Command Performance by the women at Tour of the Gila
Wiles claims overall title, Hall second
SILVER CITY, N.M. – The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling women had what Tayler Wiles described as a “perfect week” at the 31st edition of the Tour of the Gila. The team crushed the competition, finishing on the podium four out of five days. Wiles walked away with the overall title, Katie Hall won first runner up and the Queen of the Mountains jersey and Ruth Winder took the best young rider jersey.
The team started the Tour of the Gila off strong, with Hall winning the first stage after launching a last minute solo flyer just five km from the finish.
The 30-year-old from Oakland, Calif. clung to her slim 10-second advantage while behind her, Winder and Sara Bergen (Rally Cycling) charged to the line finishing second and third, respectively. Wiles finished fourth.
“We had a really good game plan.” Hall said after the stage. “We had three riders at the front making the pace hard and fast before the climb. My job was to attack and see if I could hold it to the end. I knew there were three other fast sprinters behind me, like Ruth Winder. I felt lucky I could hold it to the line.”
Wind factored heavily in the 109.9km race from Silver City to Whitewater Mesa, creating a relatively quiet race for the 63 starters. A consistent headwind for the majority of the route discouraged teams from forcing an early breakaway.
“I thought the race was going to be a little more aggressive than it was,” Hall said. “It was hard with the downhill headwind, no one wanted to do anything, but it was okay for us.”
On the approach to the base of Mogollon, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling turned up the heat and brought four of their riders to the front to push the pace. From there, Hall saw her moment and attacked towards the top of a long drag before the road plateaued onto Whitewater Mesa. Gaining 15 seconds was all Hall needed to take the win ahead of her teammate, Winder.
Going into stage 2, the Fort Bayard Inner Loop Road Race, Hall was two seconds ahead of Winder on the general classification, while Bergen trailed six seconds back.
Wiles moved into the leader’s jersey on day 2, after instigating a late break with eventual winner Lex Albrecht (Tibco) and third place Scotti Lechuga (Supermint Hagens Berman).
“Today was really good,” Wiles said. “We had our ‘sprinty, climby’ riders work their butts off pacing it up and over the climb. Katie, Ruth and I took turns attacking – my dad calls this move the three-headed monster. That paid off today, because I eventually got off the front with Scotti and Lex. Lex sat on the whole time while Scotti and I worked really hard. In the last km we were slowing down and I was getting nervous, so I went for the sprint early. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the win, but our team has the leader, best young rider and sprint jersey so I’m happy.”
The 76-mile (122km) stage saw much of the day dominated by UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, working to protect their race leader, Hall. The blue team didn’t let any moves up the road and kept the pace consistently high, which eventually popped more than half the field off the back.
With 25km to go, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Lauretta Hanson , Julie Emmerman (Amy D Foundation), Julie Gilgen (Rise Racing) and Lindsey Bayer (Supermint Hagens Berman) pulled away for a few kilometers, but inevitably went back to the bunch.
Winder, Hall and Wiles took turns laying down vicious attacks to wear down the remaining riders and at 10 km to go, Wiles broke away. Lechuga was the only rider who could stay with her before Albrecht bridged across.
After stage 2, Wiles also moved up into the lead of the sprint classification.
A blustery 16.4-mile (26km) out and back time trial saw Wiles finish in second to Sho-Air’s Twenty20’s Leah Thomas.
“This is a really hard time trial,” said Wiles, who almost caught her teammate Hall at the line. “I haven’t done it in five years and that year I flatted so I wanted to redeem myself. Before the race, I talked to my coach about a pacing strategy. I think I executed it pretty well. I may have gone a little too deep because on the downhill before the finish I was just dying. I lost that top spot on the podium by 5 seconds, which hurts a little, but I’m really excited for the rest of the race, and we’re really confident.”
The jersey classifications remained the same going into the downtown Silver City criterium. Wiles kept the lead and sprint jersey and Winder sat comfortably in the lead of the best young rider competition.
Emma White wins Silver City criterium for Rally Cycling
The downtown criterium was quiet for UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling. Saving legs for the Gila Monster road race finale, the team spent the race successfully marking dangerous threats from Team Tibco.
Rally Cycling’s 18-year-old Emma White took victory, ahead of Lauren Stephens (Tibco) and Lizzie Williams (Supermint-Hagens Berman) at the end of the 25-lap race.
On the final day, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Tayler Wiles sealed overall victory at the Tour of the Gila finishing second to Katie Hall. Hall’s powerful performance on the Gila Monster stage bumped her to second on GC. Leah Thomas (Sho-Air Twenty20) held on to her 3rd place overall.
‘This win means so much to be because of how incredible our team raced,” Wiles said. “Everyone put their whole heart into every stage. We trusted each other and had confidence every step of the way. I’ve always dreamed of winning this race and winning as one team was perfect. I want to thank my coach Neal Henderson and my parents for surprising me by showing up in Silver City to watch the last two stages. It was really special.”
Despite the Gila Monster RR daunting profile, no team could unseat UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s dominance over the 66-mile (106km) march over 5 QOMs, complete with an unforgiving climb to the finish.
Megan Alderete (Supermint HB) was the first rider to break the elastic on the field. Sofia Arreola (ShoAir) was quick to join, but the duo didn’t gain much traction and was reabsorbed when Alderete’s teammate Lizzie Williams tried to bridge.
Kaitie Antonneau (Cylance), Nicolle Bruderer (Tibco) and Beth Ann Norton (Visit Dallas DNA) were the next group to go off the front. The trio gained more than 3 minutes before Norton fell back into the peloton. Wiles and Hall caught and passed the remaining breakaway riders up the final climb and paced each other, gaining almost 2 and a half minutes, while the remaining riders struggled to limit their losses.
Over the line, Hall finished six seconds ahead of Wiles and put in a big enough effort to claim the polka dot jersey. Winder sprinted to third place, sealing the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling podium sweep and solidifying her lead in the best young rider competition. Jamie Gilgen brought home the green jersey for Rise Racing.
“I’m super proud of how the team rode,” Team Director Rachel Heal said. “They worked incredibly well as a team. My favorite part of the day was seeing Tayler, Katie and Ruth finish, then cheer on their teammates Lauren Hall, Diana Penuela and Lauretta Hanson as they got to the finish line.”