November 23, 2010 on 6:00 am | In Sponsorship, TriSports.com/Eclipse Racing | 2 Comments
It was a tough day on the road for the TriSports/Eclipse cycling team at the 2010 El Tour de Tucson where riders battled 30 mph winds for the majority of the 109 mile bike ride. Team member Victor Riquelme reflects on his ride, battle with leg cramps, wind, and a little bit of barf…
November 20th was the El Tour de Tucson, a local fun ride/race held every November that always draws an eclectic crowd. Two unpaved, dry river crossings are distinguishing features of the course. The second crossing comes around half way through the race, and with a very narrow and sandy kilometer through the Sabino Creek is an extremely key point in the race. Because there is normally a peloton of 200+ riders going into the second crossing, anyone not entering the sand in the top 10 will often get caught behind countless piles of crashed riders. The course this year was 109 miles long, run counter clockwise around the city, with a strong 30mph south wind picking up through the day.
We brought a large team to the start, and formulated a plan to ride on the front for the entire first half of the race. Because of the incredible size of the El Tour peloton we needed to fight all day if we wanted to have any chance of contesting the finish. The P&S Specialized team from Hermosillo, Sonora has dominated the El Tour in recent years and have won the past 3 editions.
The race did not start off fast, and there were crashes in the first few miles including one on the very front which took out California fastman Rahsaan Bahati and 3 time Tour de France yellow jersey winner Greg Lemond. Both were able to rejoin the race. Myself and Brian Cornelius both fought to stay on the front early, and I got to approach the first wash in very good position. I sprinted into the river ahead of the main field, and was able to ride the entire dirt section at full speed. Once back on the road I was quickly joined by Chad Beyer (BMC Pro Cycling), but it was far too early in the race for a break to get away with any chance of winning the race. I was soon back in the main field, and an early break went up the road. The entire team rode to keep me near the front at all times, and a few of the guys also got up to help with the pacemaking.
In the final kilometers on Snyder Road approaching the second wash the speed increased dramatically, and the early breakaway had been whittled away by the very windy conditions to a lone rider, Jake Rubelt(RideClean). Entering the neighborhood Justin Orkney gave all that he had for the team, stringing the peloton into a single file line. I attacked 200 meters from the wash, and launched onto the narrow dirt road at full speed. I rode to the riverbed, dismounted, and sprinted on foot across the deep sand. I exited the wash alone and ahead of the main field. Jake Rubelt was still up the road, and was clinging to a 30 second lead. I was soon joined by a select group including notable riders – Jame Carney(RideClean), Eric Marcotte(Pista Palace) Chad Beyer(BMC Pro Cycling), Alex Howes(Felt/Holowesko Partners), Rahsaan Bahati(Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling), Nicholaus Schreiber(Landis/Trek), Thomas Jondall(Landis/Trek), and three P&S Specialized riders.
A very hilly and windy section of road after the second wash always finishes the peloton, and this year was no different. We caught Jake Rubelt(RideClean), the lone survivor from the early breakaway, on Sabino Canyon Road. 20 of us remained in the lead group, and we were told that behind us was nothing but small shattered remnants of the main field. After a volley of attacks climbing out of Sabino Canyon I found myself in a 3 man break containing Phoenix tough guy Eric Marcotte, but without P&S Specialized in our group we knew that the move would not stick and waited for the catch. Once we were re-absorbed P&S started hitting us very hard, with coordinated and repeated attacks on the climb up Oracle Road. Eventually Eric Marcotte(Pista Palace), Nicholaus Schreiber(Landis/Trek), and Hector Rangel(P&S Specialized) were allowed to go clear, and opened up a few minutes lead in the crosswinds in Oro Valley.
On the long downhill that is Tangerine road I was hit with some very serious leg cramps that rendered me unable to pedal, and I was forced to watch (in agonizing pain), as the front of the race rode away from me. After a few minutes the spasms subsided slightly, and I was able to pedal again. I put my head down and caught back up to the 1st chase, which was now around 18 riders strong. Up the road were only 2 riders now, Marcotte and Rangel. We were entering the last 20 miles of the race, which had us riding directly into a very prominent 30mph headwind. Jame Carney(RideClean) had done nearly all of the work in the crosswinds through Oro Valley, and continued to work very hard as we rode south. The time gap to the break continued to shrink, and as we came down the Frontage Road were in plain sight just 1 minute up the road.
With less than 10 miles remaining in the race myself and Thomas Jondall(Landis/Trek) attacked, and attempted to bridge across to the leading break. We made up half the distance, bringing the gap down to just 30 seconds, and the chase appeared to let us go. With just 5 kilometers remaining a very fast P&S Specialized rider, Rafael Escarcega, rode by Thomas and I like we were standing still. We were immediately caught by the chase, and I hung on to the back until the left turn onto Congress where I promptly cramped, threw up all over myself, and finished last out of the chase. Eric Marcotte(Pista Palace) outsprinted his breakaway companion for the win, with Hector Rangel(P&S Specialized) and Rafael Escarcega(P&S Specialized) sealing the 2nd and 3rd steps on the podium.