Monthly Archives: September 2013

Entry opens for 24 Hours AND the Dirty/Lush Bunny

Who would stay up until midnight for the chance to register for a limited opportunity to race solo in the 24 hours in the Old Pueblo?   Apparently, it is a whole Lotta folk.  Every year the Solo category fills up the first day.  What makes someone want to push themselves to do this ride Solo?  Personally having done it twice I think the answer is something between a lack of common sense and a desire to see how far you can push your body.

Having trained for the race I think the actual training was a greater challenge than the actual race.  I once mentioned To Todd Sadow, promoter extraordinaire of Epic Rides, that the Solo is potentially the ultimate race as you can go out and do your thing and not be responsible for a team.  If you ride 2 or 16 laps, it is your race.  I think he did not like the idea of the people signing up with the intent of doing a few casual laps and saying you were a “solo” rider.  Especially since it is limited to so few riders and many who would really try it is robbing some legitimate riders of the opportunity to ride.  Whatever your intent, best of luck in signing up.  It is an incredible experience and one I’m sure I’ll do again some time soon (but not that soon).

Coincidentally, another race, The Dirty Bunny, was scheduled for a 12:01 registration this evening, but has moved registration back to 5:30 AM so the race director can monitor the entries in real time.  It is limited to only 50 riders.  This secret race is a participant favorite.  The cost of the race is a 6 pack of your favorite craft beer.  The race is a 12 lap race on the Bunny loop at Fantasy Island. When the first rider completed the 60 miles the race is over.   All riders essentially finish within a 30 minute period.  Afterwards, the party begins.  There are two categories, one where you must drink a can of PBR or do a shot after each lap called the lush bunny (only 12 spots).   I’m excited to say I’m the completely unofficial official photographer of this event and might just pop up here and there to click a few images of this race.

Here is a link to photos from last years race.

First High Scool Race is in the books

Arizona, you have made me proud.  Across the nation NICA is spreading from state to state.  So far Utah has the record for the most athletes in the inaugural race with over 200.  Arizona is now number 2 on the list with 170 athletes. Just for a second, imagine how incredible that is.  Imagine how great it will be.  Tell you friends with high school aged kids there’s a new game in town and it is fast and fun.

I must admit that I had concerns coming into this race.  There was some frustration that Tucson did not have the first race as planned.  I understand that the logistics just did not come together, but it created some lingering concerns about how the race was going to run.  A three hour drive to the race with a lot of that in Phoenix traffic did not set a great tone.  Finally, when I arrived and discovered that an athlete on our team forgot his bike(not saying who-he’s already miserable enough about it), I was really questioning what I was doing there.  It did not get any better when it became clear that the layout of the campground was not going to lead to much interaction between teams.

An easy registration of our teams, a great dinner and a comfortable nighttime camping temperature and the anticipation of the first high school mountain bike race in the history of Arizona had me off to a good start on race day.  At the coaches meeting hearing how many details were taken care it was clear that this was just another race, something NICA has been doing for a long time and not just some thrown together ride in the desert.  As team after team started to populate the staging area and I saw hundreds of bike enthusiasts the energy started to flow.

This course was really well designed for the el grupo riders. It was not that technical and the temperature was hot,  not unlike our normal practice conditions.  The trail was wide with plenty of room for passing.  We had only 2 girls racing from El Grupo They finished in 1st and 4th places.   In the freshman race we just missed the podium and 1st-6th place were separated by under a minute.  In the sophomore race we cleaned up with a 1,2,4 finish.  We had a large group of sophomores and juniors who raced in the varsity race and we had a third place podium.   In the all around Tucson High/El Grupo finished in 3rd place.   That excluded the points from a 1st, 3rd and 4th place finish that we’re the regular ElGrupo team( we are two teams in one….or is it the other way)

My favorite finishers are often those who don’t win the race or even come close to the podium, but show a character in finishing the race.  There were two racers in particular who caught my attention.  One of the athletes was on the course when two recreational riders came around a corner and crashed into her.  The riders just left her and continued on their way.  She tweaked her hand, but finished with one hand.  My favorite was racer 600.  He finished the race with a broken chain, using his bike like a scooter.  He had every opportunity to pack it in early, but choose to cross the finish line. This is the type of character that I feel is the truest winner in life.  The persistence to stick with it when it’s hot, miserable, things are breaking.  600,  get a huge ATTABOY!!!

It was great to see so many people who read this blog, follow me on Facebook and have my shared passion for cycling.  Thanks to all who came up and introduced and reintroduced yourself.  It made me feel like this is a real community that we are growing together.   If there was one thing I would have done to improve the event and league would be to introduce everyone and see how we can get the teams to interact more.  Please accept this as my invitation to come to Tucson and ride with our team.  I have this vision where these kids have a chance to show each other the best trails in each other’s backyards all across Arizona.

It’s well after 9 on Sunday night as I’m finishing up this post.  Samuel, my son, is exhausted, but still has homework to do and is plugging away.  These are student athletes and  NICA is just like any other school sport( except better because they get to use a bike).   The dedication both on the bike and off is very commendable and my helmet is off to everyone who raced this weekend.

Finally, thank you to all the staff and volunteers who made this run so smooth this weekend and who made the league a possibility.  Also, to all the financial sponsors. Unfortunately, this is not a cheap sport and can’t happen without the all mighty buck.  Thanks to those who choose to invest your money in something that will make the community, State and all of us better off.


True Grit, It is how you get up after the fall

I keep seeing it play over and over in my mind.  We are practicing hole shots.  I’m in 4th place, my gears are messed up so I had a bad start.  We are flying into the first berm, the 6 foot one with the near vertical wall.  The rider in the second spot, Ben, perhaps the best rider among us, the fastest hits the wall wrong and instead of whipping through the turn is launched off the top.  His bike sails 15 into space as he does a Superman 10 feet above the ground before I lose sight of him as I rail the turn.  As I come out of the turn and look back I see the bike coming to a stop in a cloud of dust.  Before I can make it to him he is up, calmly saying he broke his wrist.   The bone did not come through the skin, but it clearly is broken. Both Knees are torn up and the blood is just starting to seep out.  His kit is covered in dust, but surprisingly has no holes.  He does not shed a tear, nor a curse word or even utter an ouch, and shows true grit .

As I tried to go to sleep last night I kept seeing it over and over.   What made the scene so hard for me is that it was one of the El Grupo kids.  Having spent so much time with them I am starting to see each of these kids as a part of my family.  It’s bad enough when anyone crashes on a bike, but when it’s a kid, and a kid you really care about, it is mentally taxing.


The bike was in otherwise fine condition sans saddle.

What might have been the most challenging part of this for me was that we were still early into practice.  This weekend in the first race of the high school Mountain Bike League and we still needed to stretch the legs.  Coach gave me some drills and told me to continue with the practice as he kept Ben company. What followed was one of the most somber and lifeless practice I’ve seen with El Grupo.

The ‘A’ Team definitely took it harder.  These kids are tight knit. After years of riding, training, and racing you can see that they are a true TEAM.  Even though there are many races to come, they are all stoked at the start of the High School League and having a friend and team leader go down hurt.

What really struck me was the reaction of the other riders on the team.    The rider who was closest to him during the launch was very melancholy.  I attempted to engage him in conversation, but he was not very talkative.  It was clear, and in conversations afterwards with others, that he felt responsible for the accident.  Having watched it all, he definitely had no responsibility.  It was just one of those things that happen when you ride and race.  You are going to have the occasional crash.  However, it was nice to see a level of concern from one so young that he was willing to take partial responsibility, deserved or not.

One of the kids who Ben has described as “overwhelmingly nice” really impressed me. Even if you did not know him, just watching form a distance you could see the empathy in the look in his eyes, his body position, his tone and voice.   He told me how much they have been practicing and his desire to lead Ben out for a podium in the race this weekend.  His disappointment was only equal to his understanding of what it is to be a team player.

Another kid said that Ben would want then to continue with practice and be as prepared for this the race as possible.  I see this as an admirable trait.  The recognition that something bad just happened but that there was nothing they could do about it at that time, so get on with life.  Ben was with Coach, his Dad was on the way to pick him up, we had a job to do, so “get er done”.  This is the kid I want heading up FEMA someday.

The B and C teams felt very bad, but you could tell that the relationship is not the same.  They were naturally curious how he was doing, but I did not feel the same depth of emotion.  It is possible that I was focusing more on the other riders and just did not pick it up.  I do think that it slowed many down as they came into the tighter parts of the course, but on the mental side I could not say.

Of course no one ever wants to see someone they care about get hurt, bu this, like so many of the challenges will make the team and the individual riders better.  I have been messaging back and forth with Ben today.  He is in for a 6 week recovery and a small surgery to hold the bone in place is not out of the question.  He gave me permission to mention him by name, otherwise, I would not have. Knowing him, he will be on the trainer tonight and will come back even stronger.  Heal well my young friend.

High School Mountain Bike Racing – NICA has arrived in Arizona

National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) is kicking off the inaugural season this weekend with a race on September 29th at  McDowell Mountain Regional Park on the Pemberton Trail System.  The distance of the race will depend on what class the kids are in.  Freshman will be completing one 8 mile loop, Soph 2 laps and Varsity 24 miles over three laps.

The first race was supposed to be in Tucson.  Why the change?  I think it is best to say that we are all excited that NICA is finally in Arizona and that many of the glitches, bumps, kickers, ruts, should be excused this first season and instead we can focus on building a sport that so many in Arizona cherish and want to see flourish.

The NICA website says the following about its races “NICA -sanctioned races provide student athletes an arena in which to set and accomplish competitive goals, do achieve their personal best. Most NICA leagues have a 4- or 5-race schedule, held in the Spring or Fall depending on the regional climate. Professional race promotion, timing, course preparation and risk management guarantee every participating student athlete is given a fun and fast environment.”

Tucson is going to be well represented.  Two teams that I know of are participating.  A Northwest team that I expect will be representing either Ironwood Hills or Canyon Del Oro.  I look forward to filling in the details in the post race blog.  Of course, El Grupo will be representing as well.  A few of the kids will be sporting their school colors.  Tucson High has a team that is made up of El Grupo kids.  The other student athletes will be racing under the El Grupo colors with new sponsor free kits ( No the kits are not free and it is big $$$ to participate).

El Grupo is heading up on Saturday to camp and pre-ride the course.   Ignacio likes to say we are a road team that are new to Mountain Biking.  It will be very interesting to see how the well conditioned “roadies” do on the single track.  We have been told the course is not very technical and that may be a bonus for our athletes.  Samuel will be competing in the 8 mile Freshman race.

Hopefully, many other schools and teams will also be camping so we can start to build lasting friendships with the other riders across the state.

Check back here at early next week for a follow up and look for photos that will be posted to The Damion Alexander Team on Facebook.


DRAFT minutes From September BAC meeting

This month I was in Colorado working(riding my bike) and missed the BAC meeting.  The following are a condensed version of the DRAFT minutes.

DRAFT Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 Himmel Park Library 1035 N. Treat Ave.  Tucson, AZ 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM Prepared and Submitted by Kylie Walzak

 Call to Public – Don Melhado – US Cycling Association. Seeking BAC for Velodrome support to the PC Bond Committee. Mr. Melhado is deeply involved in racing, for the past 30 years. Not here to tell you that the Velodrome is something the entire community will benefit from, but it will provide a venue for Tucson’s youth to train and will provide Tucson with a building that will highlight Tucson’s leadership role as a cycling-mecca for pro/semi pro racing. A facility like the Velodrome will draw international attention, including many people from northern Mexico. Mr. Melhado asks BAC to give support for the facility (Velodrome), which is a multi-use facility (and presumably can be used for other sports), at the upcoming public hearing.

Law Enforcement Staff Reports from TPD and PCSD – Sgt. Fernandez, TPD – Four accidents, two of which were cyclist only. Two were vehicle crashes, no major injuries. Two hit and runs, no major injuries. Park and University lights are on and there has been some confusion – there is targeted education occurring at that intersection. Enforcement may come later.

Old Spanish Trail at Houghton– cyclist hit from behind, 3 days in ICU. Eric Post asks Fernandez if he knows anything about that incident

Marana and Twin Peaks – hydraulic fluid sprayed on bike lane and rider went down.

Rohrer – tacks on Catalina Hwy continue. PC deputies are actively investigating. Reminds riders to call in suspicious activity. Rider and a patrol car made contact, traffic person is reviewing the case. Town of Marana is doing a great job cleaning up the landfill area on Tangerine.

Facilities Subcommittees Re-establishment & New Member New members are encouraged to join subcommittees, like the facilities subcom., which is in the process of being reorganized and formalized. Education Subcommittee has been dormant since Karilyn Roach had to resign from the BAC. Any member interested in advising govt’s on things like PSA’s, messaging, and outreach are encouraged to ask the Chair about reviving that subcommittee.  Call for volunteers for subcommittees? Allen Kulwin volunteers for the Facilities Subcommittee    Reminder that if you don’t receive a formal agenda from Karen Rahn, the meeting is not officially happening.

Bike Share Programs – An Overview of Trends in the USKylie Walzak present a summary of latest research regarding Bike Share programs across the US. Submits Motion (below), discussion followed. Questions about funding sources, consultation fees, need for strategic planning for locating stations, and issues of equity.

Motion: BAC will write a letter to local governments urging COT, PCDOT and PAG to investigate creative funding sources for a regional Bike Share program sooner rather than later.

Motion is approved unanimously.

Strategic Highway Safety Plan UpdatePlan updates specific deficiencies in AZ with regard to cycling and safety. Gabe Thum reports from recent meetings with ADOT. Letter in our packet is asking the State to leave some discretion to local governments in deciding how best to spend highway safety money.

Ensuring the funds are spent appropriately… replace with “safety improvements are directly related to a data-driven process.”Motion to approve letter as amended. Approved unanimously

Bicycle-related Bond Project Grouping Process

Review of all of the Bike related projects still being considered in the Bond Package. The intent of tonight’s discussion is to provide input to the Bond Committee from the BAC about what our priorities as a BAC are.

David BW presents on recent bond projects related to cycling

  • Bicycle Education Center (Velodrome): Most recent memo to the Bond Committee does not include this project. This was in the June, 2013 memo, but not in memo from August 5th, 2013.
  • Oro Valley, Cañada del Oro: Catalina, Big Wash connecting to Rancho Vistoso, north side of CDO. This will connect La Cholla to La Cañada.
  • Marana Linear Park (Barnett): extends from I-10 W. Frontage road to just beyond the town’s municipal complex.
  • Tucson Urban Greenways: Most recent memo to the Bond Committee does not include this project. This was in the June, 2013 memo, but not in memo from August 5th, 2013.
  • South Tucson El Paso Greenway: This project has been in planning since 1989. South Tucson has been waiting for their share of projects for a long time.
  • Loop Gaps (acquisition, construction, several parts): Design and construction of soil cement bank protection along both banks of the Santa Cruz River between Sunset Road and Ina Road. Provides for stabilization for an area of the Santa Cruz River that has been heavily mined by sand and gravel operations.
  • CAP Trail (Avra Valley): Uses Central Arizona Canal Project and put bicycle paths on either side. Looking for a connection over the Tucson Mountains to the Loop. Estimates this project at $10m. Currently asking for $10m on this Bond. 27 miles. Can be viewed as an alternative to Sandario Rd. which has seen increased vehicular traffic and subsequently has driven recreational (road) cyclists from that road. On the other hand, this particular project seems geared towards a single user group (road riders) and does not rank high in terms of being built for multiple users, commuters, etc.
  • Oro Valley Trailheads: $600k, trailheads to benefit Mountain Bicycling somewhat and hikers/walkers.
  • Marana Heritage River Park: Tangerine Farms Road, accessible from I-10.

All members of the BAC get the opportunity to rank the existing projects by placing numbered stickers next to priority projects. Reminder that the letter will be written with low, medium, high priorities – not a numerical value.

Motion approved unanimously to write the letter as outlined in the packet.

Staff Reports

 Matt Zoll, Pima County – Safety outreach plan with Bike Ambassadors for outreach along the Streetcar corridor. Trailhead dedication for Roy Schoonover, December. Southside Loop projects under design, should go to construction in January. Outreach work with low income youth on southside and Flowing Wells. UA Bike station going well. “Michigan left” for east/west at Ina and Oracle, try it out before you do it. Safety and diversion classes are full.

Nancy Ellis, Oro Valley – Updating biannual bike plan.

Brian Varney, Marana – Creating short list for the TAP projects.

 Gabe Thum, PAG – Bike/Ped Subcommittee met. Tucson Bikeway maps coming in. Look for official announcements for Bike Count, mid-October.

University of Arizona – UAPD has been very active educating and issuing citations. Streetcar track crashes are prominent. Sept. 18th is next UABAC meeting. Bike Share usage on campus is 90% per day.


Subcommittee Reports

 Downtown / University Facilities (David Bachman-Williams) – Would like to change name to “Urban Core” Facilities. Monday Sept. 16th 3:30 pm.

Enforcement (Colin Forbes) – No meeting last month. Next mtg is Sept. 26th. Need more people!

Executive (Ian Johnson) – We talked about items for the agenda. Anthony Foxx came out and said recently that the FHWA supports the use of NACTO. Always send Ian agenda items.

GABA (Wayne Cullop) – Tumamcacori ride will be slightly different this year.

Downtown Links (Kylie Walzak) – Met last Monday to report on the work of the Bike/Ped Subcommittee. Next meeting will be corridor bike/walk through with the engineer team.

Living Streets Alliance (Kylie Walzak) – Gary Fisher event is Sept. 25th and Architecture on Wheels Hike and Bike Tour is Sept. 29th.

Broadway Task Force (Naomi McIsaac) – Latest meeting was exciting, considering adding a Cycle Track to the Broadway cross-section. Please join Naomi on Sept. 26th community meeting. It’s a really good opportunity to provide input on the priorities of the entire corridor.

What is the best way to handle the A “tack”er

I had an interesting discussion with a leader of a Tucson cycling team about doing an interview about the Tacks in the road.  This team sent out a very nice e-mail with some recommendations of what to do in case you encounter tacks on the road.  Matthew Schwartz with KVOA news contacted the author to do an interview and update on the tacks, but they declined because they did not want to bring additional attention to the issue.  They feel that the result of additional TV exposure might be to send the a“tack”er underground.  They wanted to have a discussion of all the good things cyclist do for the community and change the dialogue away from the tack issue.

Personally, I think the more attention we bring to the subject will have 2 results.  1- the A”ttack”er will stop for fear of being caught.   2-Someone will turn him in.  See the KVOA Interview here.

What do you think?  Are we better off keeping a low profile or screaming from every rooftop?


Here is a copy of the letter sent out to the team.  I really appreciate the “DON’T BE A JERK ON THE BIKE” comment

“Here are some things to do:

1. If you come upon some tacks in the road, you should take the time to
call 911 and hang around for the police.  You should especially call 911
if you flat, as you will be there for a while anyway.  The sheriffs are
pretty quick about getting to the scene.

THE DESERT.  Instead, pick them up and put them in a pile just at the
edge of the pavement, and send me an an email with the location.

To help the investigation, it’s really critical that we know the date,
day of the week and the time of the incident.  A pattern is developing
and needs to be corroborated.

2. If you flat from a tack and have the tack in your tire, you probably
picked up the tack anywhere from 1/4 to many miles earlier.  I had an
occasion where I picked up a tack and then rode to work for 15 miles
and only at the end of the day saw the tack in the not quite flat tire.

The reason that I say this some have flatted further up on the mountain,
and have assumed they got the tack there.  If the tack is in the tire,
you almost certainly did not get tacked on the mountain.  If the tack is
not in the tire, and you flat, it could be that you picked up the tack
on the mountain, but more likely, the tack came free and you flatted.
It’s important to report these, but you might not necessarily assume
that the tack was placed on the mountain.  The sheriff’s department is
trying to determine if the mountain is being tacked, because this is
very much more dangerous than on the flats.   If you don’t call 911,
email me.

3. Riding etiquette:

Remember the rules of the road when you are on a bicycle.  This means
don’t blow through the stop sign at Snyder Road.  At least slow down
and be prepared to stop.  You should actually come to a complete
stop, but you don’t have to put a foot down.  This is especially
necessary when there are motor vehicles at or approaching the
intersection, so those drivers don’t see all cyclists as jerks.

The bike lane on Catalina Highway is wide and usually pretty clean,
which means, if you can ride 4 across and still be to the right of
the fog line, then fine, but riding to the left of the fog line, is
and always has been illegal if there are more than 2 cyclist abreast.
Since the bike lane is so large, there is NO reason for any cyclist
to be riding to the left of the fog line, unless they are passing
other cyclists.

The bottom line on all this etiquette is DON’T BE A JERK ON A BIKE!

Please talk to other cyclists about this email.  The cycling community
can help find this person with proper reporting.

Thanks for listening.”

The Business Builder Bike Ride (BBBR)

This ride is the brainchild of two of the most creative and professional businessmen in Tucson, Matt and Brandon Blair from Cirrus Visual.  Some people just have it all together.  From family, business, fitness, friends, community involvement and everything else they are a part of.  I have seen many rides start and fail, but this ride just gets better and bigger each month.  


The BBBR is a monthly gathering and alternates between Sweetwater Preserve and Fantasy Island.   The format is to do a quick pre-ride meet and greet.  This is limited mostly to who you are and what you do professionally.  Then we get on our bikes and ride.  Post ride beer, hangin’ out trail side, and a call for any upcoming events that we are working on and care to share.

This is how Cirrus Visual describes the BBBR.  “If you haven’t heard about this event, think of it as business networking on your bike. Some people do business on the golf course…we love to ride our mountain bikes, and know there are other business professionals like us.

Whether you like to ride fast, or are just venturing into the dirt, all riding levels are welcome! Just bring your bike, helmet and business cards, and we’ll bring the post-ride refreshments. Join us this month and bring a friend – new riders are what keep this event growing!” 


Personally, this is one of my favorite rides based on the location, people, scenery, networking and beer.  If you want to go really fast, there is still someone faster.  If you are affectionately known as “the turtle” you will not be left out on the trail by yourself.  Since we start and stop in the same place and the trails we use have extra loops for those who want extra credit everyone can get in the ride they want and still not feel like they are being left out or left behind.  Also, beer, FREE beer from Borderland brewery hoppily greets you at the end of the ride.  Is this really networking or just an excuse to cut out of work, ride bikes and drink beer?  I have sold 3 homes as a direct result of this ride.

You can sign up for an automatic invite at or look up Cirrus Visual on Facebook.

Check out the photo album from the August BBBT on my facebook fan page. The Damion Alexander Team (PLEASE Like it)