May 1 marked an important step in the progress of Stage 17 as a program as well as a team. Stage 1 of the Tour of the Gila offered us a new challenge to test our riders with and we're very pleased with how they performed.
Going in we knew that Flavio de Luna would be our leader for the day as he has had the best legs when the road goes up and he has the experience to compliment his fitness. With several riders doing their first UCI race, it was important to have the team ride together as a unit in the peloton and to focus on one task, getting Flavio to the base of the climb in a decent position.
We succeeded in both of these goals and set Flavio up for a top 20 finish on the day (18th) and only one minute down on the Best Young Rider GC. The race stuck closely to the formula of most UCI races allowing the day's break to get out to over 13 minutes at one point before being reeled in on the final climb. That's not to say, however, that the race was without incident.
With the peloton content to let the break dangle at over 10 minutes for most of the day, Complacency reared its head several times in the cross winds and riders found themselves hitting the pavement often. One crash took down two of our riders as they just returned from retrieving bottles from the car and we quickly found ourselves changing wheels and a bike to get Dan Harm and Ian Moore rolling again. Rene Corella flatted shortly thereafter, true to Murphy's Law. The peloton was committed to bringing the break back at this point, so it took some extra bullets for the riders to get back to the field.
In the end everyone had tired legs and almost everyone suffered a mishap or were affected by the crash yet we still placed Flavio high on the stage and our two youngest riders, Gerardo Medina and Ian Moore both showed their determination to succeed at this level by pulling themselves up the grueling finishing climb.
Tomorrow shouldn't affect GC too much, so we'll be looking for opportunities to surprise at the finish. Its safe to say there are seven very motivated #whales prepared to tackle Stage 2.