Climbs? how about 5 categorized for a total of 9131 feet of climbing. Gnarly descents? check. Cold? check. Rain? yep. Snow? you betcha. The Gila Monster stage, the Queen stage of the SRAM Tour of the Gila is hard enough and then mother nature added some extra today with cold, rain and snow. Might be called epic!
Darren Lill (Fly V Australia) and Cath Cheatley (Colavita/Baci) tamed the monster and the weather for the stage win. Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) and Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) won the overall, making it two victories for each of them.
Hard way to win. In what seems to be his preferred way of winning, Lill soloed away from the breakaway to take the victory in the final stage of Gila. He won the same way on Mt Nebo, the second stage of the Tour of Utah last year.
There is some confusion as to who was second and third. Official results have Max Jenkins (UnitedHealthcare) in second and Rob Britton (BISSELL) in third but my photo of the finish show the reverse. (More on Jenkins here)
02 May 2010 Update: Official results have been changed: Britton is second and Jenkins third.
Early in the stage under the impetus of the first intermediate sprint at 10 miles into the 105.7 miles (170.1km) stage, a group of four riders got a small gap to the field. Shuffling and re-shuffling took place until a chase group of 5 joined up with the 9 riders up the road to create the break of the day.
A somewhat-ugly incident happened early in the stage when the men’s pro field was diverted away from the San Lorenzo loop due to tacks on the road. Unfortunately, the fields that started before the men hit the tacks.
In the group off the front were Paul Mach, Britton and Jeremy Vennell of BISSELL, Jenkins and his UnitedHealthcare teammate Morgan Schmitt, Danny Summerhill and Caleb Fairly of Holowesko Partners, Phil Gaimon of Kenda p/b Geargrinder, Jesse Sergent of Trek Livestrong, Pat McCarty of Matrix/RBM, Alister Ratcliff of BikeReg.com / Cannondale, Burke Swindlehurst (Teamgive p/b Blackbottoms), Andrew Randell (SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy) and Lill.
Behind them, Mellow Johnny’s Jason McCartney set the pace in the field with his teammate Lance Armstrong on his wheel and the whole field lined up behind them.
By the time the break made the right turn to 15 to start the Copperas Vista Climb the gap was over five minutes making Mach the virtual leader on the road as the highest-placed GC rider in the break at 3:50 down. Vennell was at the front pushing the pace up to set up his teammates for the win. As the riders climbed, snow flurries started and on the other side of the summit it changed to rain. Miserable conditions for all. The field splintered into multiple groups with the GC contenders in the first lead with DZ Nuts at the front chasing the break.
By the turnaround at the Cliff Dwellings the gap was down to 4 minutes. The tough climb back up took its toll on the break with Vennell, Ratcliff, Randell, Vennell, Mach and Summerhill all fading back while Schmitt was setting the pace. Swindlehurst made a couple of attacks, checking the damage behind him. Lill made his move on a counter-attack by Jenkins and powered away.
Behind them, Tom Danielson (DZ Nuts) attacked the main group taking Leipheimer, Zajicek and Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis). But the four men sat up and were caught by the main group soon thereafter. The group also included Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home), Andrew Talansky (California Giant Specialized), Alex Hagman and Corey Collier (Ouch-Bahati Foundation) and Chris Baldwin (UnitedHealthcare p/n Maxxis).
Leipheimer crossed the line in 10th place at 1:01 back. And with that Leipheimer claimed his second consecutive victory at the Tour of the Gila. In second is Danielson at 59 seconds down. There’s more confusion as far as third on GC, two podium ceremonies were done, the first with Dave Zabriskie (DZ Nuts) in third and a second one with Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) in third. The official results now have Zabriskie in third at 1:09 down and Zajicek in fourth at 1:10.
02 May 2010 Update: Official results have been changed: Zajicek is third, Zabriskie fourth.
Talansky successfully defended his U25 lead. Talansky finished 6th overall at 2:36 down. (Read more about Talansky in January interview). Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong) won the sprint classification. The UnitedHeatlhcare p/b Maxxis squad won the team classification.
Cheatley tames the monster. Adding to Colavita/Baci’s wins, both in the Southeast and in New Mexico, Cheatley outsprinted Abbott to win the 71.8 miles (115.6km) stage 5 on Sunday. Abbott crossed the line 8 seconds later and clinched the overall classification for the second time in her career. Abbott took over the red jersey on the first day with a solid lead and since then her Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12 manned the front and successfully defended.
Alison Powers (Team VBF) was third at 1:41 back on the stage, and finished second overall. Cheatley moved up to third on the GC on the final day.
Once the racing began, a break of seven made it up the road. The move included Alexi Rhodes (Team VBF) Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Colavita/Baci), Janel Holcomb (TIBCO/To The Top), Andrea Grauss (Webcor Builders) and Rachel Warner (Metrwo VW). The break quickly got a gap of 45 seconds on the field, but lost a few of the riders with only Rhodes, Vzesniauskaite, Holcomb and Warner remaining. The four worked well together and the gap grew to over a minute.
The break was reeled at the base of the steep 3-mile Sapillo Climb where Abbott lauched her solo attack. A chase group of heavy hitters formed behind them that included Powers and her teammates Robin Farina and Carla Swart, Katheryn Curi Mattis and Erinne Willock of Webcor Builders and Carmen Small and Andrea Dvorak of Colavita/Baci.
Mattis attacked and Cheatley got away on a counter-move to get over a minute on the chase group by the top of the climb. Wanting to protect her third place on GC, Willock and her teammate Mattis upped the pace in the chase group. The gap to Cheatley narrowed to 30 seconds, but Abbott still had over 1 minute to the chase group. Cheatley was able to bridge up to Abbott and the two worked well together for the remaining 5 miles until Cheatley came around her. With 3 miles to go, Powers attacked the chase group and took the final podium spot 20 seconds ahead of the chase group
Abbott also won the U26 classification. Small took home the final green jersey in the sprint competition and Colavita/Baci took the team classification.
Note: unfortunately, it was impossible to cover both men’s and women’s race on the final stage at the Tour of the Gila, so photos are very limited. Thank you to Team VBF for the race report.
Photo Gallery (Click for larger images)
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