Triathletes, runners and cyclists flock each winter to Tucson to train. After all, the city does have more than 350 days of sunshine and a mild climate in Janaury, February and March, which makes it the ideal training spot.
But Tucson, dubbed America's winter training capital, has more to offer than just good weather. Here are six reasons (not in order) why the Old Pueblo is a great place to train.
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1. Bike friendly
The Tucson/Eastern Pima County Region is designated a gold level bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists, one of the largest bicycle advocacy groups in the country, and it's working towards platinum status.. The city has 620 miles of on-street bike lanes and ranks in the top three cities of bike lanes per square mile, according to report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking.
And that number will only grow. The city council passed a policy to include bike lanes on all new street construction and on all reconstruction projects. The Pima County Bicycle and Pedestrian Program is driving a number of projects forward, such as increasing the number of bike boulevards, bike parking and bike.predestrian signals.
2. Mount Lemmon
Mount Lemmon, which is part of the Santa Catalina Mountains, offers bicyclists a ride of epic proportions.
Riders start at about 2,500 feet, where the desert landscape is filled with Saguaro cactus, and climb up more than 26 miles along the Catalina Highway to the top of Mount Lemmon at nearly 9,000 feet. Riders can grab a snack in the small unincorporated village of Summerhaven and then head down the winding, steep descent back into the desert.
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Make sure to stop in at Le Buzz, the local bicyclist hang out spot and where many start their rides.
3. Carless Bike and Running Paths
The Pima County Urban Loop is a 55-mile continuous, paved shared-use path being developed around the Tucson metro area. The loop isn't complete, but it's getting there.
The county linked two sections--the Santa Cruz and Rillito river parks--in 2011, giving runners and bicyclosts 23 miles of uninterupted paved paths. There are restrooms, drinking fountains and other facilities located along the paths.
4. The Shootout
Here's your big chance to challenge the best in bicycling. The Shootout rides are held every Saturday morning and start near the University of Arizona. The loop starts out easy enough, but don't be fooled. Once the riders pass through the final stoplight get ready to ramp it up and try and hold on as long as you can.
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This ride features an unrelenting false flat and it's not for newbies. If the shootout sounds too ambitious, there are a number of other organized group rides you can join. Check out local bike shop Fair Wheel Bikes for information about rides or go to TucsonVelo.com, which covers the city's bike community.
5. Tri community: TriSports; TriFest
Whether you're riding up the Cataline Highway or out for a tempo run on the Rillito River Park path, there's a good chance you'll run into other triathletes. Professional triathletes and amateurs alike come to Tucson each year to attend one of the dozens of triathlon winter training camps. What makes Tucson's triathlon community so special is the number of locals who participate in the sport as well.
The upshot? It's easy to find a coach, training club or gear shop in town. Triathlon retailer TriSports is headquartered in Tucson, and each year the company holds TriFest to celebrate the end of the off season.
6. Trails Everywhere!
Think of running trails in Tucson and visions of cactus might spring to mind. Here's a little secret about Tucson: It's surrounded by sky islands, mountain ranges separated by desert lowlands.
Tucson is filled with trails that takes runners through fields of Saguaro cactus, mesquite bosques and prickly pear. There are also trails at 8,000 and 9,000 feet, where you'll find pine trees, and every elevation in between.
On the east side of Tucson, you can run a paved 8-mile loop through Saguaro National Park, pick one of the numerous trails on the Rincon Mountains; or run through Sabino Canyon. To north, the Santa Catalina Mountains offer a range of trails, to the west the Tucson Mountains have lower elevation trails, and to the south are the Santa Rita Mountains with Mount Wrightson, the highest point in the Tucson area.
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