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Transgender cyclist is top female finisher at El Tour de Tucson
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El Tour de Tucson

Transgender cyclist is top female finisher at El Tour de Tucson

  • Updated

History repeated itself in Saturday’s Tucson Medical Center El Tour de Tucson sponsored by Casino del Sol. History was also made.

The P&S Racing Team continued its dominance of El Tour by taking three of the top four spots in the landmark 106-mile race. Hermosillo’s Hector Hugo Rangel won the race with a time of 4 hours 10 minutes 47.12 seconds. Rangel, a former Olympian for the Mexican national team, rode in a pack with the other top finishers before pulling away down the stretch.

“It’s all about the team effort,” Rangel, 36, said through a translator. “It’s just about perseverance. We were determined.”

Determined was a good word to describe Jillian Bearden, who won the women’s 106-mile race in 4:36.07.

Bearden, who is transgender, rode for the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance — SAGA — to promote gender inclusion within cycling. Saturday marked the 36-year-old’s first El Tour, which is Southern Arizona’s largest participatory sporting event.

“It was a tough course, especially after the river crusts,” Bearden said. “I had sweat in my eyes.”

Bearden, a Colorado Springs native, has been on the forefront of change within the sport. She has previously tested with the International Olympic Committee and USA cycling and works with international cycling groups to promote inclusion.

Bearden has raced competitively for 10 years and is sponsored by Naked Women’s Racing, a team based out of Colorado.

“Last January, the IOC released a document that said so much that you can compete if you fall under these criterias,” Bearden said. “With that being said, more policies are coming out, so there’s more work to be done to have acceptance worldwide and not just nationally.”

Bearden recently founded Transnational Women’s Cycling Team, the world’s first transgender cycling group. The team debuts in 2017.

Bearden hopes Saturday’s win can encourage other riders.

“It’s absolutely huge,” Bearden said. “We’re at a moment of time — especially now — where not only do we have to come out but we have to be positive. We have to come together in solidarity and move this country in a direction that is accepting of all.”

Ulisis Castillo-Solo of Team Jelly Belly finished second in the men’s race, while two of Rangel’s P&S teammates — David Salomon and Juan Magallenes — placed third and fourth, respectively. P&S has dominated El Tour in recent years; Magallanes won in 2015 and 2013, and Salomon won in 2008. Hermosillo’s Rafael Escarzega and Carlos Hernandez won in 2009 and 2007, respectively.

Members of Tucson’s Stone House Group said last week they were determined to end P&S’s run. Stone House’s Rob Alvarez finished fifth with a time of 4:22:18, 12 minutes behind the winner; teammate Brian Forbes finished 12th.

If the men’s race was about continuing a dynasty, then the women’s race was about something else breaking convention. Bearden took a few moments after the race to catch her breath. Tears ran down her cheek.

Then she jumped back on her bike.

“I’m going to do Mount Lemmon tomorrow,” she said.

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