Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch Cycling) rode away from the UCI Women’s field at Tour of the Gila Thursday and didn’t see her competition for 67 miles until they crossed the finish line, causing a shake-up in the overall standings and putting riders on notice that she’s the one to beat.
The 31-year-old now has the red leader’s jersey and a significant time gap of two minutes and 32 seconds going into the race’s midpoint.
“Today was good training for Unbound,” De Crescenzo said. “I’ve done the Gila I think two other times, this is seven years ago, eight years ago, and it’s amazing to come back and take the win on the Inner Loop.”
De Crescenzo suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2016 when she crashed at the San Dimas stage race in California but worked hard toward recovery and getting back on the bike and into top form. She has since won several national endurance gravel races including Unbound and SBT GRVL. She credited her teammates for setting her up for victory.
“I had some bad luck yesterday at the base of the Mogollon,” De Crescenzo said. “I had to get a spare bike because my bike kind of exploded, and I had to get out on the course today, because I was pretty angry from yesterday. I came into it super motivated, and my team was behind me all night, all race. And I felt good out there. It was very, very difficult, but compared to something like the 200-mile races, it was easier to conceptualize, ‘oh, I have 20 miles to go, that’s not that far’.”
When the race kicked off, teams endured an extended neutral period due to one rider having a mechanical during the rollout, which gave them only four miles to get organized before the first sprint.
DNA Pro Cycling Team, looking to protect their green jersey leader Maggie Coles-Lyster from Canada, led out the first intermediate sprint, delivering Coles-Lyster across the line first, with Emma Langley (Team EF Education TIBCO-SVB) and Daphne Karagianis (DNA Pro Cycling Team) getting second and third, respectively.
The pace stayed high after the first sprint, stringing the group out toward the turn to Pinos Altos, and De Crescenzo decided to make her move – at just seven miles in.