Monday, November 22, 2010

Tour de Tucson, the two faces of Tucson cycling.


El Tour was absolutely awesome with one ugly exception.  First things first though, for an 8 year old 40 miles may as well be 100.  They have a shorter attention span for one thing.  Then there is the fact that finding a bike with usable gearing in a real event for kid's that size is really hard, although it is getting easier.  Fuji appears to be offering roadbikes in that size now without the suspension forks like my kids have.  I am quite satisfied with the lads now that all is said and done.  There were lows and highs but surprisingly few lows actually.

The expo is always fun, though my boys attention span wasn't quite up to it.  Josh lost his T-Shirt somewhere and we had to go get another one, bless the good folks at PBAA who wouldn't let me pay for another one but made him promise not to lose this one.  Despite my best efforts the boys were too jazzed to get to bed early but did eventually drift off.

The one thing I really like about the shorter distances is being able to see the 109 milers and the peloton cruise by in the morning.  The boys opted to stay in the nice warm hotel room but I went out and watched.  I made the unfortunate discovery the night before that the tape mechanism on my video camera was thrashed and I would be doomed to what I could get onto the SD card in lower resolution and 10 second chunks.  It still worked out alright though as you can see in the video at the bottom.  It's always a rush to see the pro's cruise by as a giant mass ready to consume all before it.

I spent the morning getting everything ready and preparing,  it still seemed like we waited forever for 10:30 to roll around so we could meet the guy I offered to give a lift to the 40 mile start, and head up there.  I don't like starting a ride that late in the day but I understand the safety aspect of waiting for the faster groups to pass before launching all the guys riding at lower levels out onto the course.  It was tough to keep the boys contained and make them sit down for a peanut butter sandwich before heading over to the start line.

Despite being only a forty mile event there were nearly 1200 people there and it was an impressive throng.  We lined up in back and there were several youthful riders and groups back there.  The boys were funny once we finally were able to start several minutes after the first guys went out.  We started off at a walk and the boys kept trying to get into their toe clips but ended up walking some more.  At long last we were clipped in and picking up speed.  I was pleased the boys climbed the first hills strongly and even were passing people.  I constantly had to remind them about proper passing etiquette but I suppose that is par for the course with 8 year olds.

I had forgotten most of the hills along Rancho Vistoso  but the boys were patient with me and didn't get upset with my constant "You know,  I think that this is the last hill before our long downhill stretch" comments.  I even got a chance to shoot some video once the group broke up a bit.  It was still a pretty steady stream of riders though,  I think there was only one time that we really were on our own for a mile or so.

Heading down Moore my elder son pulled ahead and so on Thorneydale, advising my younger son to stay to the right, and keep riding until he saw me,  I bolted off to catch the eldest and make him wait.  I finally got him sighted and was pushing hard to catch up at 25 mph+ to catch him when all of a sudden I am heading into the side of a large grey dually pickup driven by a sailor talking Wilford Brimley type, as I go up onto my front tire and vear sideways out into the lane.   He is dropping F-Words a dozen a sentence on me when I comment on his driving skills out of pure "you almost killed me" adrenaline.  Suddenly,  I am surrounded by cyclists swooping in for the attack and Wilford informs them what he thinks of El Tour in similar fashion and spouts off about having to feed his calves up the road.  He begins to get out of the truck,  like some old fat guy is going to take on 1000 fit cyclists.  no offense to old fat guys of course,  I just don't like the vocal ones of this sort that perhaps have a bit too much attitude for their own good.  Even if they look like kindly old grandpas.  Cooler heads prevailed of course but I left with the parting comment of having to take care of my babies too and caught Joseph.  Thank goodness he made it past this weed of a human being alive.   I suppose I have now finally seen the darker side of the Tucson cycling scene.

Getting ahead of the younger one gave me an opportunity to get some more video of course so that was the bright side of having to speed ahead.  Going down Tangerine the boys hooked up with a 10 year old kid from eastern Arizona and became fast friends.  We'd meet his family when they caught up just as we were leaving the rest stop at the bottom.  I filled up everybody's bottles and grabbed a cookie while the boys were taking care of the results of their appropriate hydration. 

Heading around Airline road,  I make the observation that the guy on the back of this year's tour  jersey has his shorts right over the middle pocket.  It's a terrible location for a banana.  Later I saw a guy with his windbreaker stuffed back there and that was bad too, looking like he actually won a race with a full set of depends on.  Glad I didn't buy it this year.  Funny no one caught that before it got into production.

The kids shot up rattlesnake pass like it was nothing, passing several walkers.  I don't blame the walkers, this is a really hard part of the ride once you are at 90 miles and the headwinds are really taking their toll.  Just before the turn onto Silverbell the lads stop for a drink, and a bunch of team in training lady's have me take their picture.  After cycling between 3 or 4 cameras I turn around and the kids are gone.  Apparently they ran out of patience.  I catch them fairly quickly as they are stopped at the intersection waiting for the officer to wave them through.

The boys would each go through a low point between here and the end but a quick bribe of candy bars with a strong finish motivates them.  My older son pulled ahead on the frontage road and I let him go.  If we hadn't  held him back he probably would have finished under 4 hours easily.  As is he ended up at 4:07 and my youngest came in 4 minutes later.  The evening was fast approaching and it was really pleasant sitting on the grass waiting out the hour until the shuttle came to pick us up.  Fortunately the good folks at the bike check said they would hold our bikes out when they packed up all the unclaimed bikes at 6 to be claimed on Monday morning.   We ended up finally picking up the bikes around 7:30 and after having the local raving derelict inform my boys about wishing on a star and having Santa give them anything they wanted we were off.  I found his instructions a little ironic as it was obvious he either had some disappointed wishes, or else he didn't aim too high.

We made a quick stop along the frontage road so I could change out of my cycling clothes and let my son jettison some unnecessary waste which he stepped in..... barefoot... when my other son pushed him.  He had to smell his brother all the way home so I guess justice was served although unfortunately I also paid.  All in all it was pretty close to a perfect day despite a few unpleasantries.


Roger Peskett said...

A great experience for your boys, and for you I hope too, Paul (well, except for the run-in with the pickup driver). I enjoyed reading about your El Tour. Cheers - Roger.

Dan Trued said...

Very interesting, kids and El Tour. Everyone who rides a lot get those weird experiences like the one you got, I would guess. They warned everyone on the media for a week preceding in order to try to minimize the conflicts that could happen. Tucson drivers have been well trained by us cyclists, but there is always a few that still don't accept our presence.


Sir Bikesalot said...

All in all there were many many more people out cheering everyone on. That's the coolest thing about El Tour I think. I'm pretty lucky I think, that it has taken all these years to run into someone like this on the course. There's been a lot of news that seemed negative to cyclists coming out of Tucson lately and I hope folks like these are still in a very small minority.

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Hi Paul! Thanks for a great post--the boys looked like they had a lot of fun--Cheers! Bruce

Kris said...

I am in no way justifying this person's behavior but it sounds like he lives on the route and had to get to his ranch that is also on the route. I am sure it is frustrating.

I am a cyclist and have not had too many run ins with this type yet. It is scary how easily people like that can put so many people in danger. It shouldn't be a surprise to Tucson drivers anymore, this was th 28th tour and the route does not change that much. The media gives it plenty of attention the week before to let people know.

I have a 4 year old daughter and I can't wait until she is old enough to do events like this! I might get a tag along and do the 40 miler with her next year.

Sir Bikesalot said...

Riding with kids is a lot of fun. Just have to remember to not push them too hard and enjoy what you get from them and not get frustrated when they aren't as fast or can't stay on the bike as long..

I understood his frustration, I just had an issue to his way of showing it. I wonder if he shows the same frustration when he gets stopped by trains or slow moving construction equipment, and does he expect people to treat him differently when he loads his cows up (ranchers often block roads while they do this). I often wonder how drivers would like it if we drove 9000 cars around the course? Would it be easier to pass us if we were in cars like they were? This is one of my pet peeves with drivers singling out cyclists.