El Tour de Phoenix 25mi
Mesa, AZ - April 3, 2004     T   R   S  
San Diego Street Elite

The 2004 El Tour de Phoenix took place in the El Tonto National Forest northeast of Mesa on April 3. It is a primarily a cycling event produced by the same organizers as the huge El Tour de Tucson. Last year the 25-mile inline skate race was added to the bill with RF chip timing. The first portion of the course is scenic, but hilly. The latter portion proceeded along city streets with excellent police support.

This year's event was threatened by rain. There were numerous showers the day before and in the early morning hours the day of the race. Luckily, most of the showers had moved on and the course had mostly dried off by the start. It was partly sunny and around 60 degrees as less than 30 skaters lined up at 7:00am.

The race began at a steady pace. The first five miles was slightly rough over rolling hills, but with a good elevation gain. Jeff Neal and I, the only two competitors at the faster pace, gradually pulled away from the rest of the skaters. Then, a few miles later, Jeff gradually pulled away from me as he continued his challenging pace.

Entering the suburbs of Mesa, skaters made a right turn on McDowell. For five miles the road gradually descended. Since many of the skaters decided to keep their good race bearings on rather than switching to rain bearings, this next section was very fast.

I attempted to narrow the gap between Jeff Neal and I, but it never seemed to narrow nor lengthen. Jeff and the pace motorcycle were always within my sights until the last five miles as the course turned through the city streets.

At that point I spontaneously decided to do the add-on mileage option with this race. I ignored a policeman's direction and missed a turn. I estimated I skated an additional three miles. The error brought down my finishing position from second to eighth.

Regardless, El Tour de Phoenix was a great event and it turned out to be a very beautiful day in Phoenix. Unfortunately, due to the low turnout, it is unlikely the organizers will host the skaters again. Although the event doesn't cater well to recreational skaters, many local speedskaters were still absent. It's a shame to have lost this great event when there are already few outdoor events to go around. Thanks to Nikki Diamantopolous-Baruch for organizing the inline race, giving us the opportunity to skate this event for two years.


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