Winter Training Mecca Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

The first time I came down to Tucson for a cycling camp was way back in 1990. The other day on the infamous ‘shootout’ training ride/race here in town, I met an American rider younger than my years of making the pilgrimage to this winter cycling mecca. The city continues to sprawl and as much as I hate riding in traffic, I have to say Tucson has done a remarkable job of expanding the bikes lanes/paths/routes at the same rate as the rest of the growth.

Believe me, I’d rather be in the Eastern Sierra Nevada of California where Peter is right now, riding my favorite mountain passes and soaking in some of the best hot springs on earth. But it’s work time and as much as I’d rather be with Pete, there is no way I could get the quality of work I’m getting here in Tucson. Group rides, warm enough weather, climbing, flat riding, training races and so much more, this is the place to be for some winter intensity and time away from the snow shoes.

It’s hard to believe it was only last Thursday that we piled onto the ATV in the biting chill of an 18 degree morning up in the Utah mountains. Not celcius, but fahrenheit. And we were on the ATV on top of it all. A one-person ATV with two people, 2 bikes, luggage and a 2200 foot decent is not much fun in the dark at this temperature. We had so much stuff that I couldn’t even sit on the damn machine. I had to stand the whole five kilometers down our mountain road. It was definitely a dumb and dumber moment for me and Pete. To top it all off, I had a big bag of trash in my right arm that I had to hold and with my left arm, I had my caribou skin mittens trimmed with rabbit fur that were a gift from my friends up in Nunivik, Quebec, parked right in front of my face to try to block the wind chill. It was co-old……so freezing cold! Like I said, dumb and dumber. All I was thinking on the drive down was ‘I hope nobody sees us!!’.

So cold!!

And here I am in Tucson since that cold morning. I flew here and Peter did a road trip to our favorite part of California, the East Side. I started hammering out the time trial intervals, group rides, second easy rides after hard rides of the day, and Peter commenced his days of hot spring soaking and glorious road riding.

What I do like here in the big city is seeing the array and volume of cyclists. Nowhere else have I seen the amount of riders I see each and every trip I make for these ‘boot camps’ that have been a constant in my cycling and speed skating life. Saturday morning, there must have been about 50 riders leaving for the ‘old folks’ ride at 7am. I had asked a local racer at the starbucks a little earlier what time the Shootout was set to leave and he told me about the ‘slow’ ride…I think he may have thought I should be on that instead of the faster-for-forty-five-minutes or so Shootout I was there for. Like I said, there were riders younger than my years of making the trip to Tucson on the ride, so I won’t take that as an insult.

There’re nothing like a training ride/race in January to get things going. To blow out the system. For an entire month since leaving team camp in California, I’d managed only two rides on the road in Utah. The rest was on the trainer, rollers, hiking boots or snow shoes. Needless to say it was a rude awakening to be in the midst of a pack of winter-fit riders attacking, pace-lining and sprinting away. My brain would tell my legs to accelerate and all they would do was wind up in way too big of a gear and I would miss yet another attack. Somehow, I was able to muscle my way through some pulls which led my good friend and local Canadian Tucson-ite Gord Fraser to take the piss out of any guys sitting on ‘THERE’S A GIRL UP HERE PULLING THROUGH WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE!’. Gord is race fit and I learned more watching him float through the pack, the pacelines, up the small risers and all over the road than I learned all last year racing. Pretty sweet to see that once you have it, you never lose it.

Me and Gord

at the top of Madera Canyon waiting to regroup

So, Tucson it is, for many reasons, and being here makes me a tad bit sad because, as I’ve mentioned way too many times already here, the riding is in traffic and not my cup of pedaling tea. What this place has to offer is exactly what I need right now. I’m getting my butt kicked from time to time and kicking my own butt when there hammering out the time trial intervals.

All in a days or weeks work. Come Sunday, I’ll be back on the ATV or perhaps the snowmobile if winter has arrived in Utah, and I’ll be dreaming again of riding on the road. Until then, I’ll block out the traffic and enjoy the sensations of actually riding my bike!

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