Woods wins Stage 5 © Casey B. Gibson
May 05, 2015 (Silver City, NM) – Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies completed one of their best weeks of racing in recent memory at New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila with yet another stage win, this time coming from climbing ace Mike Woods in Sunday’s notorious Gila Monster Road Race. Jasmin Glaesser completed an excellent week with a fourth place finish in the Gila Monster, taking home the Best Young Rider jersey in the process. Both Woods and Glaesser finished fourth on general classification, a few seconds from the podium. The men also took home the Team Classification and Sprint Classification for Eric Young. The teams combined for four stage wins at the 5-day race.
Jasmin Glaesser on the podium © Casey B. Gibson
The team’s plan for the Gila Monster was to shake things up on the overall standings together, but a dangerous 30-man breakaway forming early in the stage caused a major tactical shift.
“Things did not go as planned on the Gila Monster,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “We wanted to put several guys up the road and put pressure on the overall leaders. However, a massive and dangerous breakaway with numerous GC threats got away early, and we ended up with only one guy, Routley, in there. The second part of our plan was to set up Phil Gaimon to make a run at the GC, but Phil was not having a good day. It wasn’t looking great for the team, but Routley’s breakaway was caught before the toughest climb of the day. Woodsy capitalized on some great teamwork, was on great form, and saved the day by taking the stage win. Tom Zirbel and Phil fought tooth and nail all the way to the line, caught two Colombians with 1k to go, and saved our win in the team classification. Everything went wrong, and it still ended up being a good day – a testament to the grit of our athletes here at Gila.”
Eric Young on the podium © Casey B. Gibson
Glaesser went on the attack early in the stage with her teammates in a final ploy to distance herself from “The Queen of the Gila”, Mara Abbott, but the now five-time Gila champion would not be dislodged. The team set about attacking various intermediate sprint points and some subsequent time bonuses, and Glaesser had another solid climb on the road to Pinos Altos, finishing fourth on the stage. It was a strong and confidence-building week for the team, who head straight away to the first-ever women’s stage race at the Tour of California, a 3-day affair in Lake Tahoe, and the women’s time trial invitational at Big Bear Lake, where Glaesser and Alison Tetrick will compete.
Team Optum © Casey B. Gibson
In Saturday’s criterium, Leah Kirchmann sprinted to a second place finish, while Eric Young finished third to help solidify his grip on the green sprinter’s jersey.
The high point of the five days of racing undoubtedly came in stage two, with a double stage win for the men and women. Eric Young catapulted off of a perfectly executed team lead out to win his first UCI race of the year, and Annie Ewart did the impossible when she recovered from a hard crash on a dangerous descent, rejoined the peloton, immediately attacked it, and won the race solo, completely exhausted from her effort. It was the biggest win of the young Canadian’s career.
Michael Woods leading the climb © Casey B. Gibson
Performance Director Patrick McCarty was proud of the team’s hard work across the high-altitude, high temperature New Mexico courses, and saw several athletes maturing at their toughest stage race yet in 2015.
Glaesser (l) © Casey B. Gibson
“Jasmin is maturing as a road racer, and GC rider – I think she showed this week that she will be able to win these races in the future. Brianna Walle continues to ride strong, and performed very well in the TT. Ariane Horbach’s first ever UCI stage race went very well for her – she was able to help the team and stay at the front of the race. Annie Ewart had a huge win on stage two after a nasty crash on the descent, and Leah is showing her ever-growing talent by performing better and better in climbing stage races. When she comes into her true sprinting form, she will be very hard to beat.”
The Tour of the Gila serves as the final tune-up for next week’s crown jewel of American racing, the Amgen Tour of California. The team’s impressive list of palmares from New Mexico is a good sign for the men and women heading into another hot, climbing heavy stage race against the world’s top competition in California.
The full list of the team’s palmares from the Tour of the Gila included:
Winner, Team Classification,
Winner, Sprint Classification, Eric Young
4th on General Classification, Mike Woods
1st in stage two, Eric Young
1st in stage three, Tom Zirbel
1st in stage five, Mike Woods
2nd in stage one, Guillaume Boivin
3rd in stage four, Eric Young
Winner, Best Young Rider, Jasmin Glaesser
4th on General Classification, Jasmin Glaesser
1st in stage two, Annie Ewart
2nd in stage three, Brianna Walle
2nd in stage four, Leah Kirchmann
3rd in stage one, Jasmin Glaesser
Tour of the Gila final report here.
Final Stage and GC results here.