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El Tour de Tucson 2021 to feature new route, higher turnout than ’19

Riders examine the 102-mile route map at Armory Park on Friday ahead of El Tour de Tucson's return on Saturday.
Posted at 6:07 PM, Nov 19, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — After COVID-19 forced a one year hiatus, El Tour de Tucson returns on Saturday, with a few changes.

The 102-mile route once again will start and finish at Armory Park in downtown Tucson, but riders will take a different path this year.

“This time, we’re going south,” executive director T.J. Juskiewicz said. “We haven’t been down in that area. Like Sahuarita, Green Valley, around the Pima Mines. All along those pecan grove trees. So it’s gonna be a different style of ride.”

Mari Holden, a cycling World Champion and silver medalist at the 2000 Olympic Games, knows El Tour well. She is participating in the 102-mile ride on Saturday.

“This is the first time with the new course for me, so I’m super excited to see what it’s like,” she said.

Holden says she has been training in Tucson for about 30 years and has close friends who live in the area.

This year she is giving back, teaming up with USA Cycling to give away 50 bikes and helmets to kids as part of a safety and skills course, giving more people an introduction to the sport.

“If we can get more kids on bikes, A. We’re gonna have a healthier population, but also we’re gonna hopefully find the next Olympians out there, which is gonna be awesome, too,” Holden said.

Juskiewicz says about 6,500 riders are expected to participate across all the different routes this year, an increase of about 1,500 from 2019.

Many of those riders are first-timers, like Cody Frolander and James Edwards from the Phoenix area. Cycling became their go-to way to get in shape once lockdowns began last year.

The brothers-in-law are jumping in to the 28-mile ride that begins in Marana and ends in Armory Park. Their goal is to conquer the 57 and 102 mile treks in the next two years.

“We decided that we should seal the year off with a Tour de Tucson,” Frolander said. “I’ve heard a lot about the Tour so we wanted to come out and do it.”

“So we brought the family out to come cheer us on at the finish line and encourage us to get the job done,” Edwards added.

Juskiewicz says teams are riding for about 50 charities and are expected to raise at least $5 million this year.

He also says that organizers worked on re-branding efforts this year and on ways to improve both the riders' and non-riders' experience.

“There’s a beer garden on the finish line, so if you’re not riding and you just wanna come down and cheer folks on, there’s food trucks here, great music that’ll be playing all day long," Juskiewicz said. "Just a lot of fun. So even if you’re not on a bike and riding 102 miles, you can still experience El Tour de Tucson.”

For more information about routes, road closures and more, click here.