SILVER CITY, New Mexico (April 29, 2023) — Project Echelon Racing won the Tour of the Gila Stage 4 Silver City Downtown Criterium Saturday for the second consecutive year in a row, launching Cade Bickmore to victory and into the green sprint leader’s jersey.
Torbjørn Røed (Above and Beyond Cancer Cycling Team) retained his overall race lead at 47 seconds after he and his closest rival Drake Deuel (CS Velo Racing) finished with the pack.
“We wanted to get at least two of the intermediates and the race win today, so that’s what we set out to do,” Bickmore said. “With Tyler [Stites] winning last year, there was definitely a precedent to follow-up on. I asked him what the tricks were, and he told me just trust the teammates, follow the lead out, we have the best team to do it.”
Teams lined up on Bullard Street surrounded by onlookers and fans ready for fireworks, and with primes, points and time bonuses up for grabs, that’s exactly what they got.
Brayan Sánchez (Team Medellín – EPM), tied with Ignacio “Nacho” de Jesús Prado Juárez (Canel’s – ZEROUNO) for the green sprint leader’s jersey and only two points up from Bickmore, looked to take the lead and take over the jersey. But Bickmore and Echelon had other ideas.
The team set the pace for the majority of the race, dominating the front and often stringing out the field. A few breaks were able to get away as riders looked to pick up cash prizes on prime laps and sprint points. Sánchez picked up some initial points and later finished third on the day for more.
A break of Conn McDunphy (SoCalCycling.com), Cormac McGeough (Canel’s – ZEROUNO), Anthony
Hilligoss (Kelly Benefit Strategies Cycling) and Garin Kelley (Team California) opened up a 20-second lead, only to get reeled in by the Echelon train, who swept the second round of bonus sprint points, effectively shutting out Sánchez.
Robigzon Oyola (Team Medellín – EPM) emerged from the pack and went out solo until the third bonus sprint when Echelon took over again, and Bickmore picked up even more points to become the virtual sprint leader.
With about 10 laps to go, Xander White (Aevolo Cycling) snagged a prime and initiated another break with McDunphy and McGeough. The three expanded their lead to 20 seconds, and Echelon lost control of the front of the field.
As the lap counter dropped to two laps to go, McDunphy decided to go it alone. The SoCalCycling.com rider made it through the line with one to go but was caught with half a lap remaining.
“I just rode really hard to try and keep the gap, and then I was on my own, and then I had to just put the head down and keep going,” McDunphy said. “I thought I would have it with a lap to go. I had a good gap, but on the second corner I took a bad line, and I lost all my speed coming into the hill. I tried to get it back up, but at that point on the last lap I knew I was getting caught … I really like these American crits; they’re really fast and really kind of suit a powerful rider like me who can’t necessarily sprint. You can get away with it, so I had to try and roll the dice.”
It was then that Bickmore said it was left up to him to get the W for the team.
“We definitely had to use more guys than we were hoping to to bring McDunphy back,” Bickmore said. “So then I was left to fight for myself the last half lap. I had no teammates left with me, which was a little tricky. Last year I did that a lot, I’m used to floating wheels and fighting scrappy, so I was able to finish the job.”
Now Bickmore has a sizable lead in the green sprint leader’s jersey competition, 43 points to Sánchez’s 31 with only two bonus sprints remaining on the final stage.
Tomorrow’s Gila Monster final stage, a 100.6-mile road race with 9,957 feet of elevation gain, kicks off at 9:45 a.m. Røed will have to defend his red leader’s jersey with Deuel, Óscar Sevilla (Team Medellín – EPM) and others in pursuit.