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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    This local cyclist rolls into his seventh Tour de Tucson


    Courtesy of Victor Riquelme

    Victor Riquelme, a Tucson cyclist and member of the Stone House Group p/b VeloVie Cycling team, speeds around a bend at the UA BioPark Blast Criterium during the 2015 Santa Catalina Omnium. Riquelme is one of thousands of cyclists participating in this weekend’s el Tour de Tucson, which will be his 7th year in the race.

    Thousands of participants, hundreds of hours of training, 104 miles and one epic street-cycling race.

    This is El Tour de Tucson and Victor Riquelme is one of its many competitive cyclists.

    El Tour de Tucson has been one of the city’s signature events for decades. The 100-plus mile-long road race attracts bicyclists and spectators from across the nation every year and is the pinnacle of road-cycling in southern Arizona. The event starts this Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7 a.m. For some, riding in El Tour de Tucson is their goal and for others it’s their start; for Riquelme it was both.

    “I did [El Tour] for the first time in 2008 and that kind of started road cycling for me,” Riquelme said.

    The small property maintenance business owner and Tucson resident took an interest in cycling and decided to begin training for his first El Tour seven years ago. He started by participating in Tucson Shootout group bike rides, which occur every Saturday morning and follow 41 to 60 mile-long paths around the city that begin and end at the UA Mall.

    Riquelme also trained by himself through riding around the city and keeping in shape with other exercise. Today, he tends to spend somewhere between two and four hours a day, five days a week, cycling to keep in shape for whatever his next race may be.

    “To train for a race like [El Tour] you don’t actually go out and ride 110 miles every day,” Riquelme said. “There’s different levels of intensity that I train at on different days — some days I’ll ride really fast and some days, not so much.”

    Riquelme also stressed the importance of nutrition before and during a race. According to Riquelme, a cyclist has to keep energized and hydrated during a race if they hope to finish something as physically demanding as El Tour.

    El Tour may be the event that began his cycling career, but Riquelme has participated in many other races over the years. Typically, large cycling events occur in the spring and summer, making El Tour a unique race. It is one of the few large races held during the fall. Riquelme has participated in races in over 30 different states and has placed highly in a number of them, including a third place finish in the 2011 El Tour.

    Although road cycling seems like a sport for individuals, many athletes are part of cycling teams, including Riquelme, a current member of the Stone House Group cycling team.

    “Road cycling’s a team sport, so without my teammates and the support of the team, it wouldn’t really be possible for us to do what we do,” Riquelme said.

    Although they often train alone, the Stone House Group also participates in races together and a handful of Riquelme’s teammates will ride beside him in El Tour this weekend.

    No matter how much any cyclist prepares for it, El Tour is definitely not a walk — or rather, a ride — in the park. Even after seven years of participating in dozens of races and training for hours every day, Riquelme still finds parts of El Tour challenging.

    “For me, the distance in El Tour is pretty long,” Riquelme explained. “The last 30 miles of the race, you’re normally going into a south wind coming right at you and after three hours, that part of the race is pretty tough.”

    With all of the time and effort that he has put into becoming the cyclist he is today, Riquelme said that he plans to complete El Tour and hopes to finish in an earlier position than years prior.

    “El Tour de Tucson is a big deal,” Riquelme said. “It’s the closest thing you can do in Arizona to doing a big race on TV. It’s cool to be part of that and try to win every year.”

    Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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