The Tour of the Gila continued today with the stage two Inner Loop Road Race. Professional cyclists adore the Tour of the Gila for days like this one: nearly 6,000 feet of climbing, technical descending and a long straightaway for a potential sprint finish.
The scene was set for heroic performances and Optum presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies delivered. The squad, uniquely set up with both a dedicated women’s and men’s team, earned victories with Canadian, Annie Ewart, and Boulder, Colorado-based, Eric Young.
Ewart’s win seemed unlikely midway through the stage. She crashed and required medical attention yet continued racing, eventually pedaling off the front of the peloton and gaining some seven minutes over the field.
Race leader Mara Abbott’s Amy D. Foundation composite team gave chase but fortunately for Optum, Ewart hung on ahead of second place finisher, Olivia Dillion (Visit Dallas Cycling presented by Noise4Good) at just 19 seconds behind and third place finisher, Alison Jackson (Team Twenty16) at 25 seconds.
The women’s overall top 3 remains unchanged after today’s race with Abbott still leading overall, Abigail Mickey (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) in second and Jasmin Glaesser (Optum) in third.
The men’s race, like Tuesday’s stage one, defied convention. The Inner Loop, containing several challenging climbs including Pinos Altos and Acklin Hill and 5,781 total feet of climbing meant it would be challenging for sprint-oriented riders to arrive to the finish line fresh.
But like his teammate Guillaume Boivin (Optum) a day earlier, Eric Young showed he could maintain position on the climbs despite being known as one of the U.S.’s top sprinters. Young took the race victory with Travis McCabe (Team Smartstop) in second (same time as Young) and Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) in third (same time as Young).
The men’s overall top 3 also remained unchanged with Orgullo Antioqueño team’s Rafael Montiel in first place, Boivin in second place and Montiel’s teammate Cristhian Montoya Giraldo in third place.
Stage three is a 16.15 mile individual time trial beginning Friday morning at 9:15 a.m.