Ignacio “Nacho” de Jesús Prado Juárez (Canel’s – ZEROUNO) turned on the jets and sprinted to victory Thursday at Stage 2 of Tour of the Gila after a drama-filled day that took out the overall race leader and left many teams with injuries and uncertainty.
Prado Juárez’s win snagged him the green sprinter’s jersey while the abandonment of Miguel Angel López (Team Medellín – EPM) erased a 59-second lead and put Torbjørn Røed (Above and Beyond Cancer Cycling Team) in the red leader’s jersey.
“It was a tough day, to be honest,” Prado Juárez said. “The group was a bit nervous, and we had several crashes throughout the day. It was a race where you didn’t know what was happening. It was very confusing, but in the end, we knew from the day before that this stage always ends in a sprint. So, I am the sprint man, and my team supported me, backed me up all the time, and thanks to them, I was able to achieve a good result today.”
Leaving Fort Bayard, New Mexico, attacks began to fly when the flag dropped, and a break formed three miles into the race. Six riders, Colby Lange (Project Echelon Racing), Logan Lakota Phippen (Team Novo Nordisk Development), Connor Pulvidente (Primal-Audi Denver), Aden Wardrop (SoCalCycling.com), Patton Sims (Kelly Benefit Strategies Cycling) and Sean Hollenbeck (Expeditors Elite) hit the first bonus sprint with Lange taking first, followed by Pulvidente and Hollenbeck.
The three held just over a minute gap for eight miles before they hit the first king of the mountains point. Pulivdente picked up first place points with Lange, Hollenbeck and Sims following. That group whittled down to three – Lange, Hollenbeck and Pulvidente.
The gap expanded to one minute and 40 seconds before an incident in the peloton near mile 18 caused over half the field to crash and eight riders to abandon the race: López, Matteo Dal-Cin (Toronto Hustle), Theo DeGroote (Toronto Hustle), Steven Willemsen (Universe Cycling Team), Jack Burke (Above and Beyond Cancer Cycling Team), Ethan Dunham (Above and Beyond Cancer Cycling Team), Orion Child (Aevolo Cycling) and Ethan Moyer (Rio Grande Elite Cycling).
“Well, today is a sad day for Team Medellín, with Miguel’s withdrawal,” said Óscar Sevilla, López’s teammate. “He is a very strong rider, a great leader, and we are very sorry about the accident he had. We hope he doesn’t have anything beyond the burns and scrapes he had. He hit a tree and had several injuries throughout his body, which is unfortunate because he is a great rider who likes to be very strong.”
Sevilla said now the team’s focus for Tour of the Gila has to change.
“The team was focused on working for him to win this race, but everything changed a bit, didn’t it?” Sevilla noted. “We were left a little strange, but Team Medellín is competitive. Today, we tried the stage with Brayan Sánchez, and we finished in second place, so we’re happy about that, right? But a little sad for the general classification. We’ll see what happens from here to the end. There are still many days left, but today is a difficult day for us.”
Toronto Hustle team director Ben Baker said Dal-Cin “is beat up but nothing broken,” and DeGroote has a broken elbow in need of surgery.
Nearly 80 riders were affected in the crash, according to race officials. Many had minor injuries.
Officials neutralized the race in the middle of the Gila National Forest, and because it was just before the second KOM, officials canceled those intermediate points. Riders stopped on the road at 18.6 miles into the race, assessing injuries and having impromptu team meetings for about five to 10 minutes before rolling out neutrally again for 11.7 miles to the bottom of the descent.
Stopping again at the intersection of highways 15 and 35, officials put them back in their original positions before the race officially restarted. From there, the original break of three riders continued, and their gap grew to one minute and 50 seconds.
At nearly 40 miles in, Nathan Spratt (Yoeleo Factory Team) abandoned the race.
When the break reached the second bonus sprint at 41.5 miles, Lange took first place, followed by Pulvidente and Hollenbeck.
The peloton let the group stay away until 20 miles remained, and they were all back together again. Attacks began again, but nothing legitimate.
Røed attacked to nab first-place points on the final KOM, followed by Xander White (Aevolo Cycling), Drake Deuel (CS Velo Racing) and Caleb Classen (Team California).
Although plenty of attempts to get away ensued, the only one that lasted was Michael Bouwkamp (Primal-Audi Denver). He stayed away until about five miles to go, and it became clear the group would enter a bunch sprint for the line.
That’s when Prado Juárez launched, leaving competitors strung out behind, including Sánchez (Team Medellín – EPM) who came in second and Alex Hoehn (Above and Beyond Cancer Cycling Team) in third. Close to the front was Røed, who will wear red tomorrow and who still holds onto the polka dot king of the mountains jersey.
“Super happy about sitting in the leader’s jersey again,” Røed said. “It’s always fun to lead a race, and I’m really excited for the next few days. Definitely not the way I like taking over a leader’s jersey, by the leader crashing out, so hopefully he’s OK but just can’t ride. It was a good finish of the race, some headwinds and some climbs and felt good. I went for some attacks myself, stayed up there and didn’t lose anything to Ricky [Arnopol] in second and just happy to be out there.”
Hot on Røed’s heels is Arnopol (Project Echelon Racing), only 11 seconds down and Heiner Parra Bustamante (Canel’s – ZEROUNO) in third, only 15 seconds down. Classen remains in the white best young rider jersey.
Riders will look to improve on their times or cut the gap Friday in the Tyrone Time Trial, when they begin going off at 9:15 a.m. in a race against the clock.