After 16 years of running the Silver City-based stage race Tour of the Gila, Jack Brennan will step down as co-race director following the 30th annual running of the event in 2016. In an interview with Cyclingnews, Brennan said that although the event has meant a lot to him, he is ready to move on to something new.
“This will be my last year as race director,” Brennan told Cyclingnews. “Not to throw my wife under the bus but she is a retired school teacher and she has been retired for four years, and I’m turning 65 in April. A couple of years ago I decided to do three more years, and this will be the third of three. It’s time for me to move on. But I’m still race director for 2016.”
Brennan and Michelle Gilles took over as co-race directors of the Tour of the Gila in 2000. Brennan said that Gilles will continue to stay on as a race director, and his position will likely be filled by several new hires beginning in 2017.
“Michelle will stay around as co-director, which is great because she does a lot of stuff, but there might be two or three people to take over my position - a team.”
Brennan, who bought a partnership into the local Gila Hike & Bike in 1988, has been working in various roles with the Tour of the Gila for 28 years before taking over as co-race director with Gilles from previous race director Mark Wilson.
“The very first year, I helped with T-shirt sales and then it kind of grew into more and more responsibilities,” Brennan said. “I gradually learned more about it and did different things. I was assistant race director with Wilson for a number of years. You kind of just move up in it.”
Brennan will not only step down as the co-race director of the Tour of the Gila but will also sell his interest in the Gila Hike & Bike before moving onto new pastures.
Tour of the Gila date change eases travel rush on teams coming from Joe Martin Stage Race
Tour of the Gila traditionally starts during the last week of April but will change dates next year. The event, which is a part of the National Racing Calendar and was a UCI 2.2 level this year, will start on May 4 and conclude on May 8 in 2016.
With the Tour of California shifting its dates back by one week and scheduled from May 15-22, Brennan felt that moving his event back a week, too, would give teams more time to travel from the Joe Martin Stage Race to his event. The Joe Martin Stage Race will continue with its traditional dates of April 21-24 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“We changed our race dates to May 4 through May 8,” Brennan said. “It’s a full week later. There were a couple of reasons for the date change. Joe Martin will continue to have their event end on Sunday, April 24. Normally our race started the Wednesday after Joe Martin but a number of teams were saying that it would be a lot easier for teams, mechanics and riders if there was a week between Joe Martin and Tour of the Gila.
“And with the Tour of California being a week later, it’s a nice split up to have Joe Martin, followed by a full week off, then we start on May 4 and the Tour of California will start on May 15.”
Tour of the Gila has struggled to find funding in the past, and was most recently rescued by an anonymous sponsor, a Colorado racer, after appealing to the public for the 2015 event. The event faced a similar situation in 2009, however, SRAM stepped in with enough funding to allow the race to continue. For 2016, Brennan said that he is confident they will have the funding required to host what will be the 30th annual event.
“As far as sponsorship goes we are still working on that. It’s always on going. I’m starting a lot earlier this year with talking to all of our principals [sponsors] from last year. It’s coming along,” Brennan said.
Brennan recently attended the USA Cycling Summit where he had the opportunity to meet new CEO and President of USA Cycling Derek Bouchard-Hall, who won stage 1 to Mogollon by two seconds ahead of Eric Wohlberg in 2000.
Bouchard-Hall has been praised for his push to bring positive change to the sport’s national governing body in the US since he started in June. The forward momentum is something that might make Brennan re-think retirement.
“Most of the race directors, officials, teams came away with this incredible feeling that we can really do good things in American cycling. There are a lot of issues with USA Cycling and a lot of things to work through, but the direction seems very positive.
“So, because of that, I’m kind of hedging my bets as far as whether it will be my last year. I might want to stick around because of the new direction USA Cycling is taking, and I might want to be a part of it. Right now I do plan on retiring, but I could change my mind.”