Jamis-Hagens Berman swept today’s podium atop the Mogollon climb
Jamis-Hagens Berman avoided a massive late-race crash during stage 1 at the Tour of the Gila Wednesday and went on to sweep the podium, placing Daniel Jaramillo, Matt Cooke and Gregory Brenes in the top three spots, respectively.
In the women’s race, defending champion Mara Abbott (UnitedHealthcare) repeated her stage 1 win from last year, soloing away on the final climb to take the victory by nearly a minute over Flavia Oliviera (FCS-Zngine).
The main challenge on the stage 1 Mogollen Road Race is the final ascent of the namesake climb, which hits grades of 19 percent as riders ascend 640 meters over 12km. The men raced 148 km, and the women raced 117.
Jamis dominates on Mogollen
Jaramillo, a 23-year-old Colombian riding his first season in the US, had a rough start to the year with crashes in the Tour de San Luis and the Vuelta Mexico. But he won the climber’s jersey at Redlands and was primed for a good result at the Gila.
“At the beginning of the season I didn’t have the best of luck, so I didn’t have much opportunity and this is the first one,” Jaramillo said through an interpreter. “I’m very happy and confident, and I hope to keep going like that until the end of the race.”
The day’s major breakaway escaped the field about 55km in as a group of four slipped away on the twisting roads near the town of Cliff. Conor McCutcheon (Airgas), Max Korus (Astellas), Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly-Maxxis), Coulton Hartrich (Marc Pro-Strava) cooperated well and built an ultimate gap of more than 10 minutes as the teams left out of the break played a game of chicken over who would pick up the chase.
Hincapie Sportswear and 5-hour Energy/Kenda eventually took up the chase, and the gap started coming down quickly. With a little more than 20km to the finish, the gap was at 7 minutes, but carnage in the field momentarily interrupted the chase.
With speeds topping 80kph on a slightly downhill stretch of straight road, a crash near the front of the field brought more than half of the peloton to a complete stop and sent at least 10 riders to the hospital, including two riders from Silber Pro Cycling team who needed to be airlifted to the Tucson Medical Center.
Despite the chaos back in the field, the 25-30 riders who were ahead of the carnage, including six from Jamis, continued to reel in the tired breakaway. The gap was down to 3:25 as the leaders turned onto the Mogollen climb with 12km to go. Korus was the first to drop off, followed by McCutcheon and Fisher. Hartrich was the final hold out, but he was reeled in with about 4km remaining after Cooke jumped away from the lead group and inspired the chase.
“It was a team plan that we were going to do that,” Cooke said. “We knew that we had the strongest team on paper, and we just had to make it happen. It doesn’t always work that way.”
With four teammates trailing behind in the front group of about 25, Cooke pressed the pace and waited for his teammates’ arrival to complete the plan.
“We were all together, and when you see that you gain a lot of confidence,” Cooke said. “So we just pushed hard.”
Jaramillo escaped the lead group, catching and passing Cooke with about 200 meters remaining to take the stage win, while Cooke held on for second two seconds later. Brenes crossed the line next for third just ahead of Rob Britton (Team SmartStop) in fourth and Carter Jones (Optum Pro Cycling) in fifth.
Now Jamis finds itself in the same place it was last year after Janier Acevedo won on Mogollen. Acevedo held onto the lead until the final climb of the Gila Monster stage, eventually ceding the overall victory to UnitedHealthcare’s Phil Deignen. Jaramillo is hoping to take it one step further this year and bring home the final yellow jersey.
“I feel good, and the team showed that it’s very strong,” Jaramillo said. “But we have to go day by day. There is a hard time trial where I hope to feel good. But we also have Gregory Brenes, who can be good on the time trials, so we’ll see how we go.”
**** Abbott adds another Mogollen win ****
Abbott’s win on Wednesday was her fifth victory on the Mogollen stage, and the 2013 overall champ almost made it look easy this time around.
“I’m not sure if she’s ever done this stage and not won it,” UnitedHealthcare director Rachel Heal said of her team leader. “So she’s got a pretty good record to keep up.”
In fact, Abbott finished second in 2007, her lowest result in all of her attempts at the stage.
A breakaway group of three animated the women’s race early when Lauren De Crescenzo (DNA Cycling-K4), Sofia Navarro Arreola (Twenty16) and Anna Grace Christiansen (FCS-Zngine) sneaked off the front about 41 km into the 117 km race.
The leaders built an ultimate gap of more than three minutes, but their advantage was down to just 40 seconds with 10km remaining as the general classification hopefuls started to prepare for the final climb up Mogollen.
The trio of escapees was back in the fold as the group reached the bottom of the final climb, and UnitedHealthcare’s plan started to play out.
“We knew if we could get [Abbott] to the bottom within a couple of minutes of anybody, then chances were she was going to win it,” Heal said.
Twenty16 massed at the front to drive up the pace on the lower slopes. But the Twenty16 effort couldn’t stop the inevitable attacks, as Abbott and Oliviera leaped away and were off the front by themselves with just 3km remaining.
Abbott put in another dig and dropped the FCS rider, building a gap of 30 seconds with just a kilometer to go. The defending champion added another 25 seconds over Oliviera by the finish, taking the win by 55 seconds.
Twenty16’s Abigail Mickey crossed the line 1:31 after Abbott for third. Groove Subaru’s Anne Toth was fourth, 1:38 down. Team Tibco’s Scotti Wilborne rounded out the top five, finishing 1:48 behind Abbott.
Although the women’s Tour of Britain, which starts next Tuesday, has weakened the Gila field somewhat, UnitedHealthcare, with just five riders in the race, will have its hands full defending for Abbott throughout the week. Nevertheless, Heal said her team is up to the challenge.
“It’s a smaller team, but it’s a strong team,” Heal said. “We have five riders, but I think four are in or very close to the top 10. And then Ruschlee [Buchanan] is not far behind that. We’re going to give it a very good go.”