The 2003 Holiday Inn Express Tour of the Gila
April 30th through May 4th
Story and photos by Vaughn Trevi
Perhaps the toughest 5-day Tour in the USA takes place in Silver City, New
Mexico. With a total purse of $27,000 the race traditionally draws the strongest
pro teams in the USA to the event, this includes men's and women's pro road and
mtn bike teams who are looking for a demanding week of racing at altitude to put
a competitive edge on their form for the coming Wachovia USPro and first Norba
event at Big Bear, California, two weeks from today.
Silver City was a silver mining boom town in the 19th century, and in those
days you could see Butch Cassidy or Billy the Kid in town. Geronimo was also
said to have been born in the local wilderness. The names of the locales the
race passes through reads like a turn of the century nickel "Winchester
Remington" Western pulp Novel of the the 1860's: Buck Horn Mesa, Mogollon Pass,
Silver City, Wild Horse Mesa, and Pinos Altos this may be the Spring shoot out
for the leader's jersey to see who is the King and Queen of the Wild Wild West.
Kim Bruckner and Mari Holden in front of the "Buckhorn Saloon" -
And just what is a Gila Monster? Well it is a large venomous lizard named
after the southwestern US Gila (pronounced hee-la) River. Its beaded and armored
skin is black with orange and pink, it lives 20 years, has a very strong bite
and is rumored to not let go it's bite 'til the sun goes down....in all, it is
ugly and fitting of this wild country.
Why the road race is called the Gila Monster? Even though Silver City itself
sits at 5800 feet of elevation (1800 meters), the pro course has three severe to
extreme climbs, to elevations of 7400 feet (2255 meters). The estimated speed of
this race tells the tale, just slightly over 20 miles per hour (32 kph). The
race is as tough as the Gila monster and takes the tenacity of one to finish it.
Wherry, Pate, Ubaldo Meza, Moninger† - 2002 Gila Monster RR
The courses of earlier NRC events pale in comparison. To me, this race, a
favorite, more resembles the European stage races in terrain and required
effort. It is hotly contested with pro men's, pro women's, women's 2,3,4, senior
men's 2/3 and, added this year, a masters 55+ and 65+. Traditionally the "Gila"
draws the top pro teams in the USA. The podium list of past years is the who's
who in American cycling.
This year, due to poor planning and lack of foresight by the managers of the
National Race Calendar, the Gila and the Twilight Criterium were scheduled in
conflict, or were too close to the Tour of Georgia, for most men's pro teams to
make it across country to New Mexico. With only two days between the Gila and
Georgia there's hardly time for the riders to recover and ride the more
physically demanding terrain of the Tour of the Gila course.
The shame of this is that both Athens Twilight Crit (20 years running) and
the Tour of Gila (17 years) are long-standing NRC annual events. In my opinion,
this is just short of criminal error, two long-standing, well run first class
events should not have this indignity happen to them. Let's hope the persons in
control of the NRC calendar will have learned their lesson this year and we
won't see this happen next year. That's my opinion and it ought to be yours.
In spite of this, Jack Brennan, the Gila organiser, assures me that this
year's race will be a good one with as large and competitive a field. I am sure
that as usual the Gila course will produce a race of quality and will be perhaps
more interesting in some respects.
Last year's crit through the Old West style Silver City
One of the great things about this race is that you get a look at the "Young
guns" on the smaller regional teams and Cat 2 riders racing on the same course
as the Pros which is a rare opportunity to see what they are capable of.
Case in point from last year's Gila report: "Young Guns: The "keep an eye on"
list: Sandy Perrins (Logan Race Club), Ian Dille and Eric Murphy (Mercy Cycling
Team), Tom Danielson (Sobe/Cannondale), Tim Larkin (Ofoto-Lombardi Sport), Mike
Ley and Ernie Lechuga (Choco Andean), Scott Price (Landis Trek/VW), and Mesa
Ubaldo (Tecos Turbo). Each of these riders distinguished themselves riding at
Gila with top pros in a tough race.
Some names you may have noticed this year having achieved some prominence in
the early Spring races. Tom Danielson moved into prominence in this race last
year to ride for Mercury, was then signed by Saturn and had a great race at
Tom Danielson finishes the Gila, with Lieswyn et. al.
Returning this year are Carlos Vargas and Brian Matter who were separated by
only six seconds in the tight finish of the of the Cat.2 race. This year both
return as members of the Saturn Development Team to race in the pro race. Carlos
Vargas, a dynamic young climber, lost the leader's jersey on the last day due to
a flat in the closing miles. This could be a breakout race for SeŮor
Vargas and Brian Matter. Once again the Gila will bring veteran and young guns
into the same cauldron to hammer out a tough race that will look like the shoot
out at the OK Corral. With so many new faces it will be a race of discovery for
fan and rider alike - with Health Net with Gord Frazier, the Sorcerer's
Apprentice Russ Stevenson and the Tecos Team from Mexico with extroadinary
climbers - it looks to be a charged and strong and international contest. Add in
a Canadian contingent, the Northwest's Broadmark Capital team, the new Lemond,
Vaughters and Saturn development teams with mix of young Australian and New
Zealand riders† - this is looking to be the young gun race of the year!
On the women's side, Genevieve Jeanson will be the lady who will be making a
run at a third straight victory in Gila. The damsels who will make it a
challenge for Mademoiselle Jeanson will likely be Kim Anderson, Dotsie Cowden,
Sarah Hammer and Stacey Peters of the T-Mobile team, Manon Jutras, Ina
Teutenberg of Saturn as the ladies continue the season-long rivalries. Watch for
Sarah Hammer for the sprints competition; young Sarah will be my pick for the
Criterium on Saturday. Adding in a Canadian National team, ICO with Maatje
Benassi from Holland, a composite team from Puerto Rico/Guatemala and I think we
can look forward to surprises on each stage from the ladies.
Jeanson in a lone breakaway on last year's Gila Monster stage
The course never dips below 5600 feet elevation and this will sort out the
green horns from the bike buckaroos. The Mens Pro race has 22,180 feet of
elevation to conquer in the five stages. The Womens Pro race with a shortened
course is just as demanding.
Wednesday 30 April: Stage 1 Individual Time Trial
This 15.7 mile course has 1970 ft. of climbs. Starting in Tyrone at 5680 ft.
it's up and over the Tyrone pass (6340 ft.), a one and half mile technical
descent to mile 8, continuing over big rollers to the turn-around point to climb
the steeper side of Tyrone pass with a fast descent to Tyrone. A time trial for
the sherpas and Boulderites. Riders will be released at 30 second intervals.
Last year we watched as the Genevieve Jeanson and Madame Longo raced against the
clock, both beat much of the men's field. I had the pleasure of following
Jeannie Longo as she raced the first half of course; she was a picture of power
and passed six riders before the half way point. If the riders are lucky this
year they will not have the gusty high desert winds that played havoc with them
and made disc wheels act like sails.†
Thursday 1 May: Stage 2 Mogollon Road to Silver City
92 miles long, 5650 feet of climbs. The Cat 1 Climb is thoughtfully arranged
in the final 35 miles of the race on very narrow alpine road with an uphill
finish. The roads and mountains in the background of the colorful peloton look
like they are part of the Giro. There will be two 15 second time bonus sprints
at Buckhorn and Mangas, both at over 4700 feet. The race starts at Mogollon Pass
(6800'), descends through Whitewater Mesa to 4600 ft. at Pleasanton where the
racers will confront their first climb of the day, to the 5270' Mule Creek.
Halfway through the descent is the first time bonus sprint at Buckhorn. Thirty
miles of rollers through the valley to the lowpoint of the race 4500 feet.
Following the feed zone the riders attack the climb to Mangas pass (4900') for
the time bonus with an uphill sprint. A short descent and then the 12 mile
ascent to Silver city at 5900' with a final elevation gain of 1150'.
Friday 2 May: Stage 3 73 mile loop race with 5160 ft of climbing, starting
and ending at Ft. Bayard.
The first obstacle today starts after the Bonus Sprint at mile seven with a
1300' elevation change in 3 miles to Pinos Altos. A technical descent follows,
leading to a 1470 ft climb in three/half miles. A fast descent and a three mile
climb to Meadow Creek summit (7470 ft), a total ascent of 1900'. Another short
descent across Wild Horse Mesa to a highly technical descent dropping from
7,000' to 5990' in 4 miles. Rising out of Sapillo Springs an eleven mile ascent
to a Bonus sprint near the summit of the Continental Divide, 6,650'. Gentle down
hill for the next 15 miles and the final 7 mile 900 foot ascent at mile 65,
leading to the finish which, of course, is up hill. Last year one of the
obstacles was getting away from the start without flatting, as the wind had
filled the start area with thorns that were quick to puncture tires.
Saturday 3 May: Stage 4 Downtown Silver City Criterium 43.2 miles
40 laps of a 1.08 mile course with 60' of climbing, which doesn't sound like
much if you don't remember that this Crit will be at 5800 feet of elevation!
This will look like a day in the park for the pros after 12,820 ft. total of
climbing in the last 3 days.
Sunday 4 May: Stage 5† "Gila Monster" Road Race 100 miles
Racing starts at 8 am from Silver City racing a 100 mile loop which starts at
5800 ft., the lowest altitude of the day. This stage challenges with three major
Cols over 7000 ft. and three lesser Cols of 6600' to 6900'. Included are three
"extreme" descents on narrow mountain roads. The challenge of the day will be
the ride up from Sapillo Springs to Wild Horse Mesa, a three mile,1200 ft.
climb, followed by the short but intense climb to Meadow Creek (elevation
7470'). There will be two time bonus sprints.
This stage can produce dramatic changes in the G.C. Last year Danny Pate
attacked and arrived on the podium, Chris Wherry succeeded in holding off the
attacks for victory. Genevieve Jeanson solidified her already outstanding lead
on another breakaway in the final miles.
Teams: Mens Pro/1
Broadmark Capital Cycling, one of the best development teams in the
USA, graduating riders to pro status. Evan Elken (Oregon), Calvin Allan
(Colorado), Doug Ollerenshaw (Oregon), Craig Wilcox (Washington), Tyler Thompson
Canadian Cycling Association: Andreas Hestler, Chris Sheppard, Matt
Toulouse, Ricky Federau, Roddi Lega (all riders Canadian).
Saturn Development: Carlos Vargas (Columbia),† Tim Reinhart†
Brian Schanning (Wisconsin), Tristan Schouten (Washington), Ian Stuart
Sportsbook.com: Lawrence Perera (Massachusetts), Ross Krause
(Massachusetts), Josh Beck (Pennsylvania).
Lemond Fitness/Captain Cra-Z Soap: Adrian Laider (Australia),†
Leigh Palmer (Australia), Nic Brown (Australia), Bill Innes USA, Eneas Freyre
USA, Andy Carter USA.
Sierra Nevada/Clif Bar: Troy White, Jason Klikna, Andy Jacques-Maynes,
Chris Balimann), Daniel Ramsey, Justin Morgan, Abraham Taylor (all California).
Mathis Brothers: Aron Huerta, Steve Cate.
S280 Johnathan Vaughters development team: Blake Caldwell (Colorado),
Joe Sternberg (Colorado).
Health Net Trek/VW Tecos Mexico (riders list not
Tour of Gila allows composite teams and the following riders may form teams -
here are some riders who may attend:
Burke Swindlehurst (Utah), Michael Janelle Tokyo Joes (Colorado), Hugh Moran
(Arizona), Ainslie MacEachran AST (Colorado), Michael Lang Backyard Burgers
(Michigan), Ian Prichard Schwab Cycles (Colorado), Tim Duggan Duane Duggan Remax,
Cody Waite (Colorado), Todd Wells Hyundai/Mongoose (Colorado), Ryan Blickem
Border Bandits (New Mexico), Eric Murphy Healthy Choice (Florida), Mitch Moreman
Dean (Colorado), Kurt Fletcher Dogfish (Missouri), Kurt Hackler Fiordi Frutta/Ridgefield
Bank (Massachusetts), Jaime Gandara Team GRJ (Texas), Mike Rosaasen (Colorado),
Ron Hudson Monex/Hot Wheels (Arizona, Jake Rosenbarger Jittery Joe's (Georgia),
Drew Peters Jittery Joe's (Georgia), Scott Zwizanaki (Pennsylvania), Ian Dille
Team Snow Valley (Virginia), Russ Langley Team Snow Valley (Washington D.C.).
Teams: Womens Pro/1
ICO: Maatje Benassi (Netherlands),† Melissa Sanborn (Oregon),
Melissa Sanborn (Oregon), Mary Kneeland (Colorado), Liza Rachetto (Idaho),
Christy Kopasz (Colorado), Lisa Magness (Colorado).
Canadian Cycling: (All riders Canada) Alison Sydor, Chrissy Redden,
Kiara Bisaro, Melanie McQuaid.
Saturn Cycling Team: Jutras Manon (Canada), Amy Moore (California),
Megan Elliot (Iowa), Ina Teutenberg (Germany), Jessica Phillips (Montana).
Team start lists not yet available:
Team Pollo Rey (Puerto Rico/Guatemala)
Possible members of composite teams:
Michele Bote LSV/Trel/VW (Pennsylvania), Heather Armstrong Colorado Velo
(Colorado), Jilayne Lovejoy Excel Sports (Colorado),† Johanna Buick (New
Zealand), Gabriela Gonzales DeFerret (Mexico), Beth Leasure Team Velo Clips
(Missouri), Mary Grigson Subaru/Gary Fisher (Australia), Ginger Buller Velo Bela
(California), Semantha Nicholson Ciclismo (Canada), Kristy Scheffenacker Team
Snow Valley (Maryland), Elizabeth Begosh Team Snow Valley (Pennsylvania), Brook
Durada Team Goldys (Idaho), Hiroko Shimada (Connecticut), Amanda Lawrence
Visit the official race site:
Leader jersey Genevieve Jeanson and race organizer Jack Brennan -
Chris Wherry with Jack Brennan in front of the opera house at
Another winner from last year's edition. Watch out Genevieve...