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Perfect timing and collaboration nets three teams prizes as 2012 Tour of the Gila closes

May 8, 2012

Tour of the Gila Final GC (l to r: Chad Beyer, Rory Sutherland, Joe Dombrowski)

Early Sunday morning in Silver City, New Mexico, Director Sportif Gord Fraser of the Competitive Cyclist Racing Team acknowledged his pro-cyclists faced a tough task. Tour of the Gila overall race leader Rory Sutherland held 1:25 over Fraser’s best placed rider Francisco Mancebo going into the final stage, and Sutherland’s UnitedHealthcare team surrounded him with what seemed like a bulletproof shell of support.

“But we’ll see. We have options,” Fraser said. “We have Chad [Beyer] and Cesar [Grajales] also in the top ten so maybe UnitedHealthcare will focus on Mancebo a lot and maybe that will give us opportunities to move up on the GC with those two riders as well.”

The Bontrager-Livestrong boys echoed Fraser’s assessment; it would be challenging to isolate Rory and move Joe Dombrowski, second on GC by just 33 seconds, to the top step of the podium. Teammate Ian Boswell thought Dombrowski might have a chance. “I think that everyone knows that Joe is probably the best climber in the race. Since the last climb is not that hard maybe it’s not as easy for him to get the time,” Boswell said. “We just have to play off what everyone else is doing. It’s a long way for Joe to go by himself so he needs to have some of us up the road or have some other guys up on GC to help him have that pull to the finish.”

Cheat sheet of climbs for Noe Gianetti of Team Exergy will be stuck on his top tube

Bontrager-Livestrong and Competitive Cyclist both benefited at the end of the grueling day – organizers didn’t name the stage “Gila Monster” after the venomous animal for nothing – by playing their cards well early in the race. The latter put Thomas Rabou and Max Jenkins into the early 21-man break with Beyer; Boswell and Lawson Craddock of Bontrager-Livestrong rode in that group of 21 as well.

The break gained 5:40 on the peloton and Sutherland half way into the 167 kilometer stage. The race leader’s jersey now belonged virtually to Beyer, who began the stage 2:38 behind Sutherland.

Sutherland’s calm approach

According to Sutherland, riders came alongside him and said, “you guys are ruining the race, you’ve lost everything, now you’re not riding.” But they couldn’t derail the Australian’s cool demeanor. “I’ve always found that by not caring you seem to care more,” Sutherland said after the race. He feels an unemotional approach delivers the best results in the end, because emotional responses wear out an athlete and can yield poor decisions on the road.

Sutherland’s not one to react to every move in the race. He trusts his pace is good enough. “I know that in the last 20 k if I ride by myself as hard as I can, I can probably take back a minute or more myself against guys that have been out there all day,” Sutherland said. He also trusts his teammates to help him conserve energy so he can deliver when it’s his turn to do so.

As soon as he reached his last teammate up the road who had ridden in the break all day, Jeff Louder, Sutherland told him, “Just don’t worry about anybody attacking. We just ride. If someone attacks and rides away a little bit, you just keep your tempo. I need you for as long as possible.” Both Louder and Jason McCartney before him pulled Rory to within 10 to 12 kilometers from the finish on Pinos Altos, steadily shaving down the gap to the final leaders, Beyer, Craddock and Boswell.

Then it was Sutherland’s turn to pay them back, towing several others in the chase group for the remainder of the race. Mancebo attacked. Dombrowski attacked. Sutherland rode his own speed and held on to win the overall race with 15 seconds to spare over Beyer.

Playing the options

Tour of the Gila stage 5 podium (l to r: Ian Boswell, Lawson Craddock, Chad Beyer)

Strong riding by his Competitive Cyclist teammates helped Beyer to leapfrog from ninth to second on GC in a stage that challenged riders with 9,100 feet of climbing at altitude.

After the race, surrounded by his mom, sister, girlfriend, and girlfriend’s mom, Beyer said, “Thomas and Max did a great job to stretch that gap out as far as they could, but it wasn’t quite enough.” He said he needed “two percent more fitness,” referring to either winning the stage or the race overall. Beyer finished third on the stage, six seconds behind the winner, Craddock.

Beyer and Craddock had separated themselves from the break on the hardest climb; Boswell later joined them and the threesome approached the final Pinos Altos ascent together. Boswell and Craddock pulled away from Beyer about two kilometers from the finish line. They crossed the line hands joined, arms raised, with Craddock taking the win. Bontrager-Livestrong also left the race as best team. Before the Gila, the team spent two weeks training in Boulder, Colorado.

Dombrowski gained eleven seconds on Sutherland, but lost enough time to Beyer to slip into third place overall. He seemed content with third, saying that considering a third on GC and the team’s first and second places that day, together with winning the team competition, “There’s not much more you could ask for.”

California bound

Bontrager-Livestrong and UnitedHealthcare will both begin the Amgen Tour of California motivated by solid results from the Tour of the Gila.

Marc de Maar leads Rory Sutherland in Criterium, stage 4 of Tour of the Gila

UnitedHealthcare’s Mike Tamayo said the team will send Sutherland with Marc de Maar who shepherded Sutherland over the roads during much of the Gila. They raced together for several years with Rabobank. “We kind of grew up learning to race the same way, we can read each other pretty well,” Sutherland said. “I never really need to tell him to do anything, he knows what to do.”

The remainder of the roster is still to be finalized, though it should include several of the riders who completed the Tour of the Gila. Ben Day isn’t expected to start in California. Sutherland mentioned Day’s mom has battled cancer for two years, and isn’t doing well currently.

When asked about how his Gila win sets the team up for California, Sutherland said, “It takes a lot of stress off.” He seemed cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances while acknowledging the challenge of a longer race. “I’m motivated, looking forward to what can happen. Again you don’t know, you just have to take it day by day and not make any mistakes and have some luck.”

His win at the Gila, Sutherland said, “puts us, the team, in a relaxed position. They’ve got a leader who they know they can count on.”

Tour of the Gila men stage 5 results

Tour of the Gila men final GC after stage 5

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