35th El Tour de Tucson

Tucson’s Rob Alvarez, second from left, leads his Monster Media Racing team across the finish line to win Saturday’s El Tour.

Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star

The blur of cyclists rushed through downtown Tucson late Saturday morning, and onlookers could hardly discern the leader of a pack.

Six cyclists all competing under the banner of Monster Media Racing glided through the finish line at the Tucson Medical Center El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino del Sol’s 106-mile race.

One of Tucson’s own, Rob Alvarez, took home first place in the men’s race. 

Alvarez received a hug from his mother as he caught his breath following the endurance race, which he won with an unofficial time of 4 hours 3 minutes.

“We had a super-strong team,” Alvarez said. “We knew we had to stick together. Myself and David Solomon (second place finisher) stayed close and we kept attacking.”

In the final sprint of the race, Alvarez’s team members let him pass to earn the top place finish.

The 41-year old has competed towards the front of the pack in El Tour for the past 15 years but was winless heading into this year’s event.

“These guys are really generous and nice in letting me have it since I’m a local guy,” Alvarez said. “That’s just what teammates do.”

Betsabee Solomon, sister of David, won the women’s race. The Solomon siblings are from Hermosillo and compete for the Mexican powerhouse P&S Group, who joined forces with Monster Media Racing this year.

Anna Sparks took second place in the women’s race for the second consecutive year.

“I had good legs and I saved energy for the final 15 miles,” Solomon said through her translator. “I decided to move up.”

This was Solomon’s second time competing in El Tour. She finished sixth last year.

The day belonged to Monster Media Racing. The national cycling team took the top six places in the men’s side, the top spot in the women’s race and also won the male-female tandem race.

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Rob Alvarez (16) leads the pack on the turn from westbound Ina Road to northbound Oracle Road during the 35th El Tour de Tucson bicycle race on Nov. 18, 2017.

The cycling team is based out of San Diego but spans across the country.

“It’s a clean sweep for us today,” said Chris Demarchi, a co-owner of MMR. “For us, it’s all back giving back. Clean riders, having a good time. Nobody is making any money to do it.”

It was Alvarez, the men’s champion, who recruited members of the P&S Group to join MMR to form a power group for El Tour.

Alvarez traveled to Mexico to train with P&S Group members in the weeks leading up to Saturday's race.

“Alvarez was instrumental in bringing those guys over,” Demarchi said. “They’re on what we call ‘The Hit Squad.’ The team travels throughout the United States and competes in other races.”

Cyclists raced in ideal weather Saturday, facing little to no headwind to go with a balmy sky.

The optimal conditions surely contributed to the near-record time on the men’s side. The top pack crossed the finish line a remarkable seven minutes quicker than last year’s leaders.

As a herd of MMR cyclists huddled together after the event, teammates embraced one another and congratulated Alvarez on a race well won.

“I’ve been knowing about this race since I was 10 years old and I’ve always supported it so to finally pull it off, it’s a dream come true,” Alvarez said. “It definitely couldn’t have been done without a team and all the support around Tucson. It takes a village.”