Mannion fourth overall at Tour of the Gila
McCabe cinches sprint jersey for second year
SILVER CITY, N.M. – The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling men’s team battled the brutal, yet beautiful wilderness of the New Mexico mountains this past week at the Tour of the Gila. Four out of the 5 days of racing, the colors of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling were represented on the podium: Daniel Jaramillo finished runner up on the first stage, Travis McCabe took second on stage 2 and 4 and Gavin Mannion came in third on the last stage.
Colombian Daniel Jaramillo (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) finished second to Rally Cycling Matteo Dal-Cin. Colin Joyce, also Rally, took third place at the Tour of the Gila opening day.
No longer finishing on the summit of Mogollon because of bad road conditions, the new 143.3km route from Silver City to Whitewater Mesa still offered more of a challenge than many expected. Teams took turns sending riders off the front, but a combination of headwind, terrain and fresh legs denied anyone a chance until after Alex Hoehn (Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling) won the first bonus sprint 30 km in.
Countering the intermediate sprint, Conor O’Brien (H&R Block Pro Racing) dangled off the front solo for a few miles before being reeled back in by UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling and Rally Cycling.
O’Brien’s teammate Marc-Antoine Nadon countered around 50 km into the race and established a healthy gap, eventually helped along by Canyon Bicycle teammates Chad Beyer and Michael Burleigh who saw their chance and quickly bridged across to the H&R Block rider.
The three worked well together over the course of the race, building up a lead of more than six minutes through the second sprint, won by Nadon.
The break was caught with 10km to go. After that, it was a drag race to the uphill finish. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling set up Jaramillo who pulled out a solid second place.
At Fort Bayard, Travis McCabe sprinted to second place finishing mere inches behind Eric Young (Rally Cycling). José Aguirre (Canel’s Specialized) took third after 122km of an undulating loop.
McCabe’s finish bumped him up to second place overall thanks to bonus seconds available on the line. His teammate Jaramillo sits in third place, 12 seconds down.
Almost straight after the sprint, the peloton began the first of three Cat. 3 KOM Pinos Altos climb. Despite multiple riders trying to get a break going, no one escaped until around 50km in, when Francisco Mancebo (Canyon) attacked on the descent taking UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Lachlan Norris, Stephen Bassett (Silber) and Mike Rice (Axeon) along with him.
Eventually, the pace proved too much for Mancebo, Bassett and Rice. They lost contact with Norris and fell back into the bunch with less than 40 km left in the stage.
Norris fought to maintain his minute advantage heading into the latter portion of the race, but the sprinters teams shut him down with 10 km remaining.
On the last turn toward Fort Bayard, Young was in prime position with 500 meters to go and won by a just a few inches ahead of McCabe, who moved up into the lead of the sprint classification.
Gavin Mannion had the best time from the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team in the 16mi/26km out and back individual time trial. His time of 33:45 was 38 seconds off the pace of the winner, Evan Huffman (Rally) and good enough for 6th place.
McCabe sprinted to another close second against Eric Young (Rally) at the downtown Silver City criterium. Alfredo Rodriguez (Elevate KHS) finished third.
Despite multiple small moves off the front, the most dangerous attack came from UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Greg Henderson, who flew off the front solo with seven laps to go with in an attempt to put the pressure on Rally and set up McCabe. Elevate-KHS and Cylance swarmed at the front to set up their sprinters, which brought back Henderson around 2 laps to go.
It was a grueling finale to an already tough week of racing. With 100.6 mi (161.9km) and 9,131ft (2,783m) of climbing, the Gila Monster RR once again lived up to its name as one of the hardest courses in North America.
The profile didn’t deter the riders from starting off the race in an aggressive fashion. Attacks flew off the front from the word, “go” but nothing got any traction until around 30 km into the stage, when a group of 15 including McCabe, Eric Marcotte (Cylance), Ruben Companioni and Joe Lewis (Holowesko) slipped off the front.
Working well together, the large group gained a max of 2 minutes 15 seconds, but it started to fracture as the road turned upward. Efren Santos (Canel’s) and James Piccoli (PPB Racing) became the new leaders until a puncture forced Piccoli back into the peloton. Santos also got caught a few kilometers later.
The fireworks started on the final climb, about 10 riders were left when Eisenhart threw in an attack with 1.5km left, but Rally neutralized the Holowesko rider’s efforts.
Mannion also attacked in the break in the closing part of the race and said his team did a fantastic job making sure he had fresh legs for the finale.
“I was protected all day by my teammates,” Mannion said. “Coming out of the Cliff Dwellings is the toughest part of the race, I rode tempo. We tried to unseat some of the Rally guys, but they were just too strong. I’m happy with third. My team did all they could do and we look forward to the next race.”
McCabe finished the day cementing his lead in the green jersey.
“Travis made the break of the day and scored the points he needed to win the sprint competition,” team director Seba Alexandre said. “We pulled off a week with 2nd places, a 3rd place and 4th overall. We expected more this week but wasn’t a bad week in general.”
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling men’s team has the Redlands Cycling Classic next on the schedule, held May 3-6.