UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling amped for Tour of the Gila
Directly off the heels of Joe Martin Stage Race comes perhaps the most difficult stage race on the UCI America Tour, the 32nd Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico to be held April 18-22.
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling women are rolling into town with fantastic form, coming from Katie Hall’s overall win at Joe Martin just a few days prior to Gila.
“We’re really motivated to take this momentum we’re feeling from Joe Martin into Gila,” Hall said. “We finished first, third and fourth in GC and I think we’re all climbing quite well right now. I think that will put us into a strong position at the hillier Gila. For myself, I am excited that that Mogollon is back its full form.”
The men’s team will have equal opportunity to show off their abilities at Gila, adding some key players to the roster.
“Although we didn’t quite have the results we were hoping for at Joe Martin, everyone showed their condition is very good,” Lachlan Norris said. “So we are coming into this race with a confident and strong team. With the addition of Serghei (Tvetcov) and Gavin (Mannion) I believe we have a good shot a winning the overall and being prominent in every stage.”
The Mogollon climb, at 10.7 kilometers long, appears at the end of the opening stage, dictating the fight for the overall jersey starts early in the five-day race.
Mannion, fourth on GC at last year’s Tour of the Gila, echoed Hall’s earlier sentiments about the European style climb. Mannion will be lining up alongside 2017 second place finisher, Tvetcov, who will also be looking to unseat returning champion, Evan Huffman (Rally).
“I’m excited for Tour of the Gila this year especially the return of the Mogollon mountain top finish on stage 1,” Mannion said. “I think we have a really strong and well-balanced team for this year’s race. We’re aiming high and looking to be on the top step of the podium a few times this week.”
After a tough opening stage, a rolling course with a handful of category three climbs will greet the riders. Despite the wind and early climbs, this stage traditionally comes down to a reduced field sprint.
“I’m really excited to race Tour of the Gila with UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling this year,” English rider Lizzy Banks said. “Being new to Tour of the Gila before presents new challenges for me, especially that of racing at altitude. The course is exciting and hard, and very well suited to the strengths of this team with the unrelenting nature of the terrain. The climb of the Mogollon will be a thrilling first test.”
The third stage sees the riders tackle a lumpy out and back time trial, another key day in the battle for the overall. Tvetcov is a former winner of the time trial and, along with Mannion, will be rider to watch on this stage. On the women’s side, Leah Thomas has also tasted victory on this stage and will once again be hunting for the top of the podium.
The fourth day changes things up a bit with a downtown criterium that favors the opportunists and sprinters. It will be a good day for UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling fast men and women, Sebastian Haedo, Lauren Hall and Lauretta Hanson.
With five categorized climbs and almost 10,000ft of elevation gain and two ascents of the “Gila Monster, the final day is one that will put a seal on whomever deserves the top honors at Tour of the Gila.
“Of course, we round off the week with the infamous Gila Monster stage,” Banks said. “As a team, we have a number of cards to play and I’m very much looking forward to getting out there and racing.”