Barton Haynes here in sunny San Diego, discussing my decade long journey at the Tour de Tucson. This year is going to be my year: Platinum, the 5 hour and under finish time. I’ve been close a handful of times, terribly close a couple of times.
Why I Love the Tour de Tucson
The Tour de Tucson, held in November, is one of my favorite races for many reasons
- It’s a beautiful ride
- It’s relatively flat
- It’s biker friendly
- The course is well designed and well produced
- The final 10 miles are hellish- two years ago, I was in the same group the entire climb and only heard two words said the entire time (at one of the stop lights), Holy fuck!
- It has a couple of weird-off-road-walk-across-the-gulch spots
- It’s a race that particularly rewards careful planning and strategy
In short, it’s not one of those ridiculously hilly or windy rides that almost solely benefits from brute force and exceptional preparation. Of course, exceptional preparation helps. But the times I have come close and terribly close to platinum have been the result of being in good shape AND mapping out:
- What I was going to do where
- How much I energy I was going to spend where
- What my pacing needed to be at point
Getting Close to Platinum at the Tour
I’ve come within 10 minutes of the 5-hour mark twice. Once I got stuck behind a train in the final 15 miles, which ended up costing me platinum. Once I had an unlucky spell of hitting an entire series of red lights on the final hill climb, which cost me the valuable minutes I needed to get under 5 minutes.
A handful of times I’ve been close. I’ve been in the mid 5-hour finish time on a number of occasions. Sometimes the wind was a decisive factor, often not saving enough for the final 10 mile hill climb was a factor, and other times not putting in enough work ahead of time.
The point has been this, for me, getting Platinum means a number of things need to come together for me:
- Weather needs to be good
- I need to have good pacing
- I need to have a bit of luck with trains and lights near the end
- I need to be in good health (more on this in a moment)
- I need to really go all out in training in the months before the Tour
The Last 2 Years
Last yearI didn’t race in the Tour. Why? Wasn’t motivated. Other life matters were more important. I hadn’t been pushing myself in training. It just didn’t make a lot of sense to go. Ironically, I ended up in Tucson the weekend of the race, but for different reasons. Honestly, I didn’t miss it that much.
Two year ago my son and I rode together.The plan was that, as a team, I had a good chance of getting platinum. He could pull out front for the first 50 miles or so while I saved my energy for the second half of the race. He’s a good sprinter and can keep an excellent pace for half-centuries, and he was willing to help me reach my goal, so this strategy made use of both our strengths.
Unfortunately, I got Bronchitis about a month before the race and was still on antibiotics at the time of the race, the wind was horrendously in our face most of the ride (only ¼ as many people achieved Platinum that year as the year before), and my son had just had a kid a few months prior to the race and so was not in top-shape.
The point, we had no preconceived expectations of getting anywhere close. Instead we just enjoyed the ride and our time together, and finished with a respectable time of just over 7 hours.
10-Point Strategy to get Platinum at the Tour de Tucson This Year
Here’s the plan to get Platinum this year.
- Do ride with my son
- Participate in many races this summer to prepare
- Avoid using trainer (I love the trainer, but it doesn’t work me as hard as the road)
- Drive the course before race and map out each section pacing strategy
- Don’t carb-load – try Keto approach to race
Date of race:
- Son rides out front first 50-60 miles
- Get to race very early to start out front (starting near back is a marked disadvantage, you spend valuable time just cutting through the crowd)
- Make sure I get lots and lots of sleep
- Make sure I get to final hill climb with 45 minutes left and energy to spare
- Make sure I’m in good group at beginning of final hill climb
I have 10 months to prepare. Giddy-up!