For defending Olympic Time Trial gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, the 2011 SRAM Tour of the Gila presented an ideal, early-season opportunity to build upon her already substantial fitness. With its long, hilly stages, the SRAM Tour of the Gila has long been regarded as a race where the strong get stronger.
The hitch: Armstrong got sick and had to abandon the New Mexico stage race after the first stage.
Healthy and motivated for the upcoming Summer Olympics in London, Armstrong will be at the start line for this year’s edition of the SRAM Tour of the Gila.
Race officials are making no attempt to hide their enthusiasm.
“If there was any way to improve on last year’s Women’s Pro Race, it would have been to have Kristen in the field,” says Michelle Geels, an organizer of the race. “Overall, this year’s field of women looks just as strong as last year’s, and now one of the real icons of women’s bike racing will be in the mix. Yes, we’re very excited.”
Racing for the Exergy TWENTY12 pro women’s cycling team, Armstrong will be using the SRAM Tour of the Gila to help prepare for her 2012 Olympics bid in London. She won the time trial gold medal in 2008 in Beijing.
And while Armstrong, will surely be one of the favorites for overall honors at the five-day stage race, SRAM Tour of the Gila organizer Geels believes there could be some surprises.
“Some very, very strong women’s teams have registered for this race,” said Geels. “Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies will be here. Primal/MapMyRide will be here. While many eyes will be on Kristin, riders from these other strong teams may sneak up and surprise some people.”
The Pro/1/2 Women’s race is five stages, running from May 2nd to May 6th. 2012 is the 26th consecutive year in which the Tour of the Gila, now sponsored by SRAM, has been held.