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Tour of the Gila: Kristabel Doebel-Hickok, Torbjorn Andre Røed climb to victory atop Mogollon

Aggressive racing on the opening stage at the Tour of the Gila.

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Kristabel Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) climbed to victory atop Mogollon for the start of the 35th Tour of the Gila.

The WorldTour rider arrived in Silver City after finishing in the top-10 at La Flèche Wallonne Fèminine in Belgium a week ago. Her teammate, Sara Poidevin, drilled the pace blowing up the field on the plateau before delivering Doebel-Hickok at the base of the climb in the lead.

The California native attacked soon after, with only a few riders able to respond, including Emily Marcolini (3T/Q+M) and Austin Killips (Amy D. Foundation). The EF rider would launch another attack with Marcolini maintaining a slight gap to finish in second, 17 seconds down, followed by Killips 42 seconds down.

“When we arrived here, obviously we’re the highest supported team here,” Doebel-Hickok said. “People are complaining that stage racing is dying in the US. The truth is I wanted to be over in Europe racing WorldTour races, but I am an American and I want to see racing continue here.

“To show up and take it seriously and be here to really perform was really hard from the jetlag. In the end, I owe it to our sponsors and our team, my teammates, my staff, my family, to give it everything I got.”

As stage racing continues to return in the United States, riders are finding their legs again, learning who to mark in the peloton and how to approach the races after such a long hiatus away following the pandemic.

Marcolini was one of them, unsure how her form would respond at altitude. The Canadian arrived with high momentum after leading Redlands last week. She lost the GC in the end, but animated the race throughout, walking away with third on overall and the queen of the mountains jersey.

“I’m super happy with how today went, I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better,” Marcolini said. “My team did a phenomenal job of getting me in the right position at the right time. We only have a small team of 4 of us here, we don’t have a director here. Krista’s just so explosive. She opened up that gap, I just couldn’t close it again.

“My hope (like at Redlands), is to just see how it goes day by day and see if I can maintain my position in the GC.”

Maggie Coles-Lyster of DNA Pro Cycling sprinted into the lead of the points classification. Pro-triathlete turned cyclist, Kyleigh Spearing (Cinch Rise) finished 6th on the stage, racing her first-ever stage race to lead the Best Young Riders classification.

Røed surprises in the men’s race

Torbjorn Andre Røed won the opening stage of the men's Tour of the Gila
Torbjorn Andre Røed won the opening stage of the men’s Tour of the Gila (Photo: Mitch Clinton / Tour of the Gila)

Norwegian Torbjorn Andre Røed took a surprise win on Mogollon for the UCI pro men, racing for Canadian outfit Yoeleo Test Team. Røed launched a late attack in the final kilometer of the opening stage, catching Colombian Heiner Parra (Canel’s ZEROUNO) and Matteo Del-Cin (Toronto Hustle).

Røed earned both the overall GC red jersey and the king of the mountains polka-dot jersey for his efforts, scoring the only KOM points available for the day at the finish.

“My tactic was just to sit in and save as much energy as possible,” Røed said. “I had some good teammates that helped me get up toward the end there, and they did a pretty good job. About 1.3km to go, two guys tried to go up the road and I followed. Right at the steepest part, I went a little bit harder and dropped them and kept going all the way to the end.”

Earlier in the stage, a three-rider break had been established and led the race for most of the day, getting caught with just under 7km from the finish before Project Echelon took over control of the peloton.

As the race approached 2km to go, it was the recent Vuelta a Guatemala champion Parra who would be the first to attack. Del-Cin was quick to respond as Røed bided his time behind the front duo. Parra spoke to VeloNews after his finish, happy with his performance despite coming up short.

“This stage suited me, but I arrived not feeling very good. I was traveling for three days before arriving here,” Parra said. “To finish second, so close to the winner gives me more confidence for the stages ahead. I suffered a lot today but that’s cycling, you suffer.”

Canel’s had Efren Santos as part of the break, hoping to battle for the King of the Mountains in the coming stages.

“For us, it’s good because he’s a really good climber,” Parra added. “If the break had made it to the climb, we could have won with him.”

Aevolo’s Jared Scott finished fifth on the stage to lead the best young rider classification, continuing his momentum after his stage win at Redlands. Rio Grande’s Henry York sprinted to earn the first green jersey of the race, a solid result for the elite New Mexican team.