What to do when a bicycle team gangs up on you? Join the team theme.
Partly in an effort to overcome national men’s and women’s teams that secured victories in last year’s El Tour de Tucson, Tucson pro Scott Blanchard formed an elite local group to compete Saturday.
The other reason is to promote a new health energy drink, “Xood,” manufactured by locals and which has become the official drink of El Tour and the Tucson Marathon. Developers and owners of the drink are local cardiologists/cyclists Salvatore Tirrito and Lou Lancero.
Blanchard’s Xood team, which includes 2005 El Tour winner Curtis Gunn and state hillclimb champion David Glick, will need new energy to beat back the formidable Mexican Nationals.
They combined to place three in the top 10 last year, including winner Carlos Hernandez, while the likes of Gunn (fourth) and second-place J.R. Grabinger of Flagstaff had to deal with a host of Mexican riders with one setting a fierce middle pace.
“The numbers were against us,” Gunn said.
The Mexican team escorted leader David Salomon to second place in 2007. He was third last year.
Nine local women will team to race against the U.S. national Cheerwine team, which produced El Tour winner Laura Van Gilder in 2007.
“It will be a challenge,” said Blanchard, who, ironically, will not be in on the fun. His responsibility is overseeing the Junior El Tour team (story, 1C). “They’ll be stronger this year. When there are cash bonuses involved, nobody is messing around.”
Glick, a longtime teammate of Blanchard’s for the Eclipse Racing team, won the Arizona State Hillclimb Championship this year.
Other local men’s team members are elite masters racer Jon Black; Tyler Ford, who with wife, Mimi, has won the El Tour mixed tandem the last two years; Brian Cornelius, a three-year Category 2 racer; and Jonathan Schonick, a veteran mountain bike racer.
Leading the local women’s team will be Mimi Ford, a four-time Ironman triathlete; Kathryn Bertine, an Olympic candidate in 2008; Dianna Del Fanter, third in El Tour in 2007; and Tammy Lamb, three-time Tour of the Tucson Mountains.
Others are Sabrina Savage, second in the 2008 Arizona State Road Race; Jessica Munson, this fall’s Tempe SOMA Quarterman triathlon; Spring Clegg, a climbing specialist; Cara Gillis, a former Canadian national rowing athlete; and Emily Francone, a former national team mountain bike racer.
Cyclists in the 109-mile event will start by heading south on Granada Avenue this year – instead of north to Broadway – because of Interstate 10-related construction.
Riders will turn right onto Clark Street, riding under the overpass before making a left to head south on the 1-10 Frontage Road. They will turn right on Silverlake Road and head west before turning left and heading south on Mission Road.
Another course change occurs in Oro Valley, where riders heading north on Oracle Highway will turn west on First Avenue, then east on Tangerine Road and north on Innovation Park Drive before hooking up with Rancho Vistoso Drive.
UMC EL TOUR DE TUCSON
Presented By Diamond Ventures
What: 26th annual bicycle tour of Tucson’s perimeter
Events/starts: 109-mile, 7 a.m., Congress and Granada; 81-mile, 9 a.m. Pima Community College East; 67-mile, 10:30 a.m., Morris Udall Park; 35-mile, 12:30 p.m., Ironwood Ridge High School; 1/4-mile Kids and Family Fun Ride, 9:45 a.m., Congress and Granada
Finish: Congress and Granada, all events
Chief beneficiary: Tu Nidito Children and Family Services