With unblemished joy in his voice, Jack Brennan, organizer of the Silver City-based Tour of the Gila cycling race, announced: “We are back to real racing.
After nada in 2020 and a virtual race last year, the five-stage cycling extravaganza will once again be a swirling mass of bright, flashing colors with professional riders traversing the narrow mountain roads of the southwestern corner of the state. .
“It’s important to Silver City and Grant County,” Brennan said of the race. “We all feel like we’ve gone two years without her because of the pandemic. It’s time to get back to life. For our community, it is one of the threads in this fabric of life in Silver City. We are all delighted, the community is delighted to see the Tour again. We can survive this pandemic. That’s the basic feeling I got from people. Thanks for doing this. We need to.
And it’s not just the community that eagerly awaits the squeal of gears as riders descend ever lower to conquer some of the heartbreaking Category 5 climbs that lie ahead.
“It’s nice to be able to start running again,” said longtime Albuquerque amateur runner Al Senft, 53. “I’ve been doing this since 1991. I have many, many friends spread across the country and around the world, and being able to see them again is great.
Senft will race in the men’s masters over 40 division, which Brennan calls the “older fast race.” There are really tough guys out there.
But Senft has a bit of strategy to stay competitive.
“There’s actually a race within a race for guys over 50,” Senft said with a chuckle. “That’s what I’m aiming for, to be on the podium with guys over 50.”
Brennan said he expects around 400 competitors, which is a bit down from pre-coronavirus. The amateur field should be quite full as always, but the number of professionals has dropped a bit.
“We lost a few teams in the men’s and in the women’s (pro),” he said. “A few teams have disappeared and other teams’ budgets have been cut, which limits what they can do.”
Nonetheless, the Tour of the Gila is where young pros go to earn their chops and make a name for themselves.
“There will be exceptional young women, younger guys,” Brennan said. “It’s a very competitive race on the men’s and women’s side of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale).”
“And that’s what makes being a part of it so special,” Senft said.
“It’s probably the toughest stage race in the United States right now,” he said. “It was sort of a gauge. For those who have won the professional race, they have done very well internationally. It’s an unofficial proving ground for top US and Canadian rides to keep doing better things.
For UCI men; UCI Women; Men 1, 2; Men 3 and Master Men A (women’s pros race a similar course, just a bit shorter), the days look like this:
Stage 1, Wednesday April 27: Mogollon Road Race from Silver City near the near-ghost town of Mogollon, covering 92 miles. “The last seven miles are iconic,” Brennan said. “That’s the goal of this whole race, the final towards Mogollon. During this ascent, there are grades of 10, 13, 15 and 19%. It’s incredible.”
Stage 2, Thursday April 28, Interloop Road Race: It covers 76.2 miles in the Gila National Forest north of Silver City.
Stage 3, Friday, April 29, Tyrone Individual Time Trial: A solo 16.5 mile round trip that covers a good climb along New Mexico 90 to Tyrone.
Stage 4, Saturday April 30, Downtown Silver City Criterium. It will cover 40 laps along a 1.1 mile course through the city which is adorned with a festive atmosphere. Riders will climb approximately 4,000 feet over the course of the day.
Stage 5, Sunday May 1, The Gila Monster ROAD RACE: a brutal 100.6-mile race that includes 9,131 feet of climbing. “That’s what the Gila is really known for,” Brennan said.
Men 4.5; The Master Men B and Women 1,2,3 categories consist of a four-day stage race from April 28 to May 1. The Women 4, 5 categories will run two stages on April 30 and May 1.