Pro Alison Tetrick joins Tucson cyclists on charity gravel ride to empower youths

Alison Tetrick riding up Tucson's mountains on Jan. 28, 2023, for a charity group ride organized by SBT GRVL.
Alison Tetrick riding up Tucson's mountains on Jan. 28, 2023, for a charity group ride organized by SBT GRVL.

A group of cyclists clad in brightly-colored gear gathered in front of a retro-looking food truck in a popular cyclist area of Tucson on Saturday, warming themselves over warm cups of coffee and waiting to join professional cyclist Alison Tetrick on a group ride for charity.

Tetrick arrived Thursday evening for SBT GRVL’s On the Road cycling series. SBT GRVL is one of the largest gravel cycling events in the world that occurs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, every year. This year, they will also host FNLD GRVL, a race in Finland.

For On the Road, SBT GRVL decided to give back to the cycling community throughout the year by having micro-GRVL events in different cities different months throughout the year.

"It's not just about one day in August or one day in June, in Finland, it's about really activating communities nation and now worldwide," Tetrick said.

Tucson was their first stop in the On the Road series.

A huge, thriving cycling community

Saturday's group ride raised $2,000 with a donation match by Chamois Butt’r for El Group, an Outride grant recipient and Tucson nonprofit that aims to empower youth through bicycles.

“Tucson this time of year has a huge cycling community. It's thriving,” Tetrick said. “Coming to Tucson we can connect with this community, raise money to help keep providing these programs with free bikes, helmets, etc.”

Between 50 and 70 cyclists joined the ride, zooming down Tanque Verde Road and up the mountains, where the Santa Catalina and Rincon mountains meet, passing homes and suburban ranches tucked away among the desert plants, eventually climbing about 4,000 feet to Redington Pass.

Gravel cycling, similar to mountain biking, is gaining popularity as a fun and more accessible way to adventure and see wilderness areas off paved roads. A range of bicycles can work when gravel cycling, though thicker tires are recommended.

“Gravel roads are nice … much more serene,” she said noting the peacefulness of not riding near cars and the ability to explore not only paved roads, but roads off the beaten path.

For the Off the Road series, SBT GRVL teamed up with Specialized, a cycling gear company, and Outride, a nonprofit that aims to increase youth access to cycling.

The series will also travel to Calabasas and Monterey in California, Bentonville in Arkansas; New York, New York; Denver, Colorado; and San Antonio and Lockhart in Texas.

Tetrick who had never been to Tucson before the event, said she had fun exploring Mount Lemmon's dirt trails on her bike the day before Saturday's group ride. She noted that cyclists like coming to Tucson in the winter for its dry weather, when other popular cycling destinations are covered in snow.

Raising money to get more youth on bicycles

Although Tetrick has been racing for 15 years, she loved that this event was not about racing but about giving back to the community and raising money to get more youth on bicycles through El Grupo.

Tetrick said cycling gives people a sense of freedom and is great for not only exercise but also mental health.

“It's relaxing and it can be in a safe place where you can just learn, get a little energy out and explore some of your roads,” she said.

Gravel cycling:It's a growing sport across rural southern Arizona

Tetrick started racing professionally at 24, after her grandfather at 60 years old began to ride and raced until he was 85. She grew up on a northern California cattle ranch and was trained in biochemistry.

Although Tucson is known more for road cycling than gravel, with SBT GRVL’s presence last week in Tucson, Tetrick said they can show people what Tucson’s gravel scene has to offer.

“It’s a great place to ride, great community,” she said.

Coverage of southern Arizona on and in The Arizona Republic is funded by the nonprofit Report for America in association with The Republic.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Pro Alison Tetrick joins Tucson cyclists on charity gravel ride