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Tour of the Gila kicks off Wednesday

Reigning NRC champion Scott Moninger (Health Net-Maxxis), a quartet of national champs and two three-time winners are among the athletes slated to race the Teleperformance Tour of the Gila May 3-7 in and around Silver City, New Mexico. Defending titlist Burke Swindlehurst (Navigators) and fellow three-timer Drew Miller (Successful Living.com-ParkPre) will be hunting that elusive fourth victory during the 20th annual NRC race. Swindlehurst is bringing just one teammate with him — but it happens to be Phil Zajicek, fresh off last weekend’s overall victory at La Vuelta de Bisbee in

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By VeloNews Interactive

Reigning NRC champion Scott Moninger (Health Net-Maxxis), a quartet of national champs and two three-time winners are among the athletes slated to race the Teleperformance Tour of the Gila May 3-7 in and around Silver City, New Mexico.

Defending titlist Burke Swindlehurst (Navigators) and fellow three-timer Drew Miller (Successful Living.com-ParkPre) will be hunting that elusive fourth victory during the 20th annual NRC race. Swindlehurst is bringing just one teammate with him — but it happens to be Phil Zajicek, fresh off last weekend’s overall victory at La Vuelta de Bisbee in Arizona.

The 39-year-old Moninger is fetching along plenty of backup, including sprinter Gord Fraser, Tim Johnson and Mike Jones, who won the McLane Pacific Classic in March and finished second overall in the 2004 Gila. Moninger and Jones, along with teammate Mike Sayers, spent part of December at a pre-season training camp in Silver City as preparation for their 2006 racing season.

Look, too, for national champions Chris Wherry and Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United Pro). Wherry is the current USPRO road champ and two-time winner of the Gila, while Baldwin is the reigning national time-trial champ. The two will be supported by a strong Toyota-United Pro team, including Justin England, New Zealander Heath Blackgrove, Stefano Barbieri and Mexico’s Jose-Manual Garcia.

A top field of pro women is expected as well. National road champion Katheryn Curi heads a strong Webcor Builders-Platinum Advisors team, which includes Erinne Willock and Betina Hold. And national TT champ Kristen Armstrong leads a powerful Team Lipton, which includes former U.S. criterium champ Laura Van Gilder. Other top riders include Dotsie Bausch and Brooke Ourada (Colavita-Cooking Light); Marisa Asplund and Nicky Wangsgard (CPT-Colnago); and Nicole Freedman (Velo Bella-Kona).

Racing begins Wednesday with the Tyrone Time Trial, a 15.7 mile out-and-back course with 1070 feet of climbing.

Thursday’s Stage 2, the Silver City-Mogollon Road Race, sends men off for 92 miles and 5650 feet of climbing, while women race 70 miles and climb 4530 feet.

Friday’s Stage 3, the Inner Loop Road Race, is a 73-mile loop, beginning and ending at Ft. Bayard, with 5150 feet.of climbing.

Saturday’s Stage 4, the Downtown Silver City Criterium, will be run on a 1.08-mile closed course with four 90-degree corners and 60 feet of climbing per lap. Men race 40 laps, women 25.

And the finale, Sunday’s Gila Monster Road Race, sends pro men off on a 100-mile loop trom Silver City Pinos Altos with 9360 feet of climbing. Women will race an abbreviated loop, covering 66 miles with 5420 feet of climbing.

For more, see www.tourofthegila.com.