When Ahwatukee Foothills resident Tracey Perez talks about cycling, she rarely mentions the physical strain it puts on her entire body. She seems unaware of the fact that an average person would find it impossible to complete a 50-mile bike ride five days a week.

She doesn't even notice that Arizona's cycling season doesn't begin until January. That's because she's too focused on winning.

For the second year in a row Perez won the Tour de Scottsdale Oct. 3, a 70-mile rocky race that carves through Scottsdale, Carefree, Fountain Hills, Cave Creek and Phoenix. The race began at DC Ranch and proceeds benefitted the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.

More than 1,000 cyclists participated in the Tour de Scottsdale this year, amping up the dangerous nature of the race.

"It's such a tight and crazy course," Perez said. "With so many people around you it creates an element of danger."

Despite the possibility of being injured, Perez said the pressure to win again pushed her to a finishing time of two hours, 42 minutes and 25 seconds.

I knew I wanted to stay with the pack of elite male riders, so I had to ride smart and know when to turn on the work, she added.

Perez said she is not a professional rider just yet -she's only been seriously cycling for a few years- but she plans on riding non-stop until she meets her goal.

"I've always been competitive whether it was cheer, swimming or running. Now I'm channeling all my energy into cycling," she said.

Cyclists are placed into categories based on their skill level, category one being the highest right under the professional level. Cyclists advance through the levels by winning races and accumulating points.

Within a year Perez said she plans on moving into category one, a mission she admitted will be very difficult to complete.

She noted that the challenge lies in balancing cycling, running and spending time with her family; downplaying what the hard work does to her body.

Perez said living in Ahwatukee and being sponsored by Specialized and Bicycle Haus racing will help her succeed on the road to category one.

"Ahwatukee is a Mecca for great athletes," she said.

Every Tuesday and Thursday Perez rides with a group of up to 70 Ahwatukee riders ranging from Desert Vista students to retired men.

That's my favorite ride because it's such a diverse group of people, Perez said. The bantering and talks during those rides make it fun and social, but there's always some sense of competition.

Perez said she also goes on solo rides at Bartlett Lake, South Mountain and in Avondale for a harder workout.

Not afraid of feeling the burn, she said her favorite part of the solo rides is climbing up the side of rugged mountains.

"It's an exhilarating challenge," Perez said.

Even though cycling is a time consuming hobby, her kids are always there to cheer her on at the finish line, according to Perez, adding that she uses her lifestyle as a way to teach her children that proper nutrition and exercise are important.

"I'm not teaching them to be competitive yet," she said. "That will come naturally."

Erica Tiffany is a senior at Arizona State University and a former intern with the Ahwatukee Foothills News.

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