March in the snowy MidWest is best navigated by a Fat Bike, XC Skis, or a Snowmobile. Cyclists that train full-time are relegated to endless hours in front of their TV, fan, and HR Monitor… unless they make the trip to somewhere warmer, which is what this Cyclist did for training this March.
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Giant Advanced TCR Road and beautiful scenery

With temps ranging from the mid-50’s to the low-80’s, the Sonoran Desert is a great place for Spring Training Camp and Tucson is a major hub for the endurance athletes in the USA. Tucson is surrounded by 5 mountain ranges and home to Saguaro National Park on its East and West borders, University of Arizona, and many Professional Road and Mountain Cyclists, Triathletes, and runners. The Pro list calling Tucson home this time of year includes Tom Danielson (Cannondale-Garmin), Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing), and Triathlete Veteran/Coach/Ironman Official Jimmy Riccitello. Sunny Tucson is also home to the Arizona International Christian Cycling Club Spoke.

After the 6 hour flight from Northern Michigan and stopping by Pro Bike Tucson to retrieve 1 of my 2 rental bikes for the week, a stunning carbon Giant TCR Advanced, fully equipped with Shimano Ultegra, my wife and I made our way to our Casita and she took a nap and me a ride. In order to check the fit of my carbon steed I got a 60 min spin around the University of Arizona campus a ran into one of the many Pro riders in the area. A nice guy from Boston on the tail end of 110 mile training ride gave me the rundown of what pavement was good and what was less than good. We bid adieu and I headed back to the Casita and off to the local Vietnamese Pho restaurant to fuel for the next day’s ride.

 

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Giant Anthem and more of the spectacular desert topography

Day 1- there was no sleeping in with so much sun and heat in my future. After prepping my bike fuel for the day, sent directly from Hammer Nutrition to Tucson for the week of training, I was off and headed West to the Tucson Mountains with 75 miles on the itinerary. Quickly out of the secure bike lanes of Downtown and on my way up the Gates Pass climb I realized that I finally had settled in. The day’s ride included Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain Park, down to the Mission San Xavier del Bac for some prayer and fresh Indian fry bread, which served as the feed zone for the afternoon. A quick climb and descent of the A Mountain at Sentinel Park and I was headed back to Pro Bike to switch out the TCR for a full-suspension Giant Anthem 29er for the next 2 days of trails.

Day 2- pulling a route from Strava that some local Pros had done the day before, I hit the Richard Genser Starr Pass Trailhead, located in the middle of an upscale resort community and having more parking than needed this early morning. I worked my way West back into the Tucson Mountains via the rocky and steep David Yetman Trail, to the Golden Gate Trail, then briefly rolling some pavement to hook up with 2 locals and a tour of the Cougar Trail, and our destination of the sublime singletrack of the Brown Mountain Trail. The route back was on pavement to Tucson Estates, then hooking up with the Starr Pass Trail at Cat Mountain and back to the 36th St Trailhead. Riding is far from MidWestern in this system with rocks, cacti of all shapes and sizes, and plenty of technical climbs.
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Brian Matter and Steven Terry

Day 3 & 4- These days were prescribed intensive days that I would be working directly with my Coach, Brian Matter- a 4 Time Iceman Champion (the only in the 25yr history of the race), Former World Cyclocross Team USA Member, and repeat winner of the Ore To Shore, Chequamegon 40, and WORS Cup. Brian has ridden for Trek Bicycles, Oakley, and Clif Bar for a very long time and fills his time in between XC and CX wins as a Coach with Momentum Endurance (www.momentumendurance.com), with his home in WI and his Spring home in Tucson. Fridaywas spent on the dirt and rock in Catalina State Park, home to local classic trails The Chutes and the 50 Year Trail. The riding here will teach you about technical climbs, rock drop-offs, and trail flow. Saturday we got in a 50+ miler on roads headed out to Colossal Caves in the East side of Saguaro National Park. The brightest part of the ride was when I started to notice a string of IC3 jerseys coming the other way… first just 1, then a group of 2, then another, and another group. Brian had never heard of our squad, but was impressed when the guys noticed my IC3 kit and started to cheer me as I passed each rider. After the ride, we headed over to his favorite coffee/WiFi hotspot, Brewd, located in the Sabino Canyon area. The fun continued as I walked in to a smiling face, recognizing my IC3 kit again and letting me know that they sponsor the local Spoke in AZ. This is the most I have ever been recognized, as Michigan does not have a Spoke and only 2 riders that I am aware of. Brian and I spent quite some time at Brewd, enjoying coffee, food, and going over the week’s ride data on Training Peaks in order to plan for the racing season ahead.

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Refreshments at Brewd

Day 5- My last riding day was that of a social one, as another local Michigan Expert rider was just starting his training camp in Tucson. We got in another 50+ in the Tucson Mountains and our families brainstormed ways to make permanent home in Tucson… For now Tucson would simply be a Tune Up for racing in the MidWest, as we anxiously await the snow melt and coming dirt of singletrack and pavement.