The Infamous Tucson Saturday Morning Shoot-Out

I’ve been anticipating this all year, ever since I got to ride in it last year at Tucson Training Camp. It’s held a small dark corner of my thoughts, slowly building excitement as the trip down here to Tucson approached. Ever since I rode in the Shoot Out last year, and missed the front pack due to getting trapped in the gutter (along the edge of the road, boxed in by other riders,) I’ve needed a touch of redemption. Now that I’m here in Tucson, it was paramount that I got to engage in the excitement of bike racing, not only in a warm climate, surrounded by strong riders, but also aboard my triathlon bike.

Yup, the Quintana Roo TT bike, with aero extensions and everything.

Sounds somewhat out-of-place, or perhaps a bit offside, but I’ve discovered that as long as you’re able to hold a straight line, stay away from the aero bars, and don’t perform any nerdy triathlete shenanigans, you’re more than welcome to participate. It’s essentially a free impromptu race, every saturday morning ranging from a 7:30am-6:00am start, depending on what time of year (check out the little breakdown of the ride HERE and a map/elevation description HERE.) It’s exciting and fast paced, and today’s ride was no exception!

It started with about a 20 minute roll-out through town; I noticed a lot of chatty banter, with far too many serious faces. I think roadies need to smile more.

Rolling through town, lots of smiles from team Canada

As we neared Valencia, the road that is essentially the ‘Start Line,’ there was a lot of silence, and riders shedding layers as they prepared for the beginning of the Saturday morning excitement. I’m sure many riders prepare for this ride all week, with carbon race wheels and bikes worth almost as much as my house surrounding me, to be ready to try and take that final sprint, along with the Shoot Out glory and bragging rights. I’m pretty sure having that win on a resume is a pretty big deal, far more lucrative than winning the Velo Vets Iona sprint. Even though we were at a pedestrian pace rolling out, my legs were practically bouncing and I’m pretty sure my heart rate was in zone 4.5, anticipating crossing over that starting line. We hit Valencia, and all of a sudden a rider came by the outside lane and said “let’s get this party started!”

Classic.

It was action pretty much from the gun, no real breaks forming until a few miles down the road, but a hard and fast pace was set immediately. There’s no fooling about at the shoot out; if you want to stay with the front group, you’re going to have to suffer for it. Luckily for me, I not only brought my best suffer face, but I also loaded up on my favourite pre-‘race’ octane beverage: beet juice. Essentially, I felt like I brought a gun to a knife-fight.

There was no looking backwards today, I was focused on one thing, and one thing only: make the front break, and hold on for dear life. It took a turn for the hurt at 13 miles to go, or ‘The Bridge,’ where the pace gets really cranked and I definitely felt the burn for a few pedal strokes. I managed to hang on, and even to move myself through the field nearer the front of the pack. As we neared the Sprint Hill ‘Finish,’ just after mile marker 5, the main group I was in made a big effort to pull back the breakaway, which I’m fairly sure the bacon-powered Triathlete Ben Hoffman was a part of. Myself, my buddy Jesse Vondracek, and a new friend I’ve made here, Maik Twelsiek (another professional triathlete with some big wins to his name,) were all in that main group, and it strung out pretty long near the end. I managed to get myself into a good spot and finished close to the front, somewhere in the top 15(ish), a respectable spot for a triathlon nerd like me.

Jesse V, rolling on his Litespeed, during a brief recovery zone.

The ride back included some exciting pace-line work, something you don’t get many chances to do when you’re a triathlete. It was a hard effort, really fast too, as we rode back towards town.

It was an exciting ride, the closest thing to actually racing, and I would highly encourage anyone with pack-riding ability to ride the Shoot Out if they come down to Tucson. An awesome thing to note, was seeing so many Canadian kits in the Peleton, even some local kits from the Vancouver area, including team Coastal Ride (based out of the city I work in, Delta.) There was a noticeable amount of pretty serious riders, including many members of the Smart Stop Cycling Team, plus a TON of sweet looking Champion System kits, which are hard to miss.

Immediately post shootout, with the front pack.

So far the camp has been excellent, my energy is higher than ever, and the body is back into high-mileage mode. The mileage as of 11 days of training:

Swimming: 30kms
Bike: 1050kms
Run: 92kms

Total Hrs: 55hrs

Time to go hit the hills with Jesse and the super-dog Addy for a few hrs of trail running. Then, my favourite, costco trip!

Happy training everyone!!

Nathan

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