TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The 35th annual Tucson Bicycle Classic brings in nearly 560 riders to Tucson for one of the largest stage races in the Southwest.
As one of the key warm-up races for North American cyclists, it brings in riders of all ages and skill levels.
And many new racers this year said they found this course more attractive than other courses they have raced.
“I live up in Idaho and the roads that we have are pretty flat or they climb because of all the mountains but they don’t really ungulate much, out here with all the drainage for the flood seasons,” said Ben Elunbugh, a cyclist. “The roads that go up and down really animate the race because people are sprinting up them trying to get away so it makes it really fun and enjoyable race.”
Elunbugh, the winner of Saturday’s longest race, made the trip to compete in the event for the first time.
And he is not the only contestant to travel from outside the state.
Organizers said each year this event brings in pros, amateurs, and new riders from all corners of the world.
“We have people coming from all over the Tucson area, all over the Southwest, and actually all over the country and we will have many foreign riders today in fact in the professional men’s category earlier we had today the win was from Germany,” said Marco Colbert, Tucson Bicycle Classic race director. “Because of the beautiful weather that exists in Tucson this time of year, it is very attractive to professional riders and teams to come here and train for the new season.”
The increasing number of racers encouraged Visit Tucson to partner with the event for the first time.
“When anyone comes from outside of Tucson they need to buy hotel rooms, they need gas and that sort of thing. Visit Tucson recognized that and I think that is also partly the reason why this year we were invited by the town of Oro Valley to hold our final stage (there),” Colbert said.
That impact lasts year-round.
“They also recognize the economic value, tourism value and the fact that people who come here who haven’t been here before maybe and say, ‘Wow Tucson’s a great place to live. Wow Oro Valleys is a great place to live’ and before you know it, one year, two years, five years, 15 years later they move here,” said Colbert.
Chavon Rosenthal, a new rider to the sport, said the course is not the only thing that has made this event more appealing than others.
“The fact that they had a novice women program, you know we are trying to get more women in cycling and the fact that there was kind of that experience was awesome,” Rosenthal said. “There is also an equal prize purse for women so props to this race for considering women as really critical to the world of cycling.”
Rosenthal, like many other riders, is in consensus that they look forward to returning next year.
“Oh yes absolutely, my partner and I actually have a van so I think our hope is that we can actually come out here and stay for a few weeks leading into it, enjoy the beautiful weather and race this weekend next year,” Rosenthal said.
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