SILVER CITY, New Mexico (VN) — The 32nd annual Tour of the Gila began Wednesday with the return of the hilltop finish on Mogollon. Canel’s-Specialized rider Oscar Sanchez shattered the breakaway with a strong solo attack in the final kilometers that only Rob Britton (Rally Cycling), who finished second, could follow. A surprise third-place finish for Alex Evans (Mobius-BridgeLane) rounded out the podium.
“This win is very important for me because I arrived here with very little racing form,” Sanchez said. “For my first race of the season, racing against teams that already have various competitions that they’ve done and have better form, for me is something that gives me confidence for what lies ahead in this race. I feel strong and I have a team that’s behind me 100 percent.”
The day began with Canel’s Ignacio “Nacho” Prado bursting out of the field shortly after the race officially started at kilometer zero. Prado quickly gained a one-minute lead, which would soon balloon into five minutes. The national time trial champion of Mexico settled into a solo break that would last over 60 miles before he was caught.
A two-man chase group that included Michael Hernandez (Aevolo) and Carlos Brenes (Costa Rica) chased for most of the day, but by the time they caught Prado, team orders forced them to sit up and return to the field. Returning champ Rally Cycling was left to drive the peloton, helping set up Britton for the finishing climb.
“We weren’t going to get any help from anyone else, so we just took the bull by the horns,” Britton said. “It’s what we’re good at. I was going as hard as I could go. I had Adam [de Vos] riding the whole plateau pretty much full gas. He did a lot of damage, which was perfect to set me up with the best position possible. I decided to go once we hit the climb and I never looked back.”
Sanchez heads into Thursday’s stage 2 holding the leader’s jersey and the KOM jersey. After scoring top points in both bonus sprints of the day, Prado will wear the sprinter classification jersey. Evans holds the lead in the best young rider competition.
- Oscar Sanchez, Canel’s-Specialized, 3:42:41
- Rob Britton, Rally Cycling, at 0:07
- Alexander Evans, Mobius Bridgeland, at 0:58
- Gavin Mannion, Unitedhealthcare, at 1:11
- Kyle Murphy, Rally Cycling, at 1:26
- James Piccoli, Elevate-KHS, at 1:36
- Isaiah Newkirk, 303 Project, at 1:40
- Lachlan Norris, Unitedhealthcare, at 1:44
- Luis Ricardo Villalobos, Aevolo, at 1:53
- Eduardo Corte Cordero, Canel’s-Specialized, at 2:01
Hall climbs to victory in women’s opener
Shortly before the men’s finish, UnitedHealthcare’s Katie Hall — who won last week’s Joe Martin Stage Race — claimed victory in stage 1 of the women’s race atop Mogollon. Sara Poidevin (Rally Cycling) finishing 8 seconds behind in second and Edwige Pitel (QCW Cycling) took third.
“I feel I’m on form right now and it feels really good,” Hall said. “I felt pretty bad going up that last climb because we were crawling for a long time and that always makes me feel bad. You don’t put out a lot of power so you just get tired. I felt terrible but probably so did everyone else, so I had to give it a try. It was a success.”
The race saw calm winds for the first time in years for stage 1, which helped keep the field together for the majority of the day. UnitedHealthcare and Rally took over once the race made the last turn heading into the climb for the finish.
Poidevin leads the best young rider classification and is happy to return to the Gila after missing last year’s edition due to injury.
“I’m really excited to race Gila,” Poidevin said. “I was really bummed to miss out on it last year. We have a strong team here.”
Katie Hall is in the red leader’s jersey for stage 2 and leads the queen of the mountain classification as well. Erika Varela (Team Conade-Specialized) will wear the green sprinter’s jersey.
The race resumes with Thursday’s stage 2, which measures 76.2 miles for the men and 74.1 miles for the women.
- Katy Hall, Unitedhealthcare, 3:39:36
- Sara Poidevin, Rally Cycling, at 0:08
- Edwige Pitel, QCW Cycling, at 0:12
- Marcela Elizabeth Prieto, Swapit Agolico, at 1:25
- Leah Thomas, Unitedhealthcare, at 1:35
- Diana Peñuela, Unitedhealthcare, at s.t.
- Jasmin Duehring, Twenty20/Sho-Air, at 1:54
- Claudia Veronica Lea Balderas, Conade-Specialized-Visit Mexico, at 2:14
- Ariadna Gutierrez Arzaluz, Conade-Specialized, Visit Mexico, at s.t.
- Justine BArrow, Roxsolt Attaquer, at 2:23