Mogollon climb cut from Tour of the Gila opening stage

Without traditional summit finish, stage 1 could favour sprinters

Road construction has caused organisers of the Tour of the Gila to scrap the Mogollon climb from the opening stage of the UCI 2.2 race scheduled for April 19-23 in Silver City, New Mexico.

Stage 1 will cover the same route as years past but without the final 4.8km of climbing to the ghost town of Mogollon, finishing instead on the Whitewater Mesa below the climb. Organisers expect a sprint finish on the stage, which will include time bonuses but no KOM points as in years past. 

The opening stage at Tour of the Gila has set the general classification pecking order in in the past, with both 2016 winners Mara Abbott and Lachlan Morton claiming the stage and carrying the race lead through to the end.

"This is the first time in our history that we have had to alter the route," said race director Jack Brennan. "We lost 2.9 miles of climbing, which is the iconic part of Mogollon. It’s so incredible and beautiful up there, but we don’t have it this year. It’s going to change the whole dynamics of the race."

Mogollon was flooded in September of 2013, completely wiping out the roads leading into town, according to a statement published on the race website. While a few repairs were done to open the roads, the needed infrastructure was placed on hold. Several months ago, construction began with substantial repairs to the road, and the heavy equipment involved has severely damaged the tarmac on the approach.

"I think they’re building a bridge or two, so there is a lot of work going on," Brennan said. "What’s happening is the construction company building all of this is hauling these concrete blocks up to Mogollon. The weight of these blocks and the weight of the trucks are destroying the road. It’s just not wise for us to go up there and try to race. 

"Once the infrastructure work is done, then the road will be taken back up to suitable standards," Brennan said, adding that he expects the race will be able to return to Mogollon in 2018.

In the meantime, stage 1 will look familiar to riders until they head into the final kilometers, where each race will make the right turn onto NM 159 off of Highway 180 as in years past, heading up towards Whitewater Mesa, with the finish just over 6 kilometres ahead. Although it is considered a flat finish, a short climb that includes a 13 per cent grade comes soon after the turn. It could weed out the pure sprinters, but organisers are still expecting a sprint finish. Sprint points will go to the first 10 finishers, and the top three will get time bonuses.

Stage 2 promises another sprint finish unless a breakaway finds a way to stick on a mostly flat Inner Loop course, while stage 3 sees the pelotons tackle the rolling and often-times windy individual time trial, a 26km race against the clock that includes 304.8 metres of climbing. Stage 4 is the downtown Silver City criterium, with the final day throwing the infamous "Gila Monster" stage at the riders.

With the loss of stage 1 summit finish, the stage 3 time trial and final day road race will have added importance for the general classification. 

“Mogollon typically makes a clear selection among the top 20 contenders being in the front group, but it’s not a huge gap for the GC," said Fortunato Ferrara, winner of the amateur cat 1-2 race in 2015 and 2016. "This year is going to be very interesting. You won’t know who is going to be the winner until the very end."

Participating Tour of the Gila 2017 professional teams:

Men’s Pro Continental & Continental Teams

Aevolo Cycling
Axeon Hagens Berman
Canyon Bicycles Pro Cycling
Cylance Pro Cycling
Elevate KHS Pro Cycling
Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear
Jelly Belly p/b MAXXIS
Rally Cycling
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling

Men’s Domestic Elite Teams

303 Project Cycling Team
Foundation Cycling New York City
Gateway Harley Davidson/Trek U25 Cycling Team
Landis/Trek
Pacific Premier Bank
Storck-CCN Development Team
Support Clean Sport/SeaSucker/Guttenplan Coaching

Men’s Foreign Teams

Canel’s Specialized
H & R Block Pro Cycling
Mobius Future Racing
Movistar Team Ecuador
Silber Pro Cycling

Women’s UCI & domestic professional teams

Amy D Foundation
Colavita/Bianchi USA
Cylance Pro Cycling
Hagens Berman Supermint Pro Cycling Team
Landis/Trek
Rally Cycling
Sho-Air TWENTY20
Team TIBCO – Silicon Valley Bank
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling

Women’s foreign teams

Conade-Visit Mexico-Specialized
Rise Racing

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