Sunday was the Tumacacori Road Race, which had been proclaimed as one of the hardest courses in Arizona. Oddly enough the 6 mile circuit involved none of the long high grinders of climbs you would associate with Arizona. Instead the course featured a 2 mile stretch of stair stepping climbs, each step pitching up to over 10% for something like 300-500 meters. So the course was remarkably like a Midwestern course, and when an AZ vet asked me with a bit of pride how Tumacacori stacked up, I had to let him down gently that it was something I was pretty familiar with.
On to race action, everything I heard was that this was going to be a race of attrition. The unknown factors of the race were the Mexican racers. Tumacacori is about 10 miles north of the US-Mexican border town of Nogales, so the race attracted a good number of international racers. Two things I noticed about the Mexican racers, first that they could put in some serious attacks uphill while breathing through their noses, and second that they can’t corner if their life depended on it.
On the docket were 12 laps of the 6 mile course, a total of 72 miles. Each lap had about 450 ft of climbing all mostly localized in the one stretch of stair stepping climbs. The first lap was surprisingly hard and the pack got strung out a pretty good amount on the descent. However it wasn’t until lap 4 that the race really started to blow up. After some hard attacks from the big Mexican team a group began to form on the climb. I just missed the split and spent the rest of the lap chasing on with a Landis and Mexican rider. We caught back on just at the base of the climb on lap 5 which is when the winning break established itself. I was too gassed from chasing to immediately follow the move so settled into the chase group.
We’d never see the five breakaway riders again. My own group started off with 20 riders, and even though we never were riding that hard on the flats or descents our group was whittled down to 6 riders by the finish. Down to the last lap there were a few attacks, but after 11 trips up the climb everyone was a little too tired to put in serious attacks so it came down to the sprint. Eric Marcotte from Pista Palace, who’s a pretty strong sprinter, was in our group so I stuck to his wheel in the finish. I was cramping up too badly to do anything but stay in the draft and finished 7th in the end.