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Seen and heard: Tucson kid goes fast at El Tour; honeymoon alive for newlyweds; bike a family heirloom

It all started with a Spiderman bike for Izek Saiz. The 10-year-old, who rode in the 32-miler Saturday at the Banner-University Medicine 39th El Tour de Tucson, would take short rides around his neighborhood. Once he tried taking a much longer ride, the bike’s chain broke and he needed something a little nicer.

At the time, Saiz was watching his aunt, who was 10 at the time, train and take spin class at the JCC in Tucson. She was a member of junior El Tour.

“He would say, ‘I want to do that. I want to do that.’ I said when you are 10, we’ll do it,” said his grandmother, Veronica Saiz, who is the director of marketing and corporate engagement at Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Saiz trained by taking spin classes and riding the Loop. Saturday, he posted a time of 3 hours, 32 minutes and 53.3 seconds.

His favorite part of cycling? “I like to go fast,” he said.

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Mike Leland, the service manager at Bicycle Ranch, spent much of his time Saturday checking tire pressure. Temperature at the start of the 102-mile ride was 40 degrees; when it gets cold, tires’ air pressure goes down.

Leland said that the newly filled tires will last the entire race. He advises people to check their pressure before going out on a ride this time of year. If it’s at 50 psi, they, “are going to have a little bit of a softer cushy ride. They’re going to go slower and they’re going to be more susceptible to pinch flats while they’re out on the course.”

These days, tire pressure is determined by each rider’s weight. The range is around 65 to 95 psi.

“(Tire pressure of) 110 psi is great if you’re on a velodrome, a perfectly smooth track, but something like this pavement — chip seal — you’re just getting over all those little bumps and slowing you down. So a little bit lower psi is actually going to be faster and more comfortable.”

Leland has participated in El Tour a number of times and hopes to get back out next year.

Saturday, Leland saw a broken spoke, torque adjustments, crooked handlebar stems and a damaged tubular tire with a broken valve stem. Leland and his crew came up with a solution on the fly: Saran wrap.

Elga Soto was sitting to the side of the El Tour course with homemade signs for her husband, Gabriel Rodriguez, who was doing the 32-mile ride. Soto, who has lived in Tucson since 2007, was attending El Tour for the first time.

The two have been married for four months. Soto attended her first bike race last month in Albuquerque.

When they were first dating, Soto told her now-husband that she wasn’t so sure about the cycling thing.

“I was like, ‘Oh, really?’ Because I love hiking. I love to go hiking all over the place here,” Soto said. “When he said, ‘biking,’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s better to hike the mountains.’ And he’s like, ‘No, this is going to be nice. You’re going to like it.’ Yeah, (now) he’s getting me into it. He’s getting me a bike next year.”

When Rodriquez, who is changing his last name soon to Soto — a surprise to Soto, who thought it was “beautiful” — saw the signs, he smiled from ear to ear. He finished in a time of 2:02:09.3.

“Even though he participates in these frequently, he gets very nervous,” Soto said. “He’s like, ‘Oh, thanks for doing that. I really love it. It means a lot.’ He said calmed him down.”

Juniper John and Elle Lambson are 10-year old cousins who look a lot alike. John is from Marana, while Lambson lives in Santa Fe.

They took different tracks to training. Lambson rode on bike trails to prepare for the 10-mile fun ride. John didn’t train.

Yet, at the same time they both said that the best part of the day was, “Seeing and passing the finish line — and getting a medal.”

Both were excited to ride again next year, but first John had to finish her potato chips.

Mother-daughter connection

Scottsdale’s Lisa Fuller took part in the 63-mile ride using her mother’s Trek bike. Linda Prior, now 80, bought the bike in 1995 and rode the Trek in seven El Tours over the years.

Prior passed the bike down to her daughter in 2018. Fuller estimates that she has put more than 3,000 miles on it over the last four years.

“It’s sentimental,” Fuller said.

Prior didn’t give her daughter any El Tour tips, but did share how difficult training was before the Loop was built.

“Back then they didn’t have the Rillito or Santa Rita washes finished, so it was a little harder to put together a good 100 mile training ride,” Fuller said. “The paths they have now are fantastic.”

Fuller, 59, was a runner before turning to cycling in 2018. She and Mesa’s Allan Disner started slow, riding five miles a week. In 2019, Fuller decided to add a mile a week.

“I didn’t tell him right away that I was gunning for the El Tour de Tucson. It was like a little more, a little more. and then one day I was like, ‘Well, you know, we’re up to 30 miles, we could probably double that,” Fuller said.

They rode in their first El Tour last year.

The 39th Banner-University Medicine El Tour de Tucson kicked off Saturday morning with cyclists from across the U.S. and several other countries. Between 7,500 and 8,000 total riders were expected to participate in the event this year. Video by Rick Wiley, Mamta Popat, Kelly Presnell and Andrea Morabito.

Contact sports reporter PJ Brown at On Twitter: @PJBrown09

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