Hard work, perseverance, and dedication paid off for fifth grader Ariana Dinu. She fulfilled her dream to complete the El Tour de Tucson 102-mile century bike ride November 21.
Founded in 1983 by former teacher Richard DeBernadis, the El Tour de Tucson is one of the biggest cycling events in the country with participation topping 7,000.
Ariana is the youngest female athlete to attempt and successfully complete this extremely challenging bike ride in the allotted time of under nine hours. She rode alongside her dad and completed the 102-mile ride in eight hours, 55 minutes, and 11 seconds.
“When I was in the tour lineup, several people asked me if I knew I was in the 102-mile lineup,” says Dinu. “I feel like people sometimes have preconceived notions of what you can or cannot do because you are too young or ‘just a girl.’ I didn’t let that get in my way.”
A student at Great Hearts Archway in Scottsdale, Ariana has been cycling since she was 4 years old.
“My family and I rode our bikes for fun but we had never participated in a bike tour. I was 6 years old when I saw bikers in my neighborhood practicing for a tour and I knew that was something I wanted to do. I have been training for bike tours with my dad ever since then.”
Soon thereafter, she participated in her first 50-mile 2018 El Tour de Tucson at the age of 7. The youngest female finisher in the 50-mile category, Ariana was awarded the Conquistador trophy. Since then, riding in bike tours and meeting other bicyclists has been one of her favorite things to do.
“When I rode in El Tour de Tucson for the first time, I was told that their longest and most challenging ride in terms of distance and elevation gains was the 100-mile tour. I knew then that that was going to be my next goal––100-mile century ride by age 10,” she says. “My parents taught me to focus on the target and stood by me through my journey. They said if I put my heart and mind to it I could achieve my dreams.”
To train for the event, Ariana woke up at 5 a.m. most weekend mornings in the summer to bike with her father. They biked around Scottsdale and sometimes all the way to Tempe and back.
“I trained for distance, speed, and elevation gains. I paid attention to my cadence, hydration, and nutrition,” explains Ariana, who added a few miles each ride to get closer to her goal. The weekend before the tour, she had reached 80 miles per day.
“I will be doing my second metric century bike tour in Tour de Mesa next April,” say Ariana. She also hopes she’ll be able to ride in a tour soon with her little sister, Carina, who’s been joining in on Ariana’s bike practices recently.
Beyond that, Ariana has her sights set on starting to train for triathlons and one day competing in the Ironman Triathlon, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.22-mile run.
“I would like every kid, especially every girl, to know that as long as they focus on the goal and work hard, they can do it. Sometimes it may seem impossible, but you don’t know until you try. Never give up!”