Olympic silver medalist cycling in El Tour de Tucson - Tucson News Now

Olympic silver medalist cycling in El Tour de Tucson

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Thousands of bicyclists are heading to Tucson for the 30th annual El Tour de Tucson.

The event kicked off with the bike fitness and health expo on Wednesday.  Organizers said 6,000 people had already signed up for the race.  They come from all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  This year they even had cyclists from Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and Afghanistan coming in.

The expo featured about 100 vendors and booths filled with safety information for cyclists who are participating.

Among those in town are several award winning cyclists, including Nelson Vails, an Olympics silver medalist.  He represented the United States in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Vails was mingling with fans at Pro Bikes on Wednesday night.  He told Tucson News Now he was excited to be participating in this year's event.

The last time Vails rode in the El Tour de Tucson was about 28 years ago, right after he won his silver medal.  He calls it a whirlwind tour, but said it was memorable.

"I remember having a great time in the Arizona desert," said Vails. 

Vails plans to ride in the 111-mile race.  Even though it has been about 30 years since he won the silver, Vails said he was still keeping up with his cycling.

"I log miles everyday.  I ride 250 miles every week.  In San Diego, there are some hills, rolling hills and some of it is flat," said Vails.

His advice for bicyclists?

"Mentally, have fun with it.  Whenever I do tours throughout the country, I usually stop at the rest areas, post pictures on my social media sites.   Of course, if you're competing stay within the time limit," said Vails.

We asked Vails if he had any special rituals the night before the big race.  He said, like other athletes, he loaded up on carbohydrates and protein.

"I'll have chicken fettuccine and follow tradition, go to bed early, do my stretches the night before and then the morning of, I know I'll feel good. It will be a nice sunny day," said Vails.

He hoped to complete the ride in about four hours.

Registration at the Tucson Convention Center continues through Friday.

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