Firm has a big role in El Tour - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Firm has a big role in El Tour

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Posted: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:30 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

There'll be some 30 cyclists with ties to Sanofi-aventis who'll pedal in El Tour de Tucson on Nov. 21.

"That's pretty good participation when you consider we're on the order of 70 associates," said Richard Austin, a principal research investigator at the company's Oro Valley research center, and a 12-year employee who is helping with the Sanofi-aventis effort on El Tour.

Some are coming from other Sanofi-aventis sites across the country, riding in Tucson because the weather elsewhere "is usually not conducive to long bike rides" in November, Austin said.

Along with ridership, Sanofi-aventis is the title sponsor of the El Tour Bike, Health and Fitness Expo, held Nov. 18-20 at the Tucson Convention Center. The sponsorship "solidifies our association with one of the premier events in Tucson," one dedicated to fitness and health, Austin said.

At the expo, people can "talk about our company, what we do, and things we do to try to improve our health," Austin said. They'll also share the "benefits of a research and development center in Southern Arizona. We'll get our name out there. One of the things we suffer from in this part of the country is name recognition. This puts us in the right context."

The expo draws up to 25,000 people a year, Austin said. "It's really great exposure for us."

Sanofi-aventis has a cycling culture at its Oro Valley facility, Austin said, with approximately 15 percent of its employees commuting regularly on two wheels. Some of those commutes are relatively short; one worker pedals 25 miles each way from the East Side.

"Cycling evangelists, I'll call them," got things rolling when the El Tour opportunity arose, Austin said. They talk with co-workers about the nuances of the sport, teach them how to fix a flat, and lead weekend training rides, which have a "no drop" rule.

"We don't leave people behind," Austin said. "We end the ride at a coffee shop. It brings people together who normally wouldn't work with each other on a daily basis. They interact in a non-work setting. It increases trust. It has benefits on a lot of fronts."

The company encourages cycling and other healthy activities. Yoga is offered in the building twice a week. Chair massages are available weekly. There are showers in the building's basement.

Site director Beth Koch "has just been great," Austin said. "She's a huge supporter of this activity. We couldn't do it without her."

"Health and fitness absolutely take place at all of our facilities," Koch said. "We are a health care company, a major employer, and we have an interest in keeping people healthy.

"It's living up to who we're trying to be," she said. "It's definitely ingrained in the culture."

Austin, an Oro Valley resident, is riding the 109-mile ride with his daughter Olivia. They go on training rides of 50 to 70 miles every Saturday. "Our goal is just to finish," he said.

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