Final Thoughts On The Tour Of The Gila

Posted on 04. May, 2011 by in news

The 5-day of hard, tough racing at the SRAM Tour of the Gila is over and before we turn our attention to the next NRC stage race, a few thoughts and opinions on what we happened at Gila.

Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) wins the overall at SRAM Tour of the Gila

Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) wins the overall at SRAM Tour of the Gila

Can Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) be beaten? Along with stage wins, he took the overall in the first two NRC stage races, the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour of the Gila.

It won’t be easy by any means to beat him but he would have  to be isolated  and isolated way before the final climb. So many riders wanted to be in the break on the road stages at Gila that the pace was  high and attacks after attacks were reeled back in. It only took two RealCyclist riders in the beginning of the race to control the field even in the crosswinds. Secondly, riders and teams have to be ready to risk their GC spots in order to win instead of helping the chase to reel in the break.

Would the outcome have changed if Mancebo had been isolated early on and if other teams had not assisted in the chase? Probably not but we’ll never know. He is very strong and his team worked tiredlessly for him so strong tactics will have to be used to beat him.

Youth. The other thing we saw at Gila was the emergence of the U25 talent, both in the men’s and women’s field. In the men’s field, 8 of the top 20 on the final stage were under-25 riders. And 7 U25 riders were top 20 in the final GC: 3 Trek-Livestrong with Dale Parker in 2nd, Joe Dombrowski in 5th and George Bennett in 12th, two Chipotle Development Team with Lachlan Morton in 3rd and Alex Howes in 5th and Chad Haga (Rio Grande) in 18th and Evan Huffman (CalGiant) in 19th.

Once again, Trek-Livestrong had a very strong Tour of the Gila, with two stage wins, Parker winning the TT and Joe Lewis the criterium, two final jerseys with Lewis winning the green sprint and Parker the white jersey for the U25 classification. It was great to see a real battle for the white jersey, the race within the race.

In the women’s field, four of the top 20 in the final GC are under-26 riders, with white jersey Lex Albrecht (Juvederm/Specialized) in 9th, her teammate Denise Ramsden in 15th and Kasey Clark (Primal/MapMyRide) in 17th and Rachel Warner (Missing Link Coaching Systems/Specialized) in 18th.

Hughes is back. The multi-time Olympic Medalist Clara Hughes - one of only 4 to have medaled in both the Summer and Winter Games – is kicking ass and having fun while doing it. She said that she didn’t know what her fitness was before the race, well she blasted the TT, sprinted for the win in the crit and kept up with the climbers to win the overall.  She admits to still having a lot of work to do before the Olympic Games in 2012 – I can’t wait to see how fast she’s going to be by then.

Unfortunately, the showdown in the time trial between Hughes and Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12) didn’t happen as Armstrong, ailing with food poisoning, departed early ailing with food poisoning.

Kathryn Donovan (Missing Link) tamed the Gila Monster

Kathryn Donovan (Missing Link) tamed the Gila Monster

Aggressive teams. I wanted to single out the teams that raced aggressively throughout the women’s races, as many were content to wait until the final 10km.  First the small Missing Link Coaching Systems/Specialized team that was not afraid to launch attack after attack on the road stages. The young Canadian Juvederm/Specialized squad was under the guidance of Laura Charameda. After  playing it ‘safe’ in one stage, Charameda put her foot down and they were at the front, nose in the wind. Lastly, the new team Primal/MapMyRide which has raced aggressively so far this season.

One-lap to go mistake. With two laps to go on the Silver City Criterium, the lap card official turned the lap cards from 3 to 1 by mistake, the bell was rung and the announcers yelled loudly ‘one to go, one to go, one to go’. But it wasn’t, it was actually two laps to go. Some of the riders knew it but others were sprinting for the final lap. Chaos in the field.  The faces and gestures of the riders when they came through the next time said it all as the bell was rung once again. By some accounts also, the official was standing in front of the lap card in the final laps making it difficult to see.

Shawn Milne (Kenda/5-Hour Energy) and Cole House (RealCyclist.com) show their displeasure with the lap card mistake after sprinting with the wrongly announced 1 to go

One lap to go fiasco

The Tour of the Gila is a great event put on by people that love racing, is embraced by Silver City residents and it reflects the funky vibe of the town.  Unfortunately, it also uses ‘quaint’ techniques still, such as paper lap cards which must be turned by hand, no digital clock at the finish line and of course no transponder on the bikes.  The race has grown in popularity since it started 25 years ago with the riders and the field is getting deeper but the infrastructure has not kept up with the growth. In my opinion, mistakes like these (or like last year when the wrong riders were put on the podium) will re-occur until the timing/racing infrastructure is brought up to date.

It is a broader problem than just the Gila race. Last year there was no digital clock and no announcers at the Joe Martin Stage Race Time Trial for example. More on this in a future post.

Of note also is the return of Frank Pipp (BISSELL) who was side-lined for most of 2010 with a knee injury and the Colavita/Forno d’Asolo squad continuing to rack up more NRC stages wins.

Reports and Photo Galleries from the 25th Annual SRAM Tour of the Gila

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