Call it El Tour of Duty.
Six riders on stationary bikes in Afghanistan had already completed their El Tour de Tucson when Troy Peterson and 9,000 others took off this morning in Tucson.
The six - from the Army, the Air Force and the Navy - competed from a military base there, through the LeMond Fitness Indoor El Tour.
Peterson, a retired Army first sergeant major, initially enlisted one friend - Army Command Sgt. Major Joseph Burke- to virtually compete with him for a platinum medal.
The two were buddies in the Army. They recently reconnected on Facebook and chose the virtual ride as way to encourage each other's fitness goals.
"I said, 'Take a look at riding it with me. I'm going to do it in 4 hours, 30 minutes. You can do what you can do.' "
Peterson is riding the 109-mile tour with the TriSports Cycling/Eclipse Racing team. He said Burke plans to ride more than 400 minutes, about 6 1/2 hours.
In Afghanistan, Burke rounded up some teammates and asked Peterson if he would send some El Tour T-shirts.
When Richard DeBernardis, president and CEO of Perimeter Bicycling, received that request, he provided complimentary registration and sent off the T-shirts.
The Afghan team did its ride on Friday, using the elevation changes of the El Tour route to set the resistance levels on their stationary bikes.
The team is among 350 virtual riders who signed up to participate this year, said Michelle Wyatt, volunteer director for Perimeter Bicycling, which stages the ride.
The idea of Indoor El Tour is to get riders who can't or won't ride the streets to participate in the fitness event, Wyatt said. They choose minutes, rather than miles as their goal.
About 150 riders signed up worldwide in this fifth year of the event, Wyatt said. Cyclists report their hours on the honor system or have them certified by trainers at Gold's Gym or Arizona Health if they want to compete for awards.
Wyatt said the other riders registered from Afghanistan are Army Col. Robert Karmazin, Navy Capt. Chip Walter, Army Lt. Col. Richard Reese, Air Force Maj. Eileen LaBrecque and Army Maj. Jennifer Knies.
• A map of the route. Page A5
• Team Colleen helps keep the memory of one avid cyclist alive. Sports, Page B1
• Find a list of past winners at azstarnet.com/eltour
Contact reporter Tom Beal at email@example.com or 573-4158.