TJ Juskiewicz

TJ Juskiewicz took over Perimeter Bicycling on July 1.

TJ Juskiewicz took the reins of El Tour de Tucson's organizer, Perimeter Bicycling, amid COVID-19 uncertainty on July 1, and, so far, the ride is still on.

This year will mark Green Valley and Sahuarita's first time on the El Tour route in its 38-year history.

Juskiewicz replaced Charlene Grabowski as Perimeter's executive director, and his first year leading the event has been anything but typical since moving to Arizona a few weeks ago.

"It is what it is," Juskiewicz said. "Even just arriving here, we drove through a monsoon getting here and the next day was a record heat day. It was like, throw everything you've got at us. We can take it."

Juskiewicz said the heat and rapid weather changes aren't unfamiliar to him after growing up in Florida. He moved to Oro Valley from Iowa, where he also organized bike events.

"I've been doing events for about the last 30 years or so," he said. "I've been doing bike events for probably the last 25 years. I've worked on several different events in Florida and different places in the South. And then, throughout Iowa and Minnesota the last 17 years. And now I'm ready to work on this one and, maybe, bring back some other events as well."

The last event Juskiewicz worked in Iowa lasted seven days, crossed state lines and had riders going about 50 miles per day. He described it as a more leisurely paced, social event than El Tour, where speed is the goal.

He said both events are similar in that riders join to look for a challenge and a good time.

GV and Sahuarita

El Tour's 57- and 100-mile routes will pass through Sahuarita. The 100-mile route will stretch down into Green Valley.

Riders will hit parts of Sahuarita Road, Old Nogales Highway, Nogales Highway, Continental Road and Duval Mine Road.

As of Thursday, 1,060 riders signed up for this year's event since registration opened April 20. Bicyclists can register for El Tour until the day before the ride. El Tour attract about 6,000 cyclists annually.

It's no surprise that Juskiewicz is a bicyclist himself, and he's looking forward to the new routes passing through Green Valley and Sahuarita.

He said he's found that Tucson and surrounding areas have the best bike infrastructures, scenery and topographies he's ever seen.

"Where the ride goes through down in (Green Valley and Sahuarita), who would have thought you'd ride through pecan fields or go through mines and up and down mountains and different things like that," he said. "...I think people are just going to be blown away because they're not used to seeing all the diverse landscapes."

Virus uncertainty

Perimeter is taking a cautious look at the viability of holding El Tour on Nov. 21, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc with event schedules everywhere.

On Tuesday, Perimeter announced it still planned to hold the event on schedule but could postpone should COVID-19 interfere.

"If it's not safe to do the event, we will postpone it to late winter or early spring," Juskiewicz said. "We're looking at some dates right now to see where it would plot in on the calendars. So, we're talking to the county, and we're starting the conversations with the city before coming out and saying if it is postponed, this is the date."

Perimeter is also looking at adding safety measures to the race, such as drive- or bike-up packet pick-up, revamping aid stations with packaged treats and distancing riders over several downtown blocks at the starting line.

He said the goal would be to find a date when the weather is similar to November, such as February or March.

Juskiewicz found that Tucson does have the advantage of steady weather that would make adjusting the schedule possible. He also said much of the planning and coordination with the different jurisdictions is completed and wouldn't leave organizers starting at square one for a new date.

However, there would still be plenty of work, and some advance notice would need to go out should the event get postponed.

"We'd probably make an announcement, I would guess, it would probably be about 50 days out, and we still feel it's not going to be safe," he said. "We might have to back it up at that point. But right now, things change so often with this pandemic."

Juskiewicz said planners would need to keep an eye on indicators such as sports and school schedules prior to November's event to gauge how the country is doing.

"If all of a sudden we've got 30,000 people in a football stadium, why can't you do a bike ride outside?" he asked. "So those are going to be some things that are going to be pretty good indicators to see where the country is and what the mood is as far as going forward with mass-participation events."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732