Why Gabby Giffords is riding 40 miles around Tucson

On Saturday, Gabby Giffords and husband Mark Kelly will ride 40 miles in El Tour de Tucson, an annual fund-raising event that draws nearly 10,000 riders.

(Mark Prentice via AP)
In this February, 2015 photo provided by Mark Prentice, former congresswoman Rep. Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, founders of the advocacy group Americans for Responsible Solutions, which calls for stricter gun regulations, pose for a photo in Tucson, Ariz., as they train for a 40-mile charity ride called El Tour de Tucson, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Giffords was gravely injured in the 2011 Tucson shooting that left six dead.

Just after she participated in an 11-mile bike ride for charity last year, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords decided she could do more.

This year, she and husband Mark Kelly will ride 40 miles in El Tour de Tucson, an annual event that draws nearly 10,000 riders and takes place Saturday.

Giffords continues her recovery from the mass shooting outside a Tucson grocery store on Jan. 8, 2011 that left six dead and 13 injured, including the former congresswoman. After the shooting, Giffords had to resign her seat in Congress.

But Giffords has been determined to overcome her injuries. She's skydived and traveled the country advocating for stricter gun regulations with Americans for Responsible Solutions, the organization she founded with Kelly.

"My recovery has been full of milestones both big and small, and a big one was getting back on my bike and back to riding around this gorgeous city of ours with friends and family," Giffords said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Tucson News Now reports that last year, participants in the ride raised more than $8.5 million for 48 nonprofit organizations. This year's primary beneficiary is Easter Seals, an agency that helps with physical and emotional health of kids, adults and families.

And the organizers note that the cycling event, which has grown from 198 riders in 1983, now provides an economic boost to Tucson businesses.

"We have like a $15 to $18 million economic impact on this weekend. That impact is probably multiplied by five times the amount because people are continuing to come back. We need that in our community," ride founder Richard DeBernardis told Tucson News Now.

Giffords has been training several times a week for the long bike ride during the last year, she said. It hasn't been easy, and she took a tough tumble sometime in the spring.

"But I kept working hard, and I'm ready. Mark and I are so excited to be back riding in the El Tour again, and to join with so many of our fellow Tucsonans and with people from around the world for a ride around our community. I want everyone recovering from an injury or setback to know that determination and a little grit can take you a long, long way, and help you achieve things you might have thought were impossible."

Giffords will ride in a retrofitted recumbent bike and Kelly will ride a regular one. The organizers of El Tour have dedicated the event to Giffords and Kelly, a retired astronaut.

Giffords has shown enthusiasm for the race on her Twitter account.

"Training's done. Bike's ready. @iamspecialized gear is laid out. I'm ready to tackle 40 miles in @tourdetucson!" she tweeted Friday.

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