Peterman braves the cold to place first among female cyclists

Amber Peterman, 44, was the top female finisher in the El Tour de Tucson race on Saturday, Nov. 23. Peterman finished with a time of 5:22:39.

Photo courtesy of Paul Pomeroy

Each raindrop that fell brought a cold chill to thousands of cyclists that whizzed through the slick streets of Tucson on Saturday, Nov. 23, in the 31st El Tour de Tucson.

More than 8,000 cyclists from all over the world lined up to start the 107-mile race, despite the chilling 53-degree weather. Amongst the competitors was 44-year-old Amber Peterman who was the top female finisher with a time of 5:22:39. For Peterman, finishing the race turned out to be more of priority rather than trying to place first.

“When it was raining I was just like ‘let’s just live to ride another day’,” said Peterman. “I felt like I was ready this year but with the rain I didn’t want to push it.”

Peterman has been cycling competitively for the last 11 years. Having always enjoyed the sport, Peterman found a love for the cycling community upon moving to Tucson where she soon joined up with a women and men’s cycling group. 

“I don’t ride with a specific club, just with friends who like cycling,” said Peterman. “I finally just got addicted to it and from then on riding was just always about preparing for the tour.”

A wife and mother of five, Peterman quickly found that if she wanted to ride she would have to sacrifice her sleep time – something that she willingly did. 

“You got to find the thing that you are willing to wake up five in the morning for,” said Peterman. “For me it was bike riding. I’d go to bed early because I was excited to get up and ride.”

Morning rides always start at five for Peterman and normally end at 6:30 a.m. Each day she switches off between riding with a female group and a male group. The female rides are about 15 miles and more of a therapy, chat session while with the male group it’s around 20 miles and it helps me train, said Peterman. As the El Tour de Tucson drew near, Peterman’s rides switched between sprint, hill, tempo and long rides.

Competing in El Tour de Tucson was nothing new for Peterman who has ridden in the race the past eight years. Last year she finished fifth and this year she finished fourth at the El Tour de Mesa. She was ready this year – that was until she saw the forecast.

Luckily enough, Peterman had the advantage of starting in the front at the beginning of the race. She was able to hold with the lead group until she reached Interstate 10 on North Kolb Road.

“I was in the lead pack until I got a flat tire,” said Peterman. “I’ve timed myself and it usually takes five minutes to change the tire but when I took off my gloves, buckets of water came out and as I tried to fix it my hands were all shaking.”

Peterman may have been delayed but soon enough she was up and riding again. She pedaled hard and without knowing it was crossing the finish line as the first female finisher. Juan Magallanes took first for the men with a time of 4:14:03.

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