Tucson’s largest bicycle race is coming through Green Valley and Sahuarita on Saturday for the first time in its 38-year history, bringing thousands of cyclists and a lot of road restrictions. 

Here’s what you need to know about this year’s event, other than it's probably best to stay off most of the roads until afternoon.

Where and when?

No roads will be closed in Green Valley and Sahuarita other than the Interstate 19 off ramps at Continental and Sahuarita roads from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. On-ramps will remain open at both intersections with flaggers to control traffic. But drivers will see delays along the race route from about 9 a.m. through early afternoon. 

The main event kicks off in Tucson and has rides of 57 and 102 miles that will bring cyclists through Sahuarita and Green Valley. In 2019, those two rides had nearly 4,000 riders combined.  

Green Valley and Sahuarita residents will see cyclists on the 57-mile route come in from the east via Sahuarita Road then head north on Nogales Highway. A town spokeswoman said to expect the first riders about 9 a.m.

The 102-mile ride will have cyclists entering Sahuarita from the east on Sahuarita Road then heading south on Nogales Highway, then left onto Old Nogales Highway past Quail Creek and Madera Highlands. That road turns into Continental Road at La Posada, where riders will continue under the I-19 overpass and then past the Community Performance & Art Center. Continental veers north to Duval Mine Road, where riders will turn left and head a short distance to Mission Road, turn right on Mission to Helmet Peak Road (which becomes Sahuarita Road at I-19).

Bicyclists will re-enter Sahuarita from the west on Helmet Peak, which becomes Sahuarita Road at I-19. They will continue east all the way down Sahuarita Road to Nogales Highway, where they will turn north toward the finish line in downtown Tucson.

Riders on the 102-mile route will start at 7 a.m., followed by the 57-mile riders at 10 a.m. Both routes start and end at Armory Park Tucson.

Town of Sahuarita Public Works Director Beth Abramovitz said they expects riders to arrive in Sahuarita about 9 a.m. and leave by around 1:30 p.m. Any riders in the 102-mile race who reach Sahuarita after 1:30 p.m. will be sent north on Nogales Highway and will not be allowed to loop through Sahuarita and Green Valley.  

Traffic delays

There will be barricades set up on most roads to separate vehicles and cyclists, and the Sahuarita Police Department will direct traffic at the following intersections:

•Nogales Highway /Sahuarita Road

•Nogales Highway/Old Nogales Highway

•Old Nogales/Quail Crossing (in front of Quail Creek)

•Old Nogales/Madera Highlands

•Old Nogales/Whitehouse Canyon (La Posada)

•Sahuarita Road/La Canada (at Rancho Resort)

•Sahuarita Road/I-19 (DPS)

•Sahuarita Road/Rancho Sahuarita Boulevard

•Sahuarita Road/Calle Imperial

•Sahuarita Road/Desert Gem

•Sahuarita Road/La Villita

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department will be covering the following areas:

•Sahuarita Road/Wilmot Road

•Continental Road/Abrego Drive

•Continental Road/I-19 east and west

•Continental Road/Continental Shopping Plaza

•Continental Road/La Canada

•Continental Road/Camino del Sol (roundabout)

•Continental Road/Camino del Portillo

•Continental Road/Duval Mine Road

•Duval Mine Road/Mission Road

•Mission Road/McGee Ranch Road

•Mission Road/Helmet Peak Road

The Arizona Department of Transportation will close northbound and southbound I-19 off-ramps during the event. Use the Pima Mine Road exit off to get to Sahuarita.

Who’s paying?

Along with police, the Town of Sahuarita is providing Public Works and Parks & Recreation support. 

The town is covering the cost of the coffee stand and Public Works personnel, though they won't know the total hours worked until after the event.

El Tour — technically the 2021 Banner-University Medicine El Tour de Tucson — is footing the bill for police officers, barricades, bike patrols with riders, safety and gear vehicles following the riders for pick up, directional signs and supplies for an aid station at Quail Creek-Veterans Municipal Park.

Volunteers from Saguaro Solar, the first business to move into the SAMTEC building, will staff the aid station. Additional aid stations will be set up on Sahuarita Road near the pecan company and on Helmet Peak Road, on Mission Road at Twin Buttes Road and along Continental Road at Quail Crossing Boulevard.

Parks & Recreation staff will operate a coffee station at Quail Creek-Veterans Municipal Park for people watching the race.

How many riders?

Over 5,800 cyclists have already registered for the event, and organizers are expecting hundreds more to sign-up before Saturday. The tour includes several events but just two come through the Green Valley-Sahuarita area. 

After coronavirus precautions forced organizers to postpone the 38th El Tour de Tucson for a year, T.J. Juskiewicz, executive director of El Tour, said he feels like registrants are more ready than ever to ride this November.

“We’re seeing cyclists are eager to get out given there is pent up demand to get out and ride,” he said.

Barring changes to current public health guidance, this year’s event still has the green light. There are no mask requirements for outdoor activities in Pima County, and though El Tour organizers are encouraging eligible participants to get vaccinated, they are not required.

PCSD recommends residents avoid driving during the race and to use extra caution on the roads if they must.

Riders can still register in-person during the Expo at Armory Park, 221 S. 6th Avenue, on Nov. 18 -19. For more information on the El Tour de Tucson, visit eltourdetucson.org.

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9728 


Reporter Jamie Verwys grew up in Sahuarita and graduated from the high school in 2006. She lives in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2018.

Mary Glen is a North Carolina native who's excited to explore the Tucson area through her reporting with Green Valley News. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media in 2019.

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