Snow birds flock to Arizona for 2012 El Tour de Tucson; Marcotte wins again

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Update: Nov. 17, 2012 — Defending champion Eric Marcotte won his third straight El Tour de Tucson on Saturday in a head-to-head battle at the finish against Rafael Escarcega, the 2009 winner.

A 32-year-old resident of Scottsdale, Marcotte finished the 111-mile course in 4:13, about six minutes faster than last year.

Linnea Herbertson, a University of Arizona grad student, won the women’s division in a time of 4:39.

Former Olympic cyclist John Howard, 65, crashed near the finish line when he ran into a parked motorcycle. Howard competed in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics; he was famous for setting the land-speed record on a motor-paced bicycle — 152.2 mph. His injuries were not considered serious.

This was the 30th annual El Tour de Tucson, presented by the Perimeter Bicycling Association. The perimeter ride around Tucson regularly draws 8,000 to 9,000 cyclists, some to race and others to enjoy the weather.

All results at Perimeter Bicycling.

Nov. 18, 2011 — Snow, rain and cold — or a combination of all three — conspire to bring an end to the recreational bicycling event season across most of the US by November. Not so in Arizona, however.

El Tour de Tucson is the state’s biggest one-day bike ride, drawing thousands of cyclists who want to get in just one more century before the end of the year. The forecast calls for cloudy skies with temperatures in the low to mid 70s.

This is the 29th anniversary of the fund-raiser presented by the Perimeter Bicycling Association, which calls it the largest “perimeter” bike ride in the US because it encircles Tucson. More than 9,000 cyclists are expected, among them baseball’s Barry Bonds.

Sorry, but all online and in-person registrations closed as of midnight Thursday (Nov. 17).

The El Tour Bike Fitness and Health Expo at the Tucson Convention Center is where participants can pick up their packets until 9 p.m. Friday. The Expo features more than 100 booths for cycling gear, clothing and nutritional products.

Ride options

The bike ride features routes of 111, 85, 60 and 42 miles this year, as well as a fun ride for kids. The rides start at different locations, but all end at a new location this year – Armory Park, 221 S. 6th Ave. Check the website for maps and starting locations.

Shuttle buses will take them back to their cars parked at their starting points.

Bike racers who meet certain criteria can join the platinum category for the century ride. These pros, amateurs and other fast cyclists enter the 111-mile course first to avoid accidents with slower riders. Other cyclists line up based on their expected finish time, and start showing up at the start at 4:30 a.m. to get a good position.

The ride is unique in that riders have to dismount and walk their bikes across dry crossings of the Lower Santa Cruz River and Sabino Creek.

Also, cyclists are reminded that this isn’t a closed course. A 91-year-old motorist turned into a group of 10 cyclists in 2008, injuring five, one with a life-threatening brain injury. Organizers are spending $150,000 in security costs this year.

All the proceeds go to charities — Tu Nidito Family Services, the American Parkinson Disease Association, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Water for People, and Global Sports Alliance, among others. In 2010, cyclists raised $1.6 million for the charities.

Because of the sheer size of the event, about 125 bike patrol cyclists will ride the route to help with mechanical problems and injuries. They’ll also be on the lookout for rules infractions.

Last year, Eric Marcotte of Munds Park, Arizona, won the race portion of the ride, finishing 109 miles 4:32. This year’s race is slightly longer at 111 miles.

Many cyclists are just in this for the recreation. The Michael McKisson at Tucson Velo writes that he and some friends will represent cargo bike owners and transportation cyclists at the event.

Also on hand will be 11 members of Team Type 1 to represent those with Type 1 diabetes.

For all the latest information on  El Tour de Tucson, go to the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America’s update page.

Image of cyclists walking across Santa Cruz River in 2003 from dqtaz at

See also: Nov. 22, 2008 — Salomon wins race; hit & run driver hits 10 cyclists

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