Roughly 6,000 cyclists from around the world are expected to participate in the Tucson Medical Center El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino del Sol on Saturday.
Founded in 1983, El Tour has become a fixture in the cycling world. It is the largest participatory sporting event in the state of Arizona and the seventh-largest cycling event in the United States.
“It’s amazing to be here 35 years later and see this development,” Richard DeBernardis, founder of Perimeter Bicycling said. “Tucson has become known as one of the best biking towns in America.”
El Tour features five events for cyclists of all ages including the competitive 106-mile race.
The 106-mile race begins at 7 a.m., by Armory Park in downtown Tucson. The ensuing events will kick off later in the morning and early into the afternoon.
Mexico’s P&S Racing team has dominated the men’s competitive races recently. Jillian Bearden, a transgender cyclist, won the women’s race last year.
Event organizers expect about 6,000 cyclists in this year’s El Tour outdoor races — and another 3,000 in Indoor El Tour. El Tour is projected to bring between $13 million to $20 million to the Southern Arizona economy.
This year’s El Tour is being dedicated to Leila and Totton Warfield. The two, both 93, have been volunteering at the event since 1984.
“It’s the year of the volunteers,” DeBernardis said. “We work with 2,000 volunteers who are as important to cycling as the cyclists. You can’t do it without them.”
The City of Tucson is using El Tour weekend to kick off a public bike share program for Tucson residents, students, and visitors.
Tugo Bike Share includes 36 stations across the city of Tucson. Those who want to use the program can choose from an $8 daily pass to an $80 yearly fee.
“I think we see a lot of people turning to cycling as a way to start an exercise program,” Julia Strange of Tucson Medical Center said. “Cycling allows them to be active and get outside. The cycling movement in Tucson is growing.”
Multiple streets will be closed Saturday due to the event.
Cyclists can expect near perfect biking conditions Saturday, with a forecast of mostly sunny skies and a high of 80 degrees.
Armory Park is the finish line for all the events, and cyclists must finish by 5 p.m.
“We need the whole community working together,” DeBernardis said. “This is an event for all of us. Make it your ride.”