Gabrille Giffords to Ride in El Tour de Tucson

November 21, 2014

By Stephanie Innes

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered near paralysis of her right side in the 2011 Tucson shooting, is planning to ride in the annual El Tour de Tucson cycling event Saturday.

Giffords, 44, has signed up to ride the El Tour 11-mile fun ride. The fun ride begins at 8:30 a.m. in front of the Children’s Museum Tucson across from Armory Park and will end at the same place. The 11-mile and 5-mile fun rides are expected to attract about 600 cyclists, El Tour spokeswoman Marilyn Hall said.

An avid athlete, Giffords loved cycling prior to the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting and had been on a bike ride the day before the tragedy.

In the shooting, Giffords suffered a bullet wound that went straight through the left side of her brain and the injury affected her speech and movement on her right side.

The Tucson native ultimately resigned from Congress to work on her rehabilitation and has since founded Americans for Responsible Solutions along with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. She lives in Tucson with Kelly and his youngest daughter.

Giffords has been training on a recumbent bicycle for six months, and set the El Tour race as a goal last month. She steers her bicycle with her left arm and most of her pedal power comes from her left leg.

This weekend will mark Giffords’ first-ever El Tour as a participant.

In an emailed message, Giffords wrote that she thinks one of the most wonderful things about El Tour is that people of all ages and abilities can participate, and support the Special Olympics at the same time.

“I’ve worked really hard to get back on my bike, and I'm ready,” she wrote. “Southern Arizona always looks so beautiful by bike. So, let's go!”

Giffords is planning to ride with her husband and a friend.

People with physical challenges routinely ride in the El Tour events using hand cycles. This year, 31-year-old Tucson resident Jessica Cox, who was born without arms, will be riding a recumbent bicycle that she steers with her ribcage.

Hall said Giffords' dedication and strength in recovery embodies the same spirit as Brendan Lyons and Lorena Evans, who will be honored as the dedication recipients at this year's El Tour.

Lyons and Evans were seriously injured while training for the 2013 El Tour, when a car hit them from behind while they were riding in the bike lane. They and are now vocal advocates for bicycle-car safety.

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