El Tour de Tucson, one of the largest bicycling events in the United States, will soon be taking place in our fair city. Since the 1980s The Perimeter Bicycling Association of America has hosted an event that now draws tens of thousands of spectators every year and nearly another 10,000 in participants. El Tour brings together cycling enthusiasts and riders of all ages and abilities, from the brand new to internationally recognized and distinguished professionals. The ride is split into four different distances: 111, 85, 60, or 42 miles. Each of these different tour events begins at a different location across town with the 111-mile starting at 7 a.m. and the 42-mile event beginning at Noon. The route weaves through and around the city and ranges from rolling to moderately hilly, with the 45-mile route being fairly flat and a much easier ride for beginners.
This year is particularly exciting for the tour as The Pima County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an additional $25,000 from its Contingency Fund earlier this month to support the annual El Tour de Tucson. The county has long provided funds for the economically significant El Tour and is now providing over $50,000 for the annual riding event. Managing the 100-plus-mile route is an extremely expensive task. Thousands of spectators leave behind thousands of pieces of trash, as well as the safety concerns as El Tour will be taking riders through some of Tucson’s busiest intersections.
Those looking to participate in this legendary event still have time to sign up for the ride, but there is not much time. Online registration ended this Monday and all registration is due Thursday, Nov. 21. If you still want to ride after Monday, you have to register at the El Tour Expo & Packet Pickup at the TCC. Check the El Tour’s official website for the specific times as they do vary from day-to-day. The Expo is not just for picking up your rider’s information. The Expo offers something for both cyclists and non-cyclists with more than 100 booths that offer a range of merchandise from athletic apparel to fitness products and workout equipment and all of these booths are open to the public.
This mass ride is not without a greater purpose. El Tour de Tucson cyclists also raise funds for numerous charities throughout the community, making the El Tour de Tucson much more than a biking event. Last year El Tour was able to raise nearly $2 million in donations to numerous charitable organizations.
Those who want to get in on the action but are not able to participate in the riding are encouraged to volunteer in the association’s, “efforts to promote health, community and fun through a love of bicycling and community service.” El Tour offers numerous volunteer opportunities in the weeks leading up to the event as well as day-of. Spots do fill up quite fast though so anyone interested in working at next year’s event should sign up to eight weeks prior to the event as The Perimeter Bicycling Association of America sends out an open call for volunteer workers four to six weeks prior to the event. Volunteer positions are on a first come first serve basis. Anyone contributing at least four hours of their time to the event also receives an official t-shirt as thanks for their time.
If you are a cycling enthusiast, then none of this has come to you as news. For those of us a little less enthusiastic about the sport, El Tour is a great way to see some of the greatest competitors in the nation, if not some of the best in the world. Whether it is as a participant, spectator, or volunteer, El Tour de Tucson offers a day of fun for everyone involved.