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Tour of the Gila stage 4: Instafund LaPrima Goes one-two, Stites claims second win in Silver City

GC sits delicately poised in both races ahead of 'Gila Monster' climbing stage Sunday.

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Instafund LaPrima’s Maddy Ward continued her hot streak at the 35th Tour of the Gila, sprinting to victory on a day filled with crashes for stage 4 in the downtown Silver City crit.

Ward’s teammate Rylee McMullen was just behind for second, with Austin Killips of Amy D. Foundation in third. Ward slid into the lead of the green jersey, points classification after earning 15 points on the line for her win.

“I cannot believe it! I came out of that last corner so fast, and I was leading my teammate out. I just took it so hot,” Ward said. “There was a wide-open straight away on the outside of that corner so I could always move up there. I knew that’s where I had to go, and I was ready. I pulled Rylee out and went up on her right side; she went on my wheel and we went one-two.”

A crash in the front of the field soon after the race began took top contenders down, including the overall GC lead, Lauren de Crescenzo (Cinch Rise), EF’s Krista Doebel-Hickok, and DNA Pro Cycling’s Maggie Coles-Lyster. Instafund LaPrima managed to avoid the carnage alltogether.

Coles-Lyster had been in pursuit of the green jersey, trailing by seven points at the start of the day, targeting the stage 4 win. The Canadian hit her head in the fall, and (out of precaution) was taken out of the race.

The following laps were mixed with confusion as a multitude of riders were taking free laps, and upon returning had trouble finding the front of the field.

Once that was sorted, several more crashes occurred towards the back of the field. At the end of the day, De Crescenzo managed to retain her lead, and along with Doebel-Hickok finished with the same deficit heading into Sunday’s Gila Monster.

“More bad luck,” De Crescenzo said after the finish. “I got up and got back in. It was just a crash right in front of me, I couldn’t really go anywhere. I just wanted to limit my losses. I’ve done four days, I’ve got to finish this out.”

Ward earned an 11-second time bonus on the line, but remains in third in the overall with Austin Killips under a minute back in 4th.

Anet Barrera (DNA Pro Cycling) remains in the Best Young Rider’s jersey, with Doebel-Hickok in the lead of the KOM.

“I don’t know about tomorrow, we’ll see! “ Ward said. “It’s a hard climb and we have some dang good climbers in this field! It’s going to be a matter of survival for me, and more teamwork. I have so much faith in my team, I’m just excited to have one more day with them here.”

Stites scores again in men’s race

Stites won his second stage of the race. (Photo: Tour of the Gila)

Team Echelon’s Tyler Stites bolted out of a field sprint to earn his second stage win in Silver City, after winning stage 2 and extending his lead in the points classification. A crucial time bonus was also available on the line, as Stites inched within 34-seconds to the red jersey.

Australian Samuel Volkers racing for Meiyo CCN was second, with Stites’ teammate, George Simpson in third.

Team Echelon has dominated the race, winning three out of the four stages with the final Gila Monster remaining on Sunday.

Toronto Hustle’s Matteo Del-Cin finished with the same time as Stites, maintaining the overall lead. There were no changes in the other jersey classifications.

“It went perfect,” Stites said. “We wanted to go for the intermediate time bonus and we got one of those. Then, go for the finish and the time bonus, which we got that and stayed safe. So, we accomplished all of our goals today. It’s going to be a big challenge for tomorrow but we’re up for it.”

A break of three riders had escaped with roughly 30 laps to go, but would soon whittle down to a solo flyer, Cyrus Monk (Meiyo CCN) who refused to give up. The team arrived in Silver City with no climbers listed on their roster, hoping to target the crit.

“Project Echelon was happy to control the race all day, the rest just sat back,” Volkers said. “We had Cyrus off the front collect a few primes so we could take it pretty easy towards the end. We don’t have any climbers here, which sounds funny given the course. We knew today and stage 2 was possibly a bunch sprint so we came here knowing the GC wasn’t anything for us. Second is nice, first is better, but at least we go home with something now.”

The finale on the “Gila Monster” is expected to shake up the standings, based on previous years. The UCI pro men will climb 9,131 ft. with 8, 252 ft. of highly technical descents over 100.6 miles.

“Tomorrow it’s a huge day,” Del-Cin said. “I don’t think it’s going to be won on a couple of seconds here and there. If you’re strong enough to hack it, then the front group usually puts minutes, not seconds into people. It’s going to be the strongest guy who wins tomorrow. However that shakes out, that’s what it is. Obviously, I’m rooting for myself to come out on top.”