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Tour of the Gila: New Mexico fast magic approaches

May 1, 2012

[updated 5/1/2012]

From Denver the road to Silver City, New Mexico and the Tour of the Gila road race either flashes down Interstate 25 or meanders through a variety of places. Like Taos. With its colorful pottery, desert-themed sculpture, and palette of sages and terra cottas, Taos and the state of New Mexico are feasts for the eyes. Add a UCI 2.2 America Tour bike race starting on May 1st, and the landscape provides everything anyone could need.

SRAM Tour of the Gila overview

The pro men and women race five stages: three road races, one individual time trial, and one criterium.

Expect wind. Phil Gaimon (Kenda/5 Hr Energy p/b Geargrinder) and others have said strong winds blew in last year’s race, in particular, on the time trial course. Weather.com predicts 15 to 21 mph winds from the west this week and temperatures in the low 80’s Farenheit with 0% chance of rain. All at an elevation of about 6,000 ft.

  • Day 1, May 2: Road race, Silver City to Mogollon — 92/73 miles (men/women). A downhill start, short / steep rollers, with a decisive 6.7 mile Category 1 climb to the finish. 4,250 ft. total climbing for the men and 3,800 ft. of ascent for the women. Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) and Mara Abbott (Diadora-Pasta Zara-Manhattan) won this stage last year.
  • Day 2, May 3: Road race, The Inner Loop — 79/78 miles. Three category 3 climbs for 5,800 ft. total climbing with a straight finish on a slightly rising road may result in a select or mass sprint finish; the last climb tops out about 12 miles from the finish. This stage’s title reflects the name of the scenic byway it traces, The Inner Loop-Gila Cliff Dwellings Scenic Byway. The race passes the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.  
  • Day 3, May 4: Dan Potts Memorial Tyrone ITT — 16/16 miles. An out-and-back up-and-down course with 1,200 ft. of climbing suited to a rider who’s strong in time trials with some climbing skills. Wind and equipment choice could factor into results.  
  • Day 4, May 5: Criterium, Downtown Silver City — 43/27 miles. A 1 mile rectangle with 80 ft. of climing per lap and slightly uphill finish should produce a mass sprint — another one for Bissell’s Eric Young who just won the Joe Martin Stage Race criterium?
  • Day 5, May 6: Road race, Gila Monster — 104/72 miles. 8,060 ft. total climbing for the men and 5,600 ft. of ascent for the women. The last bit before the finish is uphill after a Category 3 hill. Two Category 2, one Category 1, and two Category 3 climbs for the men; the women tackle two Category 3’s and one Category 2 climb.

Winning magicians

This is the first year the Gila has UCI status. The points it brings riders and their teams could intensify the battles; the pro-conti teams like Champion System, Team Type 1, and UnitedHealthcare might be especially aggressive.

Taos gate

New Mexico’s a magical place. Remember the book, The Milagro Beanfield Wars? Read it if you haven’t already. First, it’s classic New Mexico. Second, it reminds you that anything is possible in life — and that applies to bike races, too.

So while Jade Wilcoxson (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Mancebo merit the label “favorite” —  fresh off overall victories at the hilly Joe Martin and the latter having won the Gila last year — a surprise winner is always a satisfying result.

Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home) came in second on day 1 last year. And Jeff Louder and Ben Day (UnitedHealthcare) know how to attack a hilly stage race too. Shawn Milne (Kenda) and Matt Cooke (Exergy) are also riding well and could pull off good results, as well as Chris Butler (Champion System). And don’t count out Juan Esteban Arango on the Colombian National Team; he left Joe Martin with ninth place. Last year’s third place finisher for the ladies, Kathryn Donovan (FCS|ROUSE p/b Mr. Restore), could wield some magic across the New Mexico landscape.

Who are your favorites for this year’s SRAM Tour of the Gila?

Follow Tour of the Gila with Tour Tracker.

2012 Tour of the Gila Starters Men

2012 Tour of the Gila Starters Women

2011 Top 3 Women General Classification

  1. Clara Huges (Pactimo Cycling Team)
  2. Mara Abbott (Diadora-Pasta Zara Team + 2:52
  3. Kathryn Donovan (Missing Link Coaching Systems) +3:15

2011 Top 3 Men General Classification

  1. Francisco Mancebo (Realcyclist.com)
  2. Dale Parker (Trek-LIVESTRONG) + 3:17
  3. Lachlan Morton (Chipotle Development team) + 3:19
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