Some riders have tried to beat the waterlogged crossings by using garbage bags. One year Ralph Phillips, 41, a Tucson bike-shop owner, stashed two plastic garbage bags under his shirt at the start of the race. Until he reached the Upper Santa Cruz crossing, they served as windbreakers. At the river bank, he fashioned the bags into waders and secured them around his thighs with rubbers bands.
"It worked," says Phillips. "Of course, it took a lot of testing beforehand to find out which garbage bag worked best. I settled on Hefty bags with metal liners."
Most of El Tour's top riders despise the crossings, but Bostick takes a philosophical view: "This is my idea of a triathlon. Cycle 109 miles, run a few hundred yards, and if there's water to fall into, I get to swim."
As the winner of the previous four El Tours, Bostick was the man to beat. In fact, the race might have been named Bostick versus Tucson. A pack of local riders, led by Tease and Doug Love-day, an unemployed 24-year-old with a degree in biology from Arizona State, teamed up in an effort to break Bostick's streak and ensure victory for a hometown cyclist.
Even though he was a marked rider, Bostick's strength kept him in the lead pack through the early going. But his unofficial teammates—his wife, Carol Ann, and their friend Larry Risley—were delayed at the 45-mile mark by a flat tire on Carol Ann's bike. Fearing that he couldn't stave off the Tucson riders alone, Bostick waited for his teammates to make the tire change, allowing the lead group to pull away.
Bostick and his teammates caught up to the leaders, but bad luck intervened again when Risley had a flat at Sabino Canyon and had to quit the race, 75 miles into it. Their strategy to that point was for Risley to match every other Tucson attack, giving Bostick a chance to hang back and rest for the finish. With Risley out, Bostick was on his own.
Even so, Bostick still had his nose in the breeze for the last run down Oracle Road. A strong headwind kept the lead pack together as they raced the final half mile—downhill to El Conquistador Way, then a hard right, followed by a quick uphill sprint of about 400 feet to the finish line.
On that half-mile stretch, Tease attacked first, with Loveday on his wheel. When Bostick pushed ahead of Tease, Loveday broke away and angled for the inside lane, barreling into the tight turn at 25 mph.
Loveday sprinted across the finish line in an El Tour-record time of 4 hours, 22 minutes and 21 seconds. After a grueling 109 miles, Bostick was a wheel back, at 4:22:22.
Molly Taubeneck set a record for women at 4:25:24, only three minutes behind Loveday. "Competing against the guys is one of the things women like about this race," said Taubeneck, 28, a critical-care nurse from Tucson. "It tugs on their egos a little, and I get a perverse pleasure out of that."