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Photo: Cindy Thomas

Mexican riders Castillo, Salomon win El Tour de Tucson

Mexican riders Ulises Castillo and Betsabée Salomon topped the field to win El Tour de Tucson.

Mexican riders Ulises Castillo and Betsabée Salomon won Saturday’s El Tour de Tucson, a 109-mile mass-participant race around greater Tucson, Arizona.

Castillo, who rides for the Elevate-KHS pro men’s team, stormed to the finish alongside former U.S. national road champion Eric Marcotte. Castillo skimmed past Marcotte with a bike throw at the finish.

From Los Mochis, Mexico, Castillo has raced El Tour before, but this was his first win. He came in with a finishing time of 3:47:56.7. Last year, he came in third and took second in 2016.

“We came with all my people from Mexico,” Castillo said. “We are happy to be raising the flag.”

Castillo trains with a group back in Los Mochis called Power Pedal, and he said the group was in his thoughts throughout the race.

El Tour de Tucson is open to 9,000 riders. Photo: Damion Alexander

“It’s a huge thing to come here, saving money, renting a shuttle, and training specifically for this stuff,” Castillo said. “I was thinking of them, to try to keep them coming here.”

Castillo’s victory came despite a few setbacks during the 109-mile route, which included sections of dirt, a few steep climbs, and even a river crossing. At one point he lost his way along the route, and he also crashed in the river wash. The route was challenging, he said, and he had to negotiate his way around other top riders. This year, the route cut out one of the washes because of how dangerous they can be and added Pistol Hill for an extra climb.

Colorado’s Quinn Simmons and Travis McCabe finished third and fourth.

The fifth and sixth riders to finish pedaled a tandem bicycle: Paul Thomas and Joshua Berry, followed by the mixed tandem team of Shelby Reynolds and Philip Tinstman.

The first solo woman across the line was Betsabée Salomon of Obregón, Mexico, who crossed the line in 4:04:38.3. She was also the top women’s finisher in 2017. Her brother, David, won the event in 2018.

Both are members of the P&S amateur cycling team in Hermosillo, a four hour drive from Tucson. Anne Donley of Denver, Colorado followed at 4:13:33.2 along with Flagstaff, Arizona’s Amy Chandos.

“Pistol Hill is decisive,” Donley said. “I just couldn’t make it in front. I was in a sprint position against Amy. I’m just glad to finish the race with all my skin on.”

Behind the winners, more than 9,000 riders completed the El Tour de Tucson’s three different routes, with distances of 109, 50, and 25 miles open to riders.  The event also boasts entry-level events for new cyclists, with distances of 10, 4, or 1-mile routes, and that welcomes children, families, and really anyone that wants to ride.

El Tour is about inclusivity, which has been part of the ride’s success. The fundraising ride is now in its 37th year. And this year, El Tour de Tucson has 32 beneficiaries, from Beads of Courage to the youth cycling group El Grupo.

Travis McCabe, who finished 4th, rode for Beads of Courage, an arts-based program to support children with a serious illness. McCabe completed the 109-mile ride with beads from the group in his jersey pocket.

“They’re glass beads made in Tucson,” McCabe said. “We pin them onto our pockets. They have an energy, they have our sweat, have our goo. Now we give them to kids with cancer, about to go into surgery to ease that anxiety. It gives them meaning to get their mind off of things. And I like to give back.”

This was the first year that McCabe raced El Tour de Tucson with a top spot in mind. In 2012, he participated in the event, but just for fun.

“In 2012, I unofficially won the 50-miler on an ElliptiGo wearing Daisy Dukes,” he said.

Race or ride, El Tour de Tucson is for everyone, Daisy Dukes included.