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Updated Sep 9, 2012, 12:27 pm Originally posted Sep 8, 2012, 11:58 pm
In most of the country dropping temperatures mark the end of the cycling season. Not in Tucson and the Southwest, where fall means riders climb back on their bikes and on weekends there are many more bicycles climbing up Mt. Lemmon than cars.
In addition to the many recreational riders, many professional cyclists train here during the winter until the next racing season begins in the spring.
The Tolero Criterium on Saturday marked the beginning of the local cool-weather bicycle racing season.
Even though most Tucsonans are familiar with the El Tour de Tucson that attracts thousand of cyclists, there are many more local races and some, like the Tolero race, are USA Cycling-recognized. They allow racers to rack up points used to rank professional riders.
The Tolero Criterium was held Saturday morning at the Casa Church, 10801 N. La Cholla Blvd.
A criterium is a fast-paced race on a short track. The race, organized by the local Tolero cycling club, saw riders circle the church's parking lot in a series of tight counter-clockwise turns.
The morning saw a series of races, from juniors through men's and women's pro races. Each race was run for a specific duration, from 20 minutes for the juniors up to an hour for the professional men.
The winners of the top level race all train in Tucson: first place was taken by Rocky Serna, a racer for Guinness; second place by JetSet team member Brian Forbes; coming in third was Green Valley's Pat Collier.
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Among the USA Cycling races coming up in Tucson, the event that attracts the most renowned cyclists is the Tucson Bicycle Classic, a three-day race that takes place in the heart of winter. It includes a time trial, road race and circuit race on successive days.
Other races include a criterium at the University of Arizona, an event that may be disrupted this year because of the construction of the Sun Link streetcar.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the last name of Rocky Serna.