A local tradition continues with Saturday’s El Tour de Tucson. Here’s what you need to know.

Arizona Daily Star

Southern Arizona’s largest participatory sports event returns to the streets on Saturday, when more than 7,500 riders descend on the Banner-University Medicine 39th El Tour de Tucson.

Here’s a look at what you need to know — and what areas to visit (and avoid) — during the big ride.

Who rides?

Between 7,500 and 8,000 riders, including at least one from every state, are expected to take part in El Tour.

Riders can choose between three distances and three “fun rides.” The event starts at 7 am and should be finished around 4 pm

The 102-mile ride — organizers call it “The Century” — is the most popular of the routes. As of Nov. 5, 40% of all riders had signed up for the longest distance. Nearly as many — 34% — had signed up for the 63-mile “Metric Century” ride, and 19% had signed up for the 32-mile “Metric Half-Century” ride. (Things sound longer in metric, don’t they?) About 7% of the signups are for the “Fun Ride,” one of the unique events during El Tour day. Many fun riders are kids; they can choose between distances of 10 miles, 5 miles or 1 mile.

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According to data provided by El Tour organizers, 69% of all participants are men, and 63% of all riders hail from Arizona. The majority of all riders — 51%, as of Nov. 5 — are between the ages of 36 and 65, and 18% are 65 and older.

A staggering 43% are riding for the first time. Fifteen riders have taken part in 30 El Tours or more.

What are they riding?

According to El Tour data, 92% of all riders will be using a road bike or a hybrid, with 3% on mountain bikes, 2% on e-bikes and 2% on tandems. A handful of riders will use either handcycles or trikes.

When does it start?

Riders can pick up their packets starting Thursday at noon inside the Tucson Convention Center. TCC is also the start/finish line for the ride. Expect more than 80 food and merchandise vendors at the convention center.

There will be live music starting at 5 pm Thursday and Friday and noon on Saturday.

What is a prologue?

This year’s event will include a first-ever VIP “prologue” featuring Olympians George Hincapi, Mari Holden and Bobby Julich; world and national champions Kristin Armstrong and Rashaan Bahati; and El Tour stage winner Jens Voigt.

The three-night experience includes coaching from the pros; access to a mechanic; a cycling kit, bib, shorts and socks; three nights at a hotel; and an entry into El Tour. The prologue was capped at 50 people, and quickly sold out.

“The Prologue has never been done in El Tour, so we’ve excited to have some of the big names in town to show off our weather and the atmosphere at El Tour,” El Tour president TJ Juskiewicz said. “Many have trained here in the past, so they’re excited to return to help train others and ride in El Tour.”

What’s closed?

Saturday brings multiple road closures. Among them:

Eastbound Aviation Highway;

Southbound South Houghton Road, from Mary Ann Cleveland Way to Sahuarita Road;

Northbound and westbound Main Street, from Cushing Street to 18th Street;

Westbound and eastbound Church Street from Stone Avenue to El Paso Street.

Information about all road closures can be found at ElTourdeTucson.org.

“We want to make sure everyone is prepared for our road closures as they plan their day,” Juskiewicz said.


What: Banner-University Medicine 39th El Tour de Tucson

When: Race starts at 7 am

The 38th annual El Tour de Tucson had nearly 6,500 participants, with two international cyclists winning top spots.

Mexico’s Gerardo Ulloa was the first to cross the finish line following Saturday’s 102-mile bicycle race and Cuba’s Marlies Mejías had the fastest time among female cyclists. Video by Jesse Tellez/Arizona Daily Star.

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