Stephens and Zirbel win Tour of the Gila TT

Tom Zirbel and Lauren Stephens prove fastest on a calm day in New Mexico, as Abbott and Montiel keep their overall leads

After setting a blistering pace early in the start order, Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies’ Tom Zirbel held on to win the Tour of the Gila’s stage 3 time trial by a comfortable gap of 25 seconds over Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly). Australian Jordan Kerby (Drapac) finished third.

“This morning I felt the sting in my legs typical of the third day in a stage race,” said Zirbel. “These were the calmest conditions I’ve ever seen on this course which made my strategy more about how to deal with the terrain and less about battling the elements.”

Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB) was fastest in the women’s race, stopping the clock 24 seconds ahead of Brianna Walle (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies). Allie Dragoo (Twenty16-Sho-Air) rounded out the podium in third.

“It was awesome. The time trial here last year here was a breakthrough in my career,” said Stephens. “I never thought I’d be in contention for this race, so it’s exciting to be where I am and see how far my team can take it.”

Women’s leader Mara Abbott (Amy D. Foundation) kept her GC lead over Stephens by a narrow margin — nine seconds after Abbott finished fifth in Friday’s test.

Jasmin Glaesser (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) kept her third-place position on GC with a fourth-place finish in the time trial. She is now 48 seconds behind Abbott.

The men’s GC leader, Rafael Montiel (Orgullo Antioqueno) finished 10th in the time trial, and that was enough for him to keep the leader’s jersey.

Thanks to a strong performance today, Rob Britton (Team SmartStop) vaulted from ninth to second-place overall, 22 seconds behind Montiel.

“Last year, I made mistakes coming into the TT, and it might have cost me the overall,” Britton said. “I’ve been working hard on my TT, and it showed today.”

Another Optum rider, Phil Gaimon was also on the move in the overall, going from seventh to third. He is now 56 seconds behind the Colombian leader.

Tomorrow, the men’s UCI race faces a 43.2-mile downtown criterium in Silver City, New Mexico. The women will race 27 miles in Saturday’s stage 4.