Tour of the Gila Daily: Hall climbs into women’s race lead and Mannion finishes fourth in UCI men’s race
SILVER CITY, N.M. – Straight off the back of winning Joe Martin Stage Race, Katie Hall proved her top form by out climbing her nearest rivals to win stage 1 of the Tour of the Gila today. Hall’s win on Mogollon climb lands her the overall red jersey, eight seconds ahead of Sara Poidovin (Rally).
“We really raced as a team today and every single person was there and working on the final climb,” Hall said. “I’m really happy to take the win today but I know I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
The 114km stage started with some rolling hills, which kept the bunch pretty much all together until the final climb to the finish. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team goal was to ensure no dangerous moves went up the road ahead of the climb, and if they did, the team placed someone in the break.
Despite some attacking, mainly from the Rally team, no group was able to establish a gap and it was all together going into the final climb. Lauren Hall and Lauretta Hanson started the pushing the pace toward the climb and then over the windy mesa, Lizzy Banks took a monster pull, shattering the field and reducing the lead group to just eight riders. As the road kicked up again it was over to Leah Thomas and Diana Penuela to set the pace, until the final couple of kilometers. Hall then took over, reducing the lead group to just three and then attacked again at 1km to go, finishing solo with a few seconds to spare.
Thomas and Penuela came in fifth and sixth making it three UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling riders in the top six overall.
“Today’s race is usually predictable with a fear of the final climb subduing many riders enthusiasm to attack,” team director Rachel Hedderman said. “However, the predictability doesn’t make it any easier to win, and it was a fantastic team effort to set Katie up, and she finished it off in the best possible way with a solo victory.”
After 148 kilometers of racing, Gavin Mannion finished in solid fourth place on stage 1 after a strong performance on the legendary Mogollon climb.
The day’s plan was to race aggressively and place someone from the team in the break, saving Mannion and Tsvetkov for the final climb. However, a break was established early, catching the peloton off guard.
“Every team except us was happy with only three guys up the road,” team director Seba Alexandre said. “We tried a couple times, but it didn’t work. Rally put two guys to ride and after 80kms of racing and with four-minute gap Rally stopped working. We started to attack, but again, no one was interested.
After multiple attempts at creating a new break, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling changed its strategy to save their energy for the final climb.
“We got everyone helping our two leaders, and just before the climb there was an attack by Rally and Janier Acevedo chased it down,” Alexandre said.
The Mogollon shattered the field, leaving three riders, including Mannion, at the front. However, he couldn’t quite match the pace of the winner, Oscar Sanchez (Canels-Specialized) and slipped to fourth place with just two kilometers left.