The first stage of the SRAM Tour of the Gila followed the expected script to a T, early break goes off, dangles at the front and is caught on the final 5.5-mile climb to Mogollon. While the forecasted serious wind gust did not materialize, the wind was still a factor in the men’s race with echelons forming in the kilometers before that fateful final climb. But tomorrow once again, strong wind gusts are in the forecast.
Exactly like last year, Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) stayed hidden in the peloton and unleashed his legs in the climb to take the win. Second place went to Tom Danielson (DZ Nuts) at ten seconds behind and third to Cesar Grajales (OUCH-Bahati Foundation) another six seconds back.
In the women’s 73.1 miles (117.6km), Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) showed her climbing legs and left her competitors in the dust crossing the line at more than two minutes ahead of her closest competitor for the win. Cath Cheatley (Colavita/Baci) was second at 2:27 and Katheryn Curi Mattis (Webcor) third at 2:59.
Leipheimer again. A group of 10 riders rolled off the front early in the race and the field seemed happy to let them go betting on history repeating itself. In the move were Cody O’Reilly (BISSELL), Darren Rolfe (Fly V Ausralia), Walker Savidge (Holowesko Partners), Jonathan Garcia (Team Rio Grande), Ben King and Alex Dowsett both of Trek-Livestrong, Andrew Dahlheim (Metro VW), Victor Riquelme (TriSports), Marsh Cooper (Rubicon-ORBEA) and Carson Miller.
The gap went up to almost ten minutes as the riders continued rolling through. Behind them, having missed the move the UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis team send riders to the front to chase. At 32 miles in the gap was down to 8:25. Rotating through were also riders from Jamis/Sutter Home, Kenda p/b GearGrinder and Jason McCartney (Mellow Johnny’s).
At 54 miles in, with the gap down to 5:30, crosswinds made their appearance on the rollers. Helping in the chase, Lance Armstrong (Mellow Johnny’s) made his way to the front to give some massive pulls to close down the gap. Crashes and the high pace splintered the 193-rider field into three groups with the first main group down to 20 riders.
The gap was down to one minute when the riders took the right-hander to Mogollon. Dowsett then Miller dangled off the front but were swallowed by the climbers making their way. It was every man for himself as the riders hit the final pitch of the climb. Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home) made his move in the final kilometers but was chased down by Leipheimer, Danielson and Grajales.
Andrew Talansky (CalGiant) finished fifth overall at 38 seconds down and took the lead in the U25 competition. Dowsett took over the green sprints jersey.
The top 10 riders on GC are separated by less than one minute as we head into stage 2, the 80 miles (128.7km) Fort Bayard Inner Loop Road Race. See cheat sheet for detailed stage info.
Abbot Crushes. It didn’t take long for a move to go in the women’s race. Guest-riding for Team VBF, Anne Samplonius headed out solo at mile 1. Samplonius gained over 6 minutes while she rode alone for 67 of the 73 mile stage, taking both of the bonus sprints and winning the sprinter’s jersey.
Peanut Butter & Co/Twenty12 was the first team to organize a chase after 50 miles into the race but it took over 17 miles for the peloton to catch Samplonius. Just before the final climb began, a crash occurred, which took down a large group of riders, which included Colavita/Baci’s Carmen Small and TIBCO/To The Top’s Meredith Miller and Amanda Miller and Alison Testroete (Team VBF). As the climb began, Abbott attacked and quickly separated herself from the field and the gap widened.
The chase group behind her included Curi Mattis, Cheatley, Alison Powers and Robin Farina (Team VBF) and Abbott’s teammate Alisha Welsh.
Abbott also leads the U26 competition but the white jersey will be worn by Carla Swart (Team VBF) second in the U26 classification.
Tomorrow’s Inner Loop Stage is a 77 mile stage that features climbs, technical descents and flat, fast sections. See cheat sheet for detailed stage info.
Photo Gallery (Click for larger images)
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Men’s Top 10 Stage Results
1. Levi Leipheimer (Team Mellow Johnny’s) 3:48:18
2. Tom Danielson (DZ Nuts) 0:00:10
3. Cesar Grajales (Ouch-Bahati Foundation Pro) 0:00:16
4. Phillip Zajicek (Fly V Australia)
5. Andrew Talansky (California Giant/Specialized) 0:00:38
6. David Zabriskie (DZ Nuts) 0:00:41
7. Luis Amaran (Jamis Sutter Home P/B Colavita)
8. Alex Hagman (Ouch-Bahati Foundation Pro)
9. Chris Baldwin (Unitedhealthcare Professional) 0:00:47
10. Jai Crawford (Fly V Australia) 0:00:50
Women’s Top 10 Stage Results
1. Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) 3:24:55
2. Catherine Cheatley (Colavita/Baci p/b Cooking Light) 0:02:27
3. Katheryn Mattis (Webcor Builders) 0:02:59
4. Alisha Welsh (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) 0:03:24
5. Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) 0:03:28
6. Robin Farina (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) 0:03:36
7. Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) 0:03:42
8. Meredith Miller (Team TIBCO/To The Top) 0:03:51
9. Andrea Dvorak (Colavita/Baci p/b Cooking Light) 0:03:57
10. Kathryn Donovan (Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus) 0:03:59