Juan Magallanes felt like he was riding in Tuscany, Italy, on Saturday morning — not Tucson.
Surely, he wasn’t the only one that felt like that. Magallanes was, however, the one that handled the cold and wet conditions the best.
The 31-year-old Hermosillo, Sonora, resident, a member of Team P&S, pulled away and never looked back in 107-mile event of the 31st El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino del Sol Resort on the way to his first win in Tucson.
His first-place finish in 4 hours 14 minutes 3.74 seconds, was more than 7 minutes ahead of 43-year-old Michael Sayers, the second-place finisher.
Riders faced cruel, cold conditions all morning. Flooding at Sabino Creek forced between 500 and 800 competitors to either re-route themselves or not finish at all. The race brought at least one accident, at Interstate 10 and Sunset Road.
Magallanes said he was “very happy” to run away with the win.
“The cold was the toughest thing; the cold and the rain,” a shivering Magallanes said through a translator. “Plus, I didn’t have any hot tea or food or anything. I just want to rest now.”
Three straight P&S team members came in behind Sayers to round out the top five, including 24-year-old Rafael Escarcega, who won in 2009 and finished second last year.
About 8,400 cyclists participated in El Tour this year, including 7,085 riders on the main course among the four races. Entrants in the 107-mile ride were given the option of doing a shorter event because of the conditions early Saturday morning.
Given the weather, El Tour founder and president Richard DeBernardis said he was happy with the turnout. Organizers expected 20 to 25 percent of the riders to stay home; almost all of them rode.
“We had just 200 fewer riders than last year,” he said. “Every one of the events started out with rain, and people finished.”
The rain slowed at times but never stopped falling at Armory Park from the start of the race until Magallanes crossed the finish line. That didn’t slow the 2007 Mexican national champion; in fact, it may have helped him.
Magallanes rode with the Mexican national team at the UCI Road World Championships in Tuscany two months ago. The weather there was similar to conditions Saturday.
“Weather was the hardest part,” said Sayers, who has ridden in El Tour four times. “I’ve raced for many years and been in conditions like this before, but it never makes it any easier.”
Magallanes was a no-doubt winner, but there were plenty of questions on the women’s 107-mile race.
Brooke Steck of Oro Valley crossed the finish line first. Minutes later, however, she told race officials that she was misdirected at one point and accidentally cut the course short by about seven miles.
Race officials investigated. Four hours later, they ruled that Oro Valley mother of five Amber Peterman, 44, was the unofficial women’s winner with a time of 5:22:39. Erin Borg, a 33-year-old from Scottsdale, was second among female riders in 5:33:29.
“I was with that front pack, but I never really caught up with it again,” Peterman said. “Winning on an awful day is pretty good. Now I can check off doing El Tour in the rain.”