Because of illness, Erica Clevenger thought about throwing in the towel and not completing Saturday’s Tucson Medical Center El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino del Sol Resort.
But she didn’t — and it paid off.
Clevenger, a UA student, won her first women’s 104-mile race after a couple of close finishes.
“It was really tough,” Clevenger said. “I felt sick to my stomach for the last couple of days.”
The 21-year-old, who finished 4 hours 18 minutes 57.63 seconds, said she didn’t consider pulling out before the race but had second thoughts during the tour.
“I’ll race regardless but I definitely deeply thought about dropping out when I saw my coach halfway through,” Clevenger said. “I was having a really hard time keeping food down.”
El Tour is four different distance events all around the Tucson Area with about 7,000 riders total.
Clevenger is a chemical engineering junior but she took the semester off to work at Intel, who helped pay for her to race.
Saturday marked Clevenger’s third El Tour. She finished second in both 2013 and 2014. She led at one point a year ago before her chain broke.
Clevenger credited a couple good Samaritans for encouraging her to push through. She didn’t even know their last names, calling them Mike and Bobby.
“I really got to give a shout out to the guys that helped pull me through because they let me hang out on the back and that was really nice of them,” Clevenger said. “They’re just some guys that I met, which is what is so awesome about cycling, I don’t even know them but now I do.”
Clevenger said Mike encouraged her group as a whole and Bobby personally cheered her on after she drifted back from their group and caught up.
“He said ‘don’t do that again,’ pretty firmly,” Clevenger said. “He pushed me up and told me to hang on.”
Last year’s women’s winner, Ally Wilson, sat out this year’s event.
A familiar face won the Rio Nuevo 104-mile race and in record time: 3:54:59.72. Juan Magallanes has raced in El Tour de Tucson twice and won it twice.
Magallanes is from León, Guanajuato, Mexico.
“I’m very happy, it feels very good to represent the team and the country of Mexico,” said Magallanes through a translator.
Magallanes just edged out P&S Group teammate, Ramon Juarez, who finished in 3:54:59.90. Magallanes was number 1865 and Juarez was number 1866.
Magallanes said this race comes at the end of their season and since it is their third to last event, they are peaking. Their season started in February.
John Howard, 68, won the 75-mile race, Nikki Hatton, 66, won the 55-mile and Jason Hepler, 43 won the 40-mile.
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her astronmaut husband, astronaut Mark Kelly rode in the 40-mile event.
Taking third in the 104-mile was the tandem of Chris Demarchi and Philip Tinstman in 3:55:00.56. Demarchi and Tinstman and Magallanes and Juarez achieved 26.4 miles per hour.
David Salomon and Hector Rangel, also of P&S Group, took fifth and sixth.
“I’m very happy that most of our team was in front,” said Magallanes through a translator. “This a very fun event, a very fun ride because of all the washes and different dynamics of the race, so I really enjoyed all of it.”