Cesar Grajales (Ouch-Bahati Foundation) started the SRAM Tour of the Gila’s stage three time trial hoping to hold on to his third place position overall. Mother nature however had other plans for him, with dangerously high winds hampering his time trial effort and dropping the rider down to seventh overall.
“I am very disappointed and it was a really, really bad day for me,” Grajales told Cyclingnews. “I checked the weather the night before and it said 15 to 20 miles an hour winds, which is normal. Because I had a later start I had more wind. I didn’t warm up on the road, just on the rollers, and that was a big mistake.”
Grajales started the day’s stage in third place overall behind race leader Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) and Tom Danielson (DZ Nuts). He finished the 26-kilometre time trial nearly two and half minutes behind Leipheimer. Leipheimer and Danielson continue to hold the top two places respectively and Dave Zabriskie (DZ Nuts) is now sitting in third.
Grajales attributed his disappointing time trial to a poor selection of wheels under such windy circumstances. “I know I lost a lot of time today and things couldn’t have been worse for me being cold and windy, plus I made a bad decision by using a front wheel that was way too deep, a 75, which is really deep for this kind of wind,” Grajales said. “I couldn’t stay in my aero bars because of the cross winds and I couldn’t handle my bike on the descent. I had to hold the outside of my bars and at some points I wasn’t even pedaling because I was just trying to stay on my bike.
“It was so frustrating to watch Danielson pass me on the descent, flying, when I couldn’t even pedal,” he added. “I know Danielson would have beat me anyway but I would rather get beat knowing that I had used the right equipment and was able to ride the time trial properly.”
Grajales nabbed a third place finish atop the steep 10-kiloemtre ascent to Mogollon in the opening stage, behind winner Leipheimer and Danielson, then maintained his podium place in the stage two road race. With the time trial behind him, he is aiming to make a comeback during the final two race days at the stage four dowtown criterium on Saturday and the ultimate stage at the Gila Monster Road Race on Sunday.
“Sprinting could be an option for me tomorrow,” laughed Grajales. “The crit is an easier crit because we don’t really have crit riders here, just a lot of climbers. I usually do well in crits too. Sunday I’m hoping to do a good result and we will see how it goes in the general classification.”
Grajales is best known for winning the Tour de Georgia’s queen stage atop the famed Brasstownbald in 2004, beating Lance Armstrong by 17 seconds. He was aiming to perform well at the SRAM Tour of the Gila, where Armstrong is again in attendance.
A turbulent two-year term with the Rock Racing team, in 2008 and 2009, caused him to miss nearly every major stage race in North America. Team owner Micheal Ball reduced his contract from the professional team to its amateur counterpart at the beginning of last year, his final season with the team.
“I didn’t do races because I didn’t really have a race schedule,” Grajales said. “The year before was the same thing with Rock. I did a few races and never knew what races and I was on the amateur team so I wasn’t going to be doing good races.
“I pretty much lost two years of cycling so racing Gila is a good opportunity,” he added. “Being on a good team with a solid program that is organised has given me a good chance to be really racing again.”
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Kirsten Frattini is the Deputy Editor of Cyclingnews, overseeing the global racing content plan.
Kirsten has a background in Kinesiology and Health Science. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's biggest races, reporting on the WorldTour, Spring Classics, Tours de France, World Championships and Olympic Games.
She began her sports journalism career with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. In 2018, Kirsten became Women's Editor – overseeing the content strategy, race coverage and growth of women's professional cycling – before becoming Deputy Editor in 2023.