Bontrager/Livestrong Rides Again
(May 2, 2012) Silver City, NM.-The 26th annual Tour of the Gila kicked off on Wednesday under cloudless skies and warm temperatures. With SRAM as the new title sponsor and the UCI upgrading the Gila to a 2.2 level event, this years tour has attracted the deepest field of talent in years. Team director Gord Fraser is back with his Competitive Cyclist Racing Team, Frankie Andreu is heading up the Kenda 5 Hour Energy team, Burke Swindlehurst is in charge of the Jamis-Sutter Home team, and Axel Merckx returns with his team of U23 riders who took last years Tour of the Gila by storm.
With a deeper field this year, the boys of the Bontrager/Livestrong team have their work cut out for them, and Axel told them so at the teams pre-race meeting. But the team is feeling good and coming in to the race with some momentum after Ian Boswells podium finish at the U23 Liege-Baston-Liege, and the confidence gained from last years results on these same roads.
Before the first stage I caught up with Lawson Craddock as the team attended to last minute preparations near the starting line. “We are all super excited for today, I think we have a really good shot at the stage and overall here. We’ve got Joe Dombrowski, the skinniest man alive who can go uphill like no other, who finished third on this stage last year and can hopefully go two steps higher today."
And as the day unfolded, the pack rolled through most of the stage with only a two-man break getting away with a 4:30 gap until the wind and the momentum of the peloton finally swallowed them up. Besides a brief showing at the head of the pack as the race rolled through a neutral start through downtown Silver City, the Bontrager boys were nowhere to be seen, tucked in safely amongst the group. Even as the peloton made the last right turn off highway 180 onto the first pitches of the Category 1 Mogollon climb, still no black Bontrager kits.
As the pack hit the mile long flat section before the final steep climb to the finish, the group detonated as Chris Baldwin and Ben Jacques-Maynes of Team Bissell dropped the hammer. The sudden acceleration and the brutal crosswind along the flats left the entire peloton in pieces. Along the flats the Bontrager squad stuck together as long as they could, until Craddock and Dombrowski were left to chase the leaders.
Soon Dombrowski had left Craddock, and was on his own to chase the leaders. With less than 3k to go, Dombrowski worked his way up past Baldwin, past Jacques-Maynes, past Francisco Mancebo, right up to within sight of United Health Care’s Rory Sutherland who just happened to be crossing the line with his arms thrown up in the air. Craddock almost got what he wished for as Dombrowski did one better than last year and finished second for the stage.
Stay tuned for more coverage as the race really heats up through the week.