Rafael Montiel put his Orgullo Antiqueno squad on the map with his victory in the opening stage of the Tour of the Gila and a strong ride as the race leader for three more stages, but his legs didn't quite last until the finish. The 33-year-old Colombian came unhitched in the final 10km of the 'Gila Monster' stage and he faded from the overall podium, losing 3:19 on overall winner Rob Britton and plummeting to 12th overall.
Montiel's legs first started to show the wear and tear on the penultimate classified climb, and the team sent one rider back to help pace him on. Team director Gustavo Carrillo said he just was on a bad day and couldn't even hold the pace at tempo, much less follow the attacks of Britton and stage winner Michael Woods (Optum).
"He just didn't have it," Carrillo said. "He had a bad day, that happens. But he had a great time trial, which we didn't expect, and we won a stage and the mountains classification [with Cristhiano Montoya]."
The Orgullo squad rode attentively throughout the final stage, putting riders into the 27-man breakaway that went early in the day, keeping the rest of the team rested for the mountainous final half. "The team rode perfectly today, and we thought we had it covered. The other teams chased and we kept our leader fresh. But congratulations to SmartStop and Rob Britton, he's a worthy winner of the race."
The team came up from Colombia for the Joe Martin Stage Race, another UCI 2.2-ranked event, Carrillo said, because there is only one UCI-ranked event in Colombia.
"Having two UCI races back to back makes it a viable trip. It's normally difficult to come because the US races don't usually offer much support for international teams, but thanks to Jack Brennan, he did a lot to help us come race."
The Colombians certainly earned their invitation, controlling the race for both the Fort Bayard stage and the criterium before finally being broken only in the last 10km of the five-stage race. Optum director Eric Wohlberg said he respected their efforts.
"Woods and Rob Britton really animated the last 5km and finally broke the Colombian train, but those guys had a big week, we respect how they rode,” Wohlberg said. "The Colombians had three guys in the breakaway, which was not so good for some of the other teams."
The team hopes it might gain the attention of the USA Pro Challenge, which is where Montiel first made his name in the USA by winning the final mountains classification in 2011.