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Tour of the Gila blog: Phil Gaimon from America’s nosebleed section

  • By Phil Gaimon
  • Published May. 5, 2012
  • Updated May. 8, 2012 at 12:09 PM EDT

I’m not a huge fan of New Mexico, but I have to admit that the SRAM Tour of the Gila gets better every year. In addition to an ever-stronger field, the local fans, host housing, and neutral race support are really top notch – which makes it a pro quality race, while still being accessible to amateurs.

Really, the only way they could improve it would be to make it somewhat closer to an airport, or at least an interstate, and heck, maybe throw in a little oxygen or at least moisture in the air? Is that so much to ask? Shawn Milne discovered the trick of breathing through a wet towel, which helps, but we really shouldn’t have to resort to that. Also, SRAM isn’t handing out swag bags like they did last year. Someone stole my SRAM beanie and I was hoping for a new one (hint, hint).

The race has been going okay for us, but not great. We had a solid stage win and 2nd overall at Joe Martin Stage Race last week and then (like a lot of other teams), we traveled Monday, and had Tuesday to rest, with the race starting on Wednesday. In case you’re bad at math, that’s one day (Wednesday – Tuesday = 1) to actually recover from a 4-day stage race and acclimate to a 6000-foot elevation change. Looking at the results, it’s pretty clear that the guys who made that trek are suffering a bit (so that’s my excuse).

The race started with long breakaway for teammate and new dad Paul Mach, who scored a green jersey for the effort. I keep meaning to ask him if the baby or the jersey is more rewarding in the big picture. Competitive Cyclist, confident in its climbers, took responsibility, and chased down Paul and his breakmate before the nasty finishing climb, where the real race started.

The Mogillon climb is gradual for the first few kilometers, but steep enough to get rid of the fat guys, and let the climbers fight it out for position. Halfway up, it levels out into a windy plateau. UnitedHealthcare riders took advantage of their fresh legs, with Ben Day riding a blistering pace across the mesa, only leaving enough draft for Rory Sutherland and Marc de Maar, while the group shattered behind them.

At the end of the mesa, when the harder climbing started, the rest of us in the dwindled front group were already hurting (does that qualify as another excuse?), and Rory didn’t have much trouble leaving us. Competitive Cyclist’s Chad Beyer — who’s been quietly one of the strongest guys in the NRC, but in the shadow playing a team role for Mancebo most of the year – stayed with Rory longest.

But Joe Dombrowski from Bontrager-Livestrong, who was several groups back on the plateau, climbed through everyone (including yours truly, the jerk) and almost got up to Rory. If the climb was another kilometer or two, he’d have won. If it was another 40km, he’d have won by an hour.

Those are big “ifs” though, so don’t forget that Rory Sutherland killed us all. Rory led UHC (formerly Ouch, and more formerly HealthNet) to a ton of stage race wins in the last couple of years, but they’d been absent from the domestic scene since they started focusing on European races.

Mancebo and Competitive Cyclist have been like the neighborhood bully of the NRC, beating up on the little brother (except at Redlands, which I won in case you missed that) because big brother Rory and his friends are out at summer camp. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but that’s my analogy and I’m sticking to it.

The second stage saw another long, hopeless breakaway, this time starring Kenda-5 Hour’s Jim Stemper, and a bunch of other dudes who aren’t important because they’re not my teammates. We tried to get Milne into position for the field sprint, but didn’t quite do it, and it was sort of a moot point when Bissell’s Eric Young stood up at 500 meters and blew everyone’s doors off. He earned the green jersey off Paul Mach’s back for that one. At least Paul still has the baby for a consolation prize.

I woke up with a nosebleed for today’s TT (not an excuse, although that might affect my hematocrit. Okay now it’s an excuse). Evan Huffman was the surprise winner, followed by the top two from stage 1, so not much change in GC. Kenda’s best guy was Nate English in 7th, putting him up to 11th overall, 3 seconds behind me in 9th. Not bad, but not exactly setting the stage race on fire, so we’re both a little disappointed so far and hoping to improve.

Tomorrow’s crit will be a day for the sprinters, so we’ll be trying to get it right for Shawn Milne, and hoping that Eric Young eats a big dinner tonight and puts on 30lbs or so, which might be the only way anyone can beat him right now.

Sunday’s Gila Monster Stage will likely be a war, or a bunch of skinny dudes in tights trying to hang on to Joe Dombrowski. Check out Kenda’s Facebook or Twitter page for updates. That’s all for now from Silver City.

FILED UNDER: News / Rider Diaries / Road TAGS: /

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