Ris­ing Ari­zona

From the desert floor in the heart of Ari­zona’s Santa Catalina Moun­tains rises Mount Lem­mon, a climb of epic pro­por­tions and breath­tak­ing beauty

Cyclist - - Contents - Words JAMES SPENDER Pho­tog­ra­phy PA­TRIK LUNDIN

Cy­clist goes State­side to em­bark on a ride from Ari­zona’s desert floor to the sum­mit of the mighty Mount Lem­mon that will steal your breath in more ways than one

I’ve been rid­ing for two miles when it fi­nally clicks. ‘Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner, but he knew it wouldn’t last. Jojo left his home in Tuc­son, Ari­zona, for some Cal­i­for­nia grass.’ The Bea­tles’ ‘Get Back’ is the rea­son why the words Tuc­son and Ari­zona seem so in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked in my mind, pos­si­bly the only rea­son be­fore this trip that I knew where Tuc­son ac­tu­ally was. In the two miles we’ve been cy­cling (we’re in the United States so im­pe­rial mea­sure­ments rule) I’ve learned from my ride com­pan­ion, Miguel, that Tuc­son is Ari­zona’s sec­ond city to Phoenix – pop­u­la­tion half a mil­lion – and Ari­zona is one quar­ter of the ‘Four Cor­ners’, the sole quadri­point in the USA where four states butt heads, the oth­ers be­ing Utah, Colorado and New Mex­ico.

Miguel tells me he’s spent the win­ter months train­ing with the run­ner-up of Liège-bas­togne-liège, Cana­dian Michael Woods, who is one of a num­ber of ‘snow­birds’ – out-of-town­ers who flock to Un­cle Sam’s south­west cor­ner each win­ter for a slice of Ari­zona’s 350 sunny days per year. He also in­forms me that the cac­tus here are cac­tus, not cacti, and one such cac­tus is so proudly in­dige­nous it is a pro­tected species.

The saguaro cac­tus (pro­nounced sah-wah-roh) en­joys such a priv­i­leged sta­tus that when Miguel had some work

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