Silver City, New Mexico – Christopher Blevins finished sixth, Michael Rice was seventh and Chad Young placed 11th for the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team Saturday in the Downtown Silver City Criterium, the penultimate stage of the Tour of the Gila.
Eric Young (Rally Cycling) won his second stage in three days by holding off Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) and José Alfredo Rodriguez (Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling) at the end of the 40-lap, 69.5-kilometer race on a rectangular four-corner course.
Blevins scored his fourth top 10 finish on the road this season. The reigning junior national mountain bike champion placed sixth and fourth, respectively, on Stages 1 and 3 of the San Dimas Stage Race on the way to finishing sixth overall. In between that race and this one, the 19-year-old from Durango, Colorado, competed on the pro mountain circuit, winning six times.
Rice notched his fourth top 10 finish in a UCI race this year. The 21-year-old from Canberra, Australia was fourth on Stage 2 on Thursday, seventh on Stage 2 at the Joe Martin Stage Race and ninth on Stage 3 at Circuit des Ardennes International.
Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Jeff Louder said any plans to set up one rider for the win went awry in the closing laps.
"It was a hard-fought finale, which made it difficult to get organized," Louder said. "In the end, it was good to have those guys get in the top 10 and see Chad Young race aggressively, get a good breakaway and still have the strength to get a nice result.
In the overall standings, Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) leads TJ Eisenhart (Holowesko-Citadel Racing presented by Hincapie) by 25 seconds. Two Axeon Hagens Berman riders are in the top 20. Jhonatan Narvaez, the Under 23 time trial champion of Ecuador, is 14th, 1:39 behind. Blevins is 17th, 1:55 back.
Sunday's final "Gila Monster Road Race" stage is one of the most challenging on the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour. At 166.1 km, it features 2,726 meters of climbing and 2,457 meters of descending. It finishes with a gradual uphill.
"I think the guys are in good shape for Sunday," Louder said. "Obviously, we have nothing to defend at the moment. But I feel like we have a lot of good, positive vibes and the guys are motivated to do well."
Header photo of Christopher Blevins by Casey B. Gibson.