SILVER CITY, New Mexico (April 26, 2023) — Miguel Angel López, aka Superman, flew up the Mogollon climb to victory Wednesday on Stage 1 of the 36th Tour of the Gila, taking the overall red race leader’s jersey by 59 seconds and putting the peloton on notice as the man to beat in the UCI men’s competition.
The Colombian, a World Tour rider who has won a stage in the Tour de France, and his team, Team Medellín – EPM, worked to pull back a breakaway and launch López onto the final climb with just a few kilometers to go. From there, the man who was stabbed in the leg at age 16 while fending off bike thieves, never saw another competitor until many of them collapsed after crossing the finish line.
“It was a beautiful day, and thank you to my teammates, Óscar, Walter, Duarte, to all who fought hard in the race,” López said. “They have done a great job, controlled the race very well, and Óscar was telling me about the climb from previous years, so he was describing it kilometer by kilometer.”
Attacks began flying from the start of the race, but nothing stuck as the riders went over and down rolling hills. A bunch sprint ensued on the first time bonus at mile 18 when Cade Bickmore (Project Echelon Racing) launched. His team had attacked at the front in the miles leading up to the sprint. Brayan Sanchez (Team Medellín – EPM) followed in second, and Stefan Verhoeff (Universe Cycling Team) picked up third.
Nearly 10 miles later three riders planned a getaway: Gregory Talpey (Expeditors Elite), Joey Bacala (Landis-Trek) and Spencer Miller (Kelly Benefits Strategies Cycling). Verhoeff and William Goodfellow (Yoeleo Factory Team) bridged and made the group a pack of five staying off the front with a gap consistently hovering around a one minute for 42 miles, or nearly half the race.
The break lit themselves up for the second bonus sprint with Verhoeff taking first-place points, Goodfellow in second and Talpey in third. With it, Verhoeff secured the green sprinter’s jersey.
“It’s a good start of this stage race in the U.S., looking forward to the next stages,” Verhoeff said. “We have three climbers with us, so we hope to get them in the front the other days, and me to defend this green jersey.”
Around 25 miles to go, the peloton put the pressure on and reeled in the break, instigating another break: Liam Flanagan (Kelly Benefits Strategies Cycling) and Patrick Welch (Kelly Benefits Strategies Cycling) and Ignacio “Nacho” de Jesús Prado Juárez (Canel’s – ZEROUNO).
They pushed their lead out to one minute and 30 seconds before Team Medellín – EPM and other teams at the front worked to bring it back. With just two miles to go, López closed the gap to Prado Juárez and began his campaign of putting everyone in a world of hurt until the top.
“We all trained very hard, and [Óscar] told me I had to attack when there were only four kilometers left, and we did it there and in the end, we won,” López said. “I think we deserve the victory because of the great work and sacrifice of our colleagues in our daily routines.”
Torbjorn Røed (Above and Beyond Cancer Cycling Team), who won Stage 1 in 2022, crossed the line in second place, followed by Ricky Arnopol (Project Echelon Racing) in third who nipped Heiner Parra Bustamante (Canel’s – ZEROUNO) at the line and Eduardo Corte Cordero (Canel’s – ZEROUNO) in fifth.
López said he and his team are ready to fight to keep the red overall race leader’s jersey for tomorrow.
“No, I think controlling the race tomorrow, we won’t have any problems,” said López, who also won the polka dot king of the mountains jersey. “I believe we have a great team, experienced people, great individuals, and colleagues, and in the end, it won’t be complicated. We can control it day by day.”
The white best young rider jersey went to Caleb Classen (Team California).
Tomorrow the teams will take on the 76.2-mile Stage 2 Inner Loop Road Race presented by Brian & Lynn Robinson/SW Bone & Joint Institute. They start out of Ft. Bayard at 9 a.m.