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When bicycles take over the roads

Tour of the Gila April 24-28


For cycling enthusiasts, Tour of the Gila is an exciting race to watch, and Silver City is always welcoming. This year’s event runs April 24 – 28. It is also the race where young talent gets noticed. Development cyclists and teams strategically target Tour of the Gila, knowing that a top result in the notoriously challenging American stage race puts athletes among the sport’s names to watch. Cases in point: Team California and Milton Women’s U23 Project. The U23 men’s team is based in the U.S., while the Canadian women’s team travels to compete in Tour of the Gila.

“When I’m hunting the country for riders, we’re looking for riders who can do something great at [Tour of the] Gila,” said Team California Director AJ Kennedy, emphasizing the team’s almost single-minded focus on preparing for southwest New Mexico’s stage race. “A couple significant results at [Tour of the] Gila will garner you than just racing locally or regionally or going to a bunch of crits. You do something important at Gila, you’ll get noticed.”

Kennedy first rode Tour of the Gila in the pro race in 1993. Returning in 2015 as a Team Director for a different program, then bringing riders from his own program in 2016, Kennedy is going on his eighth year directing a team that races Tour of the Gila. “For us last year, [getting the best young rider jersey] was the culmination of many years of work taking it stage one and holding it all five stages. It was a pretty inspiring moment,” he says. “The guys supported Caleb Classen and that got him a pro contract.”

Milton Women’s U23 Project Sports Director Martin Honsberger says their first-year team researched a few different stage race options in the U.S. to determine which would give the riders the best bang for their budget. The conclusion: Tour of the Gila was that race. “This the premier event on our schedule.”

Born out of the velodrome, Milton Women’s U23 Project was founded to launch young talent into the sport as they emerge from their teen years. “The mandate is to bring riders coming out of junior categories and give them more runway: do more race starts, more big events, travel to the U.S., and prepare them for the next step, which would be an elite or pro team,” he says, setting up the team’s background. “That was the piece that was missing.”

Tour of the Gila suits the Milton Women’s U23 Project’s goal of preparing riders for elite and pro teams. “As a development team, being able to do a UCI race with large high-quality fields is the kind of experience we want them to have. It also gives them the exposure they need to potential pro teams. For us, having invitations to a race like Gila is a big deal for us.”