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Gila stage 5: Wiles and Huffman sew up overall titles

Tayler Wiles and Evan Huffman took home top honors in the overall at Tour of the Gila in the women’s and men’s races, respectively, as the five-day race wrapped up Sunday in Pinos Altos, New Mexico. Wiles’s UnitedHealthcare teammate Katie Hall bookended the week with her second win in stage 5, also having won stage 1. Ecuadorian Jhonatan Narvaez (Axeon Hagens Berman) won the final stage of the men’s race.

To make things even sweeter for the UnitedHealthcare camp, its women swept stage 5 with Wiles second and Ruth Winder third, a little over two minutes behind Hall after the 110.9km race. In addition to the two stage wins, Hall, 30, ended up second overall, and Leah Thomas (Sho-Air Twenty20) was third.

Narvaez was coming off of a win at the Circuit des Ardennes International, a four-day UCI 2.2 race in France. The 20-year-old is new to the Axeon team for 2017. He attacked the eight-man break to win the 161.9-kilometer stage 5 ahead of Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) and UnitedHealthcare’s Gavin Mannion.

As the lone Axeon rider in a break that was spearheaded by four Rally riders, Narvaez had to bide his time and attack in the final 250 meters to win. “No one on their own felt strong enough to do something. But Jonathan [Narvaez] played it really smart,” Axeon Hagens Berman sport director Jeff Louder said. “I told him to take his chance when he could. He was super-patient and jumped with about 250 meters to go.”

Tvetcov ended the week second overall, 23 seconds behind Huffman, while third place went to Taylor Eisenhart (Holowesko-Citadel), who was 25 seconds back.

Unfortunately, Narvaez’s stage win was overshadowed by a grave crash that saw Axeon rider Chad Young taken to a Tucson hospital via life-flight after sustaining facial injuries. His team said his condition was “stable” late on Sunday.

“At this point, we simply ask everyone in the cycling community to please keep Chad in their thoughts and prayers,” team manager Axel Merckx said.

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