Professional road riders Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Jason McCartney will bring the Mellow Johnny’s name back to the SRAM Tour of the Gila this year. Gila co-director Jack Brennan was delighted with the announcement that the trio would travel to New Mexico’s Silver City to contest the race’s 24th edition.
“This is really cool,” he said. “I could not be happier about the direction of our race, the fact that Levi and Lance are coming back, and that the fields are stacked with North America’s best riders. This will be a showcase of talent.”
Armstrong will once again use the event as preparation for his Grand Tour objectives, while his main general classification rivals stick with their tried and true preparation races in Europe. Armstrong has had a difficult start to the year after being dropped on Criterium International’s first stage and plagued by stomach issues that impacted on his schedule for Milan-San Remo then Circuit de la Sarthe and the Classics season.
“Not only do the state and the local fans embrace this race, but the terrain, competition, and timing is perfect. We are looking forward to taking the start in Silver City, it’s a great event,” said Armstrong. “It is also a great opportunity to ride with our U23 squad and check in on their development.”
Leipheimer won last year’s race after the ProTour riders were granted an eleventh hour reprieve, allowing them to start the race. The riders had originally entered under the Astana name last year however they were unable to contest the event in their ProTour kit due to International Cycling Union (UCI) regulations that prevent top level riders taking part in lesser ranked events. By agreeing to race under the name of Armstrong’s bike shop, Mellow Johnny’s, they were allowed to enter the event.
The Mellow Johnny’s trio will take on full squads from the likes of United Healthcare - Maxxis, Jelly Belly, Trek-LIVESTRONG, Jamis-Sutter Home and Fly V Australia. The women’s races at Gila are now included in the Women’s Prestige Series and will see team like TIBCO, Peanut Butter & Co. - 2012, Colavita/baci and Team Vera Bradley Foundation take part.