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It was a good day to be wearing orange and black in Silver City, New Mexico, as Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies won both the men’s and women’s UCI races at the Tour of the Gila stage 2 with Eric Young and Annie Ewart on Thursday.
The 76.2-mile men’s race featured a two-man breakaway with Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Racing) and Danny Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare). After a flurry of attacks in the final 15 miles of racing, the escape was caught.
In the bunch sprint, Young proved fastest, dispatching Travis McCabe (Team SmartStop), who was second, and Summerhill’s teammate, Marco Canola, who took third.
Rafael Montiel (Orgullo Antioqueno) kept the overall lead, which he claimed in Wednesday’s Mogollon road race.
Breakaway wins a nail-biter in women’s race
While the two-rider break couldn’t stay away in the men’s race, the 75-mile women’s stage was a different story.
Despite suffering a crash earlier in the day, Ewart went on the attack, along with Olivia Dillon (Visit Dallas). At one point, their gap went north of seven minutes, but the Amy D. Foundation composite team soon went to the front to drive the pace on behalf of race leader Mara Abbott.
“A lot of the teams seemed to be racing defensively today,” Abbott said. “Inner Loop is always a hard stage — it’s long with a lot of variety. But I was proud to ride with this group of girls. As a composite team they were willing to turn themselves inside out to help me keep the jersey.”
The break’s advantage began to fall precipitously, and it looked as if they might be caught before the line. Ewart set off alone on a climb about 5 miles from the finish and held on to the very end. Dillon finished second, 19 seconds back.
Behind, Alison Jackson (Twenty16-Sho-Air) rounded out the podium in third, 25 seconds behind the winner.
Abbott keeps the overall lead going into Friday’s stage, a 16.15-mile individual time trial for both men and women.
“It was a hard race today,” said Amy D. Foundation team director Meredith Miller. “The other teams forced us to work to bring back a break that gained a significant advantage on the field after the long, twisty descent. It required a big effort from the entire team to bring the gap back to something more manageable before climbing the rollers in the last 30km.
“While Ewart and Dillon still had a sizable gap, the other teams were energized in the closing kilometers to make something happen — either to gain time on Mara [Abbott] or get a result. In the end, Mara was able to follow wheels to the finish which kept her in the leader’s jersey. I am once again proud of this group of women who worked selflessly for Mara.”