Teammate Ruth Winder sprints to second, Rally Cycling’s Bergen third
SILVER CITY, N.M. – Katie Hall (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) narrowly won the first stage of the 31st edition of the Tour of the Gila after launching a last minute solo flyer just five km from the finish.
The 30-year-old from Oakland, California barely clung to her slim 10-second advantage while behind her, teammate Ruth Winder and Sara Bergen (Rally Cycling) charged to the line finishing second and third, respectively. Tayler Wiles (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) took fourth and Krista Doebel-Hickok (Cylance Pro Cycling) rounded out the top five.
“We had a really good game plan today,” 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.”
As expected, a modified route that excluded the famous Mogollon climb meant the time bonus opportunities were hotly contested. The first sprint came 30 km into the race and was won by Lauren Stephens (TIBCO). Second went to Lizzie Williams (Supermint) and Brianne Walle (TIBCO) claimed third. The three riders added 3,2 and 1 second to their GC time. Almost 30 kilometers later, Jamie Gilgen (Rise Racing) collected the 3-second bonus, followed by Winder and Stephens who scooped up 2 and 1 second collectively. The intermediate sprints also offered sprint points. Hall sits first in that classification followed by Winder who will wear the green jersey tomorrow.
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.
Heading into tomorrow’s Fort Bayard Inner Loop Road Race, Hall sits two seconds ahead of Winder on the general classification, while Bergen trails six seconds back. Starting at 10:40am MDT, the pro women will set out on 74.1mi (119.3km) loop with 5,854 feet (1,784 m) of climbing. Two bonus sprints and three Category 3 QOMS will also be on offer.