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9,000 riders expected at El Tour de Tucson

Posted at 8:46 PM, Nov 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-20 22:46:13-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- About 9,000 people are expected to participate in El Tour de Tucson on Saturday.

It's the 33rd year of the event, and founder Richard Debernardis has seen it grow over the years. When it began in 1983 there were less than 200 riders. Among the riders this year are Gabby Giffords, who is expected to attend with husband Mark Kelly.

" Every time I think of it, I'm going to get tears in my eyes," Debernardis said. "The two of them show us an example of how you stick together when times are really, really tough."

Bernardis says he wants to encourage people to get outside, and live healthy lifestyles. El Tour brings in up to $18 million to the Tucson area over the course of the weekend, he said.

"That impact is probably multiplied by 5 times the amount, because people are continuing to come back we need that in our community," Bernardis said.

Nelson Vails will also ride 100 miles. He is the first African-American cyclist to win an Olympic medal. He took home the silver in 1984, and says Tucson is perfect for cyclists.

"It's a community and area where you don't only have the flat roads and reservations, but you do have the surrounding mountains," Vails said. "So you can host a Tour de France style event in and around the city of Tucson."

Vails advice for riders? Make sure to relax, breathe and not rush. He says he encourages everyone to stay safe and watch out for others.

El Tour helps give back to about 50 charities. The primary beneficiary this year is the organization Easter Seals. The fundraising goal is $250,000.
 
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