As expected, both the men’s and women’s stage 4 of the SRAM Tour of the Gila ended in a bunch sprint earlier today. Taylor Phinney (Trek Livestrong) and Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) took the honors in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Silver City New Mexico.
The race brought no changes on GC with the looming Gila Monster on Sunday, the Queen stage of the event will decide the overall winner of the race. Defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) and Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) stayed safe in the field, protected by their teammates, and remain firmly in the lead. Both Leipheimer and Abbott look strong but anything can happen on the final stage at Gila.
And make that two for Trek Livestrong. After Jesse Sergent setting the fastest time in yesterday’s time trial, it was Phinney’s turn on Saturday. The 19-year old came around Ivan Dominguez (Jamis/Sutter Home) in the final meters to take the win. Dominguez was second and Charles Dionne (Fly V Australia) third.
Attack, attack, attack. Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia), Andy Jacques-Maynes, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Jeremy Vennell all of BISSELL and Sergent all tried their hands at making an early break stick. But the Mellow Johnny duo of Lance Armstrong and Jason McCartney manned the front and brought everything back. One move that managed to get 15 seconds on the field for more than 10 laps was created when four riders escaped from a break attempt. Marsh Cooper (Rubicon-ORBEA), Roman Kilun (UnitedHealthcare), Jacob Rytlewski (Kenda-Geargrinder) and Peter Salon (Holowesko Partners) worked together to try and stay away.
Wanting to force a bunch sprint, Jamis/Sutter Home put some riders in the rotation to help out Mellow Johnny’s, and Trek-Livestrong also provided some engine. With the field breathing down their necks, Cooper made a solo move but everyone was reeled in. Lots of re-shuffle in the final 10 laps with more riders trying last ditch attacks. With two laps to go, the Fly V Australia train came to the front but they were swarmed on the back of the side, on the slight rise combined with a headwind. Luis Amaran (Jamis Sutter/Home) was leading Dominguez around the final corner when Phinney got the final jump. Dionne was sixth going into the final corner.
The Monster awaits. The Queen Stage has been known to chew up and spit many riders in the past. The 105.7-mile stage 5 has 9131 feet of climbing over five climbs including the 7-mile long, 1600 foot Copperas Vista climb of the Gila Cliff Dwelling followed by the dangerous descent with steep grade and blind corners after the turn-around. (View Interactive Map)
Leipheimer leads with 59 seconds on Tom Danielson and 1:04 on David Zabriskie, both of DZ Nuts. Last year’s stage winner Zajicek sits in fourth at 1:14 down and Amaran in fifth at 2:02.
The competition for the sprint is also at play. Phinney leads with 20 pts ahead of Amaran with 15 and Cooper with 14. Two intermediate sprints and points on the finish line are at play.
Andrew Talansky (CalGiant) still leads the U25 competition and sits in sixth place overall at 2:22 down. His closest competitor is Taylor Shelden (Holowesko Partners) at 1:30 from Talansky.
After her team controlled the front of the field for most of the race to defend the red jersey, Evans took the sprint ahead of last year’s winner Carla Swart (Team VBF). Carmen Small (Colavita/Baci) was third.
The Colavita/Baci and Team VBF teams launched attack after attack but nothing stuck as every move was thwarted by the combination of the headwind on the slight rise on the backside and the Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12 team manning the front of the race. Andrea Dvorak (Colavita/Baci), Kristin Sanders (Team VBF) were very active but were always reeled in.
With four laps to go, Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12 was lined up at the front but their train got disrupted by a flurry of attacks. With two laps to go, the Colavita/Baci train was at the front working for their sprinter Kelly Benjamin. With one to go, Alison Powers (Team VBF) went on the attack but was caught on the backside. Coming into the final corner, Cath Cheatley was at the front of the Colavita/Baci train with Small on her wheel. Swart was right behind them.
Abbott has a lead of 1:05 on Powers who grabbed a 3-second bonus in an intermediate sprint, and 3:01 on Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders). The battle is on for the third spot on the podium with 30 second separating six riders: Willock, Dvorak, Robin Farina (Team VBF), Meredith Miller (TIBCO/To The Top), Cheatley, Small and Katheryn Curi Mattis (Webcor).
Small still leads the sprint competition with 31 points ahead of Evans with 25 pts and Dvorak with 22 points.
Sunday is the final stage, a 71 mile loop, which features the infamous Sapillo Climb, a steep 3 mile ascent, followed by 15 miles of fast twisting descents. The race ends with a short climb into the town of Pinos Altos. (View Interactive Map)
Stay tuned for more photos.