Cactus Classic
Oro Valley, AZ - Nov. 4, 2001     T   R   S  
San Diego Street Elite

This year's Cactus Classic Marathon on 11/4 was moved to Oro Valley on the northern outskirts of Tucson. Unlike the cold start in previous years, the weather was mostly cloudy and warm with temperatures near 70 degrees for the 7:00am race. A gusty easterly wind picked up during the course of the race. A total of 125 skaters registered for the full marathon and the shorter fitness skate.

The marathon course is three laps of an 8.7-mile loop. From the start/finish line, skaters proceeded up a long, gradual hill for the first three miles. The second half of the course lost that altitude through one good downhill, a gradual descent along a main highway, and then a short, but sweet, screamer downhill. Then there was another uphill to the start/finish.

Pavement was mostly smooth, but with a particularly rough section at the top of the hill. However, none of this was anywhere as rough as the previous years' course in Sahuarita. The beautiful Santa Clara mountains, which form the northern border of the Tucson suburbs, were predominantly visible from the entire area.

Skaters were weeded out early as the lead pack maintained a steady, but not too fast, pace up the long hill from the beginning. On the first lap a couple different skaters attempted to break away from the pack, only to find the pack zooming past them on the downhills. So from then on, the pack stuck together with many speed changes, but few breakaway attempts.

The final sprint started past a long bridge at the foot of a moderate uphill climb visible from a long distance. In the end, Harry Howlett, was the men's champion, followed closely by Aaron Warr and Steven Outen. From SDSE, I finished a little bit after this pack as well as Carl Yee. Other men representing SDSE were Brandon Thorsten, Joe Prescott, Rodney Friedman, and Bob Minami.

The women's race was a shootout of Arizona skaters. The top three kept close together in a pack including other men for most of the race. In the end, Nikki Diamantopolous (Salomon) successfully outsprinted Penny Wright (Predator) at the line. Right behind Penny for third place was Michelle Lindsey, a new skater who joined the Predators last year. Congratulations to Alice Eads (SDSE), who placed second in her age class.

We have seen the Cactus Classic marathon develop into a bigger and better race since its start five years ago. The Tucson In-Line Sk8 Club attracts excellent support from police, sponsors, and local citizens. This is a great race run from a grass-roots club, and we thank Diane Coonce for organizing the event annually.


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