This is my third year attending the Tour of the Gila. It’s the toughest stage race that I’ve ever done, but also the best organized and has the most epic courses. Representing Marc Pro – Strava are Kris Lunning, Art Rand, Rudy Napolitano (guest rider), Spencer Collom, and Nate Freed.
Every year, I forget how deceptively difficult the first stage is. It usually has a lot of tail wind, and starts off with about 20 miles of descending. Rudy and I were designated as the “early break” guys, while Lunner, Art, and Spencer got to sit in and conserve until the latter portions of the stage. It was pretty obvious to me early that a lot of guys in our field weren’t that interested in doing much work. A lot of breaks rolled off the front, but were lazily chased down by members of teams who weren’t represented.
It didn’t take too long, but Rudy was able to roll away with a group of about 5 or 6. Over the course of the next 20-30 miles, a lot of guys tried to get away, but nothing really stuck. Meanwhile, the time gap that the main break had over us ballooned. It went from 2 minutes, to 4, to 6, then to 8 by the time we hit the feed zone for the second time. At this point, two guys rolled away, and Lunner quickly bridged up to them. He dropped one, then picked up a few more that managed to bridge across. Shortly after, I shot off the front with a group of two more. We dropped one guy, then picked up another 4 shortly after that.
The first break increased their gap to 10 minutes over field, followed by Lunner’s chase group that held 3 or 4 minutes on the field, then my chase group with about 2 minutes on the field. Once each group hit the final Cat.1 climb each group blew to pieces and guys limped in one-at-a-time. Rudy finished an extremely impressive 4th out of the break, followed by Lunner in 13th, and Art and I in the 30’s. Not too shabby… but it’s a looong race.
The bummer is that Spencer was taken down in a massive pile-up in a fast crosswind section with about 30 miles to go. The guy in front of him washed out on a lip on the side of the road. Spencer went to the hospital and got treated for road rash and a big gash to the elbow. Other than that, his injuries don’t seem too bad and he has a positive outlook on it.
We’ll try to keep everyone updated as the week progresses, to check out the race bible and follow our results, go to: