. “”I’d say overall that this has been a pretty nice homecoming.””

    Spectators, among them Tucson residents and bicycling supporters, got a chance to see some of the best cyclists in the country.

    “”This truly is a great experience,”” said Kathy Simmons, a spectator who tries to attend El Tour every year. “”It’s a lot of fun for the riders, the people watching, everyone.””

    Although the bike race is the most heralded, it is not the only El Tour event of the year. The El Tour season began with a 5-kilometer and 10k run/walk on Sept. 16 and Oct. 28, Rineer said.

    For the next three years, UMC will be the event’s sponsor, Richard J. DeBernardis, El Tour’s founder and executive director, said in September.

    El Tour will keep Palmer coming back to Tucson, year after year.

    “”As long as they keep doing it, I’ll keep coming,”” he said. “”As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing like it.””

    Indeed, part of El Tour’s charm is in its ability to bring such a wide variety of participants together regardless of age or ability, Rochlin said.

    “”It’s a lovely day for Tucson, and it could not have been better,”” he said. “”It’s just an incredible way to get out there and ride.””

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