Doebel-Hickok emerges from stacked UCI Women’s field to take 1st post-pandemic Tour of the Gila stage win

It was back to the business of bike racing for a stacked UCI Women’s peloton at Tour of the Gila Wednesday after a two-year pandemic hiatus, and a familiar face topped the Stage 1 podium: Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB).

The former national hill-climb champion and fourth overall at 2019’s Tour of the Gila rode away with two kilometers to go from Emily Marcolini (3T/Q+M Cycling Team) from Canada and Austin Killips (Amy D Foundation) for the win at the top of a brutal climb to Mogollon.

“We knew we had a lot of strong girls, and we truly believe we are the strongest team here and any one of us can win this race, and we didn’t care who, but we all knew this finish was for me,” Doebel-Hickok said. “I literally passed Sara [Poidevin], and said, ‘are you empty?’ and she said, ‘yeah,’ and I said, ‘OK.’ Then I knew I had to go and not look back even though I looked back a lot.”

Doebel-Hickok, like many in the women’s field of 53 riders returned after the two gap years when Tour of the Gila — one of the only remaining international professional cycling races in the U.S. — had to cancel for safety reasons. Now, riders from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Finland, Belgium and Austria came together for one of the first times on U.S. soil.

Attacks began at one kilometer before the first intermediate sprint when DNA Pro Cycling Team strung out the field to set up their dynamic sprinter Maggie Coles-Lyster from Canada. EF Education-TIBCO-SVB was also gunning for sprint points with Poidevin from Canada taking second. Maria Valadez Ortiz (Amy D Foundation) from Mexico getting third.

The peloton largely stayed together until the final intermediate sprint when DNA Pro Cycling Team, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB and InstaFund Racing revved it up in the hunt for points for the sprinter’s jersey. Heidi Franz (InstaFund Racing) crossed the line first, followed by Coles-Lyster and Rylee McMullen (InstaFund Racing) from New Zealand.

Teams in the hunt for general classification, or the overall leader’s jersey, took turns as the field headed toward the base of the Mogollon climb. Cinch Cycling and 3T/Q+M Cycling Team jockeyed for position to deliver their overall contenders and climbers like Kyleigh Spearing and Emily Marcolini to the front.

Marcolini, who nearly won the leader’s jersey at the Redlands Bicycle Classic last weekend in California only to have it nabbed by Franz, was gunning for a good slot for general classification on Stage 1.

DNA Pro Cycling Team, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB met at the front of the peloton once they hit the base of the climb and drove the pace, shedding riders out the back and causing separation.

The field then whittled down to about 15 riders with five kilometers to go and Amy D Foundation, DNA Pro Cycling Team, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, 3T/Q+M Cycling Team, Cinch cycling, InstaFund Racing and Pato Bike represented. EF Education-TIBCO-SVB churned out the pace.

With three kilometers to go, Poidevin put in a dig to set up Doebel-Hickok, who then was able to create a gap on Marcolini and Killips up the 7% average gradient climb, 11% at its steepest.

“Coming into the race I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to feel after five days of hard racing,” Marcolini said. “Also coming to altitude, I’m hit or miss, and the rest of my team has never raced at altitude before. So, my hope was just to be able to stick with the TIBCO ladies for as long as I could on the final climb and see what happens and hope I didn’t blow up. Obviously, that worked out all right for us. I’m super stoked. This is my first UCI podium so I’m really, really happy.”

Doebel-Hickok steadily extended her lead over the last two kilometers of the climb to win by 17 seconds. Marcolini, hot off winning the queen-of-the-mountains jersey at Redlands, finished second followed by Killips in third.

“It’s hard because this is my first stage race, first UCI race at this level,” Killips said. “I’ve trained really hard and I’m kind of peaking for this. This is a target for me. It’s hard to roll into a race and not to want to be on the podium or get a good result, so that’s what I want, and believed I was capable of it. I’m really proud. It hurt from the start and the second we started climbing.”

Tomorrow’s UCI Women’s Stage 2 Inner Loop Road Race p/b Brian & Lynn Robinson/SW Bone & Joint Institute will roll out from Fort Bayard for 76.2 miles.

Stage 1 Results:

  1. Krista Doebel-Hickok – EF Education-TIBCO-SVB
  2. Emily Marcolini – 3T/Q+M Cycling
  3. Austin Killips – Amy D Foundation

GC After Stage 1:

  1. Krista Doebel-Hickok – EF Education-TIBCO-SVB – 3:15:34
  2. Emily Marcolini – 3T/Q+M Cycling – 3:15:55
  3. Austin Killips – Amy D Foundation – 3:16:22

U25 After Stage 1:

  1. Kyleigh Spearing – Cinch Rise : 3:17:39
  2. Anet Barrera Esparza – DNA Pro Cycling : 3:19:01
  3. Kira Payer – DNA Pro Cycling : 3:20:21

Sprinter’s Jersey After Stage 1:

  1. Maggie Coles-Lyster – DNA Pro Cycling: 8 pts
  2. Heidi Franz – InstaFund Racing : 5 pts
  3. Sara Poidevin – EF Education-Tibco SVB : 3 pts

QOM Standings after Stage 1:

  1. Krista Doebel-Hickok – EF Education-TIBCO-SVB : 15 pts
  2. Emily Marcolini – 3T/Q+M Cycling : 12 pts
  3. Austin Killips – Amy D Foundation : 9 pts

Team Classification After Stage 1:

  1. EF Education-TIBCO-SVB – 9:52:30
  2. 3T/Q+M Cycling – 9:53:03
  3. DNA Pro Cycling – 9:54:54