On Saturday, Nov. 18, Marana’s Heritage River Park will be host to food trucks, music and event booths in a festive send off for hundreds of cyclists beginning one of the largest bike-riding events in the nation, El Tour de Tucson.
“Recreation is an important part of a healthy community,” said Interim Town Manager Jamsheed Mehta. “And we take having fun very seriously.”
While Marana has always been involved with the larger El Tour de Tucson process, it only began hosting its own leg of the race two years ago. The section fits well with Marana’s health-conscious, outdoorsy ethos, as all new roads built in the city are equipped with bike lanes.
“It’s just a great event for our community,” Marana mayor Ed Honea said. “People wear colorful outfits and helmets, and even if they don’t plan on finishing the whole event, they ride their bikes for a little while just to join in the fun.”
In addition to the thousands of pedaling legs, there are multiple legs to the event: cyclists can choose to ride distances of 106, 76, 54, 37 or Marana’s stretch, the shortest, of 28 miles.
“I feel fortunate we have the shortest leg of the race,” Honea said. “It makes things available for families and non-professionals. Moms, dads and kids can all ride together.”
There will be booths run by a local bike shop, healthy food options and a craft station for families to make signs supporting the cyclists.
“We just want to make sure everyone’s feeling good before they get started,” Parks & Recreation superintendent Corey Larriva said.
Since the Tour’s course in Marana is new, and the cyclists are spread throughout multiple courses, the turnout for the Marana section isn’t nearly as large as other yearly events the city hosts. Honea remains hopeful, however, as turnout is increasing each year both for Marana’s section and for the tour itself. However, the festivities are kept simple and fun, due to the inherent mobility of the event.
“We realized that the riders show up and then go,” Larriva said. “Last year we over-planned and realized people were on the move. Now we make sure they leave Marana with a nice impression. Afterward it’s more for the families cheering on their cyclists than the riders themselves.”
Since 1983, the Tour has attracted tens of thousands of cyclists and solidified our area’s reputation as one of the top cycling hubs in the US. The Tour isn’t only about cycling though. Throughout its history, El Tour de Tucson has helped raise funds for causes like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Tu Nidito Children & Family Services, and the American Parkinson Disease Association.
In the last few miles of the Tour, the hundreds of riders from Marana will join the thousands of cyclists from various other branches. All paths finally converge at Armory Park in downtown Tucson, where the El Tour Downtown Fiesta is held. This increases the sense of connectedness and community of the Tucson area, which is one of the main reasons Marana got involved with the Tour in the first place.
“I love anytime we can get families together and out in the city,” Honea said. “And you never know, some of the youngest riders doing the short route this year might get inspired and end up riding the 100-mile course in a few years.”