Hot off a Pan-American individual time trial championship, Walter Vargas (Team Medellín – EPM) blazed through the ITT Friday at Stage 3 of Tour of the Gila, clocking a winning time of 33:47 and elevating his team’s spirits after their overall favorite crashed out the previous day.
Torbjørn Røed (Above and Beyond Cancer Cycling Team) expanded his overall race lead to 47 seconds, while Drake Deuel (CS Velo) moved into second overall, displacing Ricky Arnopol (Project Echelon).
“I’m happy to be here at the Tour of the Gila,” Vargas said. “A very tough time trial and quite demanding with the wind. I’m happy to be able to get a victory wearing this jersey as the Pan-American champion in the individual time trial discipline and to dedicate this to all those who follow us from Colombia, from Medellín.”
Riders checked in their bikes to make sure they met UCI regulations and set off one by one from Tyrone into a mostly diagonal cross wind for the 16.15-mile, against-the-clock race. They started in reverse order of the overall race lead so riders most in contention for the red jersey headed out last.
Zach Gregg (Project Echelon Racing) hit the line with a fast time of 35:15 before his own teammate, Stephen Vogel, shattered it with 34:37. From there, Vargas rocketed across, his time holding strong as the number of riders ticked down.
Røed said he was happy with his effort to keep the red jersey.
“Looks like I increased my lead a bit, so that’s super nice going into the next few stages,” Røed said. “Especially tomorrow, just trying to not lose time, it’s going to be a wild one. I opened up hard today. Sadly my power meter didn’t work, but I stayed on top of it and went as hard as I could up the last climb, then tried to stay on top of the gear on the way down, and it went really well so that was good.”
Deuel, who finished fourth on the stage with 34:27, said now that he’s improved his standing, he has the red jersey in his sights but doesn’t have expectations.
“I think anything is possible on the final day,” Deuel said. “As we saw last year, Sean Gardner (CS Velo) managed to pull it out and take over the lead on the final day. I don’t expect anything, but yeah it’s definitely possible. I’m pretty happy with my result today. It’s definitely tricky pacing out there with the wind, but I’m happy with my performance and I’m looking forward to recovering and doing something cool on Sunday.”
Røed’s teammate, Alex Hoehn, picked up third on the day with a time of 34:12 and is inching his way toward the overall lead as well, currently in third, at a one-minute and three-second deficit. He displaced Heiner Parra Bustamante (Canel’s – ZEROUNO) who is now out of the top 20. As someone who loves crits, Hoehn looks forward to Saturday.
“Going into the crit, I love crits, so I’ll be looking to go hard tomorrow and keep Toby safe,” Hoehn said. “We’ll see if that results in anything. As far as the Gila Monster stage goes, it’s throwing everything against the wall at that point and keeping Toby safe obviously, then maybe possibly jumping up a spot and taking the race 1-2. I don’t want to speak too soon but obviously there’s hope and plans of that.”
Riders will make their way around downtown Silver City Saturday for a 40-lap, 43.2-mile criterium in a show of speed, smarts and strength. UCI Men start at 3:45 p.m. and the UCI Women start at 1:30 p.m.