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.
Tucsonan Rob Alvarez took home first place, posting a time of 4 hours 3 minutes 0.28 seconds.
Alvarez received a hug from his mother as he caught his breath following the endurance race.
“We had a super-strong team,” Alvarez said. “We knew we had to stick together. Myself and (second-place finisher) David Salomon stayed close and we kept attacking.”
Alvarez’s team members let him pass in the final sprint to earn the top place finish.
The 41-year old has competed near 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 Salomon, David’s sister, was the top finisher among women with a time of 4:10:18. The Salomon siblings are from Hermosillo and compete for the Mexican powerhouse P&S Group, who joined forces with Monster Media Racing this year.
Anna Sparks finished in 4:14:33, the second-best total among women for the second year in a row.
“I had good legs and I saved energy for the final 15 miles,” Betsabee Salomon said through her translator. “I decided to move up.”
Saturday marked Betsabee Salomon’s second time competing in El Tour. She finished sixth last year.
The day belonged to the Monster Media Racing/P&S Group team. 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.
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 about 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.”