More than 7,000 bike in 23rd annual El Tour de Tucson
As the sun rose over the Santa Catalina Mountains on a chilly Saturday morning, thousands of bicyclists - young and old, experienced and novice - geared up for a daylong adventure.
The adventure: a winding, hilly, dusty 109-mile journey around the perimeter of Tucson, starting and ending near the Tucson Convention Center to raise money for Tu Nidito Children and Family Services, the American Parkinson's Disease Association and the Global Sports Alliance.
The 23rd annual El Tour de Tucson was held on Saturday and featured more than 7,000 riders - the most ever in the event's history, according to the tour's Web site. However, not all riders rode the 109 miles. Many opted for the 80-mile course, with others going out for a 66-mile or 35-mile ride.
Among the 7,000 riders were a handful of UA students, including studio art junior Brian Meyer.
Meyer, who has been cycling for about three years, finished in just over 5 1/2 hours - a time he says could have been better. Last year, in his first-ever Tour de Tucson, Meyer finished 15 minutes faster than this year.
Meyer said his first setback this year was that he started toward the back of the group.
"Starting behind 6,000 people made the difference," he said. "You want to find a fast group and stick with them. I couldn't find a group until 20 miles to go."
Meyer had his share of other problems - he got a flat tire and had to go around a crash, but said he had the most difficulty with the toughest stretch of the race: the last 30 miles, where the roads are rough and the body is running out of energy.
With six miles to go, Meyer said he felt great, and then all of a sudden became drowsy.
"I had to pull over and stop and eat," he said. "I just ran out of energy. I felt like I was going to fall asleep in the middle of the race."
Despite having a slower time than last year, Meyer is determined to keep riding and will ride in next year's race.
Meyer placed 889th in the 109-mile race with a time of 5:31:28. Tucsonan Curtis Gunn finished first with a time of 4:21:23.