Mara Abbott Solos to Victory Atop Gila’s Stage 1 Mogollon Summit Finish
Mara Abbott, 3-time overall winner of the Tour of the Gila, soloed to victory for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team on today’s opening stage of the 2014 Tour of the Gila. Mara’s fantastic 2014 season continues to impress, following her stage win at the Redlands Classic and overall victory at the Vuelta a El Salvador earlier this year. Today’s road race covered 118 kilometers for the women and 148 kilometers for the men, with plenty of rollers throughout and a category 1 summit finish, making it a challenging start to the 5-day stage race. The women’s race began with a 3-rider breakaway early in the day, which was kept within reach by the pace making of Blue Train riders Rushlee Buchanan and Katie Hall. Approaching the final category 1 climb, Sharon Laws launched an attack to reel in the remaining two breakaway riders and apply pressure to the peloton. At 5 kilometers from the finish, Mara Abbott made her move, shattering the peloton and leaving only Flavia Oliveira of Team FCS able to follow. The two riders worked together briefly until Mara Abbott gave her final kick with 3 kilometers to go, soloing to victory with 55 seconds to spare at the summit of Mogollon.
Stage winner Mara Abbott commented, “Tour of the Gila is one of my favorite races of the year, and I am so excited to get to compete with this team of riders. Rachel was actually my teammate the first year I won the race, in 2007, so it is really special to be back here with her as my director. Mogollon is the best mountaintop finish in America, and I am very grateful to the Tour of the Gila for having it! I’m proud of the way our entire team rode today… with all of the girls in the top 20 it looks like it could be an amazing week!”
Sports director Rachel Heal added her insight on the day, “Mara has won this stage multiple times and we knew that if we got her safely to the bottom of the climb, the win would be her’s for the taking. The team did a great job of keeping the break in check and delivering Mara perfectly. She finished it off in style! With a team of 5 riders up against teams of 8, we will have to ride strong and smart to take the overall race win, but I’m confident we have the team to pull it off.”
The Men at the Gila:
A massive crash split the field in the men’s race, injuring several riders. The men of the Blue Train escaped without serious injury but were caught behind the wreckage, forcing them to chase after riders that managed to stay clear of the crash. The UnitedHealthcare riders fought hard on the front of the peloton and caught the leaders at the base of the final category 1 climb. Upon closing the gap, rival teams launched a counter attack up the final summit, claiming the podium positions for the Jamis-Hagens Berman Team.
Meanwhile in Turkey:
In today’s stage 4 of the Presidential Tour of Turkey, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team rider Aldo Ilesic sprinted to 7th place among some of the fastest sprint trains in the world after successfully navigating a treacherous rain-slicked descent. Davide Frattini has moved up to 2nd in the mountains classification, and currently wears the climber’s jersey for race leader and Cofidis rider Rein Taaramäe.