Current National US Road Champion Mara Abbott (Diaodora -Pasta Zara) showed that she had found her climbing legs on the way to Mogollon. After her team had lined up at the front to set a fast tempo to shell as many riders as possible, Abbott attacked just before the right turn to the final climb. She was caught by a select group by the false flat but attacked again at around 2km to go, and this time it stuck. Only Flavia Oliveira, riding for the composite team Pactimo, was able to stick with her for a bit but Abbott hit it again at less than 1km to go and soloed to win stage 1 of the SRAM Tour of the Gila.
Oliveira held on to take second while behind her a surprising and maybe even surprised herself, Clara Hughes, also riding for Pactimo, soloed away to take third.
See more photos in the gallery.
The long stage followed the same recipe as previous year with a rolling terrain and harsh headwind before the final climb, easy pace, attacks, break, catch, and decimation on final climb. The 59 women started off with a slow tempo until about halfway through the 73.1 miles (117.6km) when attacks and counter-attacks flew. Active at the front were Colavita Forno d’Asolo who launched rider after rider until something stuck when Kristin Sanders was off solo. The field was happy to let her go and the gap went up and up while Sanders was moving from one side of the road to the other, trying to use the terrain to minimize the winds. Sanders stayed away for 30 miles before being reeled in.
The field woke up when the gap went over three minutes and chased hard to bring it back down to one where they held it until the final climb.
Abbott leads GC with 19 seconds on Oliveira, 50 seconds on Hughes, 1:22 on Andrea Dvorak (Colavita Forno d’Asolo) and 1:37 on Nicole Evans (Primal/MapMyRide). Abbott also took over the lead in the QOM classification. By winning the first sprint and coming in second in the next one, Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Colavita Forno d’Asolo) takes hold of the green sprint jersey. Kasey Clark (Primal/MapMyRide) who finished 16th on the stage, now leads the U26 classification.
The strong winds and riding the gutter led to a big crash sending Carmen Small (TIBCO/To The Top) to the hospital after hitting her head and injuring her elbow.
The racing continues with the 77.9 miles (125.4km) Inner Loop Road Race where winds played havoc last year, to the point of blowing riders off their bikes. We’ll have to see what Mother Nature has in store this year.
Mara Abbott (Diadora-Pasta Zara Team). “One of the critical points is that right-hand turn when you come off the highway to come up the climb. There’s a cattle guard and things tend to scatter, and things come right away. Three out of the four of them have never seen this race before, all of them got into Alburqueque from Europe on Monday night, then their flight got canceled because of high winds and they all arrived at Silver City today at 1am. They’re totally jet-lagged, three of them have never seen this course before, I’ve never seen anybody take that corner more professionally, they lined it up perfectly, they all did their job perfectly. I didn’t have to say anything, it was absolutely gorgeous. I was in awe of them before I even knew how the race finished up. ”
About her attack. “When you’re climbing you just have to wait for the moment, sometimes it comes sooner or later and you can play with it a little bit but it’s sort of instinct. After the mesa, my teammate Rachel came to the front and she did an attack so people followed her and I was able to counter her attack and I got away with just me and Flavia. I lost Flavia between 1 mile and 1 k to go, somewhere.”
Being confident in defending the jersey. “This race is a cool race and I remember Inner Loop last year with all the wind. The most epic adventure ever so I don’t think you can ever be too sure but the way that they rode today was absolutely awe-inspiring so whatever happens I’m really excited to get to do more of that this week.”
Flavia Oliveira (Pactimo Cycling Team). “It was pretty aggressive [on the final climb]. Lots of teams taking turns at the front trying to protect their riders, Colavita especially and Diadora they were trying to protect Mara of course. Everybody had two teammates out there. I was very fortunate to be riding with Clara Hughes who is an amazing person, rider, I was just on cloud to be riding with her. There was a few accelerations from Diadora, and then Colavita would respond and we just followed the moves. That was the first bump, it flattened out again and then it was just survival and then Mara attacked at the base when it slowed a bit after Colavita did all the work. I tried to hang with Mara but I’m not from altitude so coughing a lung out there but it was great. She punched it with 1 km to go and I just didn’t have anymore to give. I was just happy to hang on and to have my teammate come in third was pretty incredible.”
Clara Hughes (Pactimo Cycling Team). “I just met Flavia two days ago and I call her half-Clara because she’s about the size of one of my legs. We’re just a little composite team. It’s my first road race since 2003 and I have no idea where I’m at but I do live at altitude at Utah so I like the high altitude and thin air. ”
About the final climb. “Mara had her teammate drive it and then she had one teammate go and she went. We went across the middle section, Mara went again and I said to Flavia ‘follow her and do not put your nose in the wind unless it’s for the finish line’. She did a great job. ”
Kristin Sanders (Colavita Forno d’Asolo). “It just seemed to be the right time to go. Attack, attack and attack and everybody seemed to have their head down. I took off from the middle of the peloton so I had some speed. Had a gap instantly, I just kept going, we just had to sort out as we went what we were going to do with it. I would have loved to have had a couple companions but in the end, five Colavita girls got a chilled day and if I can do that for them, I’m more than happy.”
About the gap coming down. “I knew they got fairly close and then it went back to a minute. That’s when it got a little tricky, I just figured keep going at this point because the longer I’m out here, the more the other girls can relax. Maybe the other teams can do something because it was a headwind the whole way. Sometimes it was head cross [wind] from the left, sometimes from the right so I was trying to use the terrain to block it a little bit, it was tricky. ”
Top 10 Stage 1 Results
1. Mara Abbott (Diadora-Pasta Zara Team) 4:11:40
2. Flavia Oliveira (Pactimo Cycling Team) 0:00:19
3. Clara Hughes (Pactimo Cycling Team) 0:00:50
4. Andrea Dvorak (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:01:22
5. Nicole Evans (Primal/MapMyRide) 0:01:37
6. Janel Holcomb (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:01:39
7. Rhae Shaw (CycleU) 0:01:46
8. Catherine Cheatley (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:02:00
9. Kathryn Donovan (Missing Link Coaching Systems) 0:02:04
10. Anna Sanders (TriSports Cycling/Eclipse Racing) 0:02:09