TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tucson is weeks away from one of the biggest biking events in southern Arizona.
Thousands of cyclists will ride in this year’s El Tour de Tucson, but not all of them are aiming for their best time.
One group in particular is riding to help competitors cross the finish line.
Nearly 300 certified Bike Patrol cyclists bring enthusiasm for cycling and a deep pool of experience to ensure the success of thousands of riders in Perimeter’s events every year. They ride all or part of an event’s route, stopping to assist other cyclists and report their activities to headquarters during the event.
Each rider must be certified to ride an event — a short class ensuring that you know what to expect and what is expected of them during an event. Certifications must be renewed every two years.
For the past year, the program has been co-directed by Greg Yares and Bill Sarnack. There’s decades of experience between the duo, who have been a part of Bike Patrol for 20 years.
“Bike Patrol is designed for people who like to ride their bikes who also enjoy helping people and love the event,” Yares said.
Between first aid and fixing a flat, the team has a new tool in their belt for this year’s El Tour: The app Race Joy is a way to not only navigate the route, but members of the patrol.
“We can look for Bike Patrol to see where other bike patrollers if they’re spread out or concentrated in one spot,” Sarnack said.
Right now the group’s numbers won’t be as concentrated since Bike Patrol still needs to fill more than 50 volunteer spots throughout the three rides. As of last week, Yares said they had about 71 volunteers and last year they had a total of 125.
Not only do you need to be willing to ride the entire route, you need to know about bike mechanics before you hit the road.
“Know how to fix a flat tire, how to change the tube out and what caused the flat. Know about basic shifting and breaking,” Sarnack said.
“You don’t have to be a fully certified first-aid person or a top-grade bike mechanic, but you have to be willing to assist and do what you can do,” Yares said.
That way the wheels on the ground are equipped to help when a problem pops up. And even if it doesn’t, they’ll still be able to fulfill their most important job.
“Ride along and encourage them — and encouragement is a huge role that we have,” said Yares.
Bike Patrol will have one more certification class on Nov. 22.
El Tour still needs more than 300 volunteers. The three-day event is hosted as an outside festival this year, encouraging the community to come out and not just riders.
For more information on both visit: perimeterbicycling.com/bike-patrol