Lauren De Crescenzo picked up where she left off winning Mid South last month, attacking shortly after the first intermediate sprint on stage 2, and riding solo for an impressive 108km of the 119km second stage of Tour of the Gila.
The Team Cinch Rise rider was down nearly three minutes on GC at the start of the day, but finished with over a five-minute gap to take over the red leaders jersey.
Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) was in the chase group and sprinted to second followed by Maddy Ward of Instafund LaPrima in third.
“My strategy was just to gravel it and that’s what I basically did, so it worked,” De Crescenzo said. “I was able to get a gap on the climb and just keep going. This is my third time racing Gila, but it’s been about seven years since my last time. I kind of retired from road racing after my crash in 2016 when I had my traumatic brain injury. So this is my first time coming back on the UCI circuit.”
De Crescenzo suffered her crash at San Dimas that year, when her handlebars got caught in the barriers. She suffered facial lacerations, a broken hand, and a traumatic brain injury, leaving her in a medically induced coma for several days.
“I almost prefer being solo off the front, it feels really safe up there,” she said. “I like the safety factor, and it’s good training for Unbound!”
EF Education-Tibco-SVB had worked hard trying to bring her back.
Emma Langley was first to chase after De Crescenzo had initially attacked. Langley spent the entire descent and part of the valley chasing her down. She eventually sat up to rejoin a 10-rider chase that included teammates Doebel-Hickok and Sara Poidevin, as well as Emily Marcolini (3T/Q+M) who was second on GC, and Austin Killips (Amy D Foundation) in third in the overall.
Though the group began working together as they were nearing the turn to the final climb, they were not able to make up much of a difference. At that time, De Crescenzo had already moved into the virtual GC and so they sat up and bided their time before sprinting for second.
“Of course we wanted to keep the jersey but we rode as smart and strong as we could,” Doebel-Hickok said at the finish. “I’m not disappointed and I’m really grateful for the work of my teammates. Congrats to Lauren, she rode really strong and well. I’m happy with the team and where we stand.”
De Crescendo also earned 15 sprint points on the line, to slide into the lead of the points classification. Anet Barrera of DNA Pro Cycling moved into the lead of the Best Young Riders jersey after spending the day working for their GC leader in the chase, Diana Peñuela.
Tyler Stites sprinted to victory on Thursday, moving up a spot to seventh on GC in the second stage at the Tour of the Gila.
The recent Redlands overall champion edged out Nacho Prado (Canel’s ZeroUno) in second and Xander White of CS Velo in third. With 15 sprint points available on the line, Stites also moved into the green jersey. Andre “Toby” Røed (Yoeleo) retained the overall lead finishing in the front group and at the same time as Stites.
“I was able to gain 11 seconds on GC but Matteo (Del-Cin) was definitely going for a big move today. He was in the break working hard, sure hoping he could get minutes,” Stites said.
Del-Cin sits third on GC and would gain a mere three seconds for his efforts.
“The whole team has a lot of confidence right now after the win at Redlands,” Stites added. “The goal is to win Gila too, so that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re at a bit of a deficit in time but we still think we can make it up. Tomorrow is one of the most important stages for the GC in a 33-plus minute TT. There can be huge time gaps so it’s critical.”
The Mexican team, Canel’s ZeroUno finished with three riders in the top ten, maintaining a lead in the overall team classification. Prado’s finish was impressive after suffering a mechanical at a crucial part of the stage, and then having to chase to rejoin the front group.
“It was a long and tough stretch. After that, nearly the final KOM, our team worked really hard to control the break, they were putting in a lot of work to make sure we would be all together for the finish,” Prado told Velonews. “I also had complications in the final KOM because I had worked so hard earlier in the stage to rejoin the group, In the end, I was able to arrive in time for the sprint.”
Prado’s teammate Colombian Heiner Parra, remains in second on GC with a six-second deficit and leading the KOM jersey. With few opportunities to race time trials in Latin America, Friday’s stage is expected to be a challenge.
“We are feeling much better after yesterday, we were able to recover well,” Parra said. “We planned today very well, so we will try and recover as much as possible for tomorrow’s time trial.”
Jared Scott of Aevolo Cycling finished fourth to remain in the lead of the Best Young Rider’s classification.