Mogollon, New Mexico - Sean Bennett finished 14th for the Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team Wednesday at the opening stage of the Tour of the Gila.
Bennett finished amidst the stream of riders that rode in stage winner Oscar Sanchez’s (Canels Specialized) wake after Sanchez surmounted the tough Mogollon climb to take the victory ahead of Rob Britton (Rally Cycling) and Alexander Evans (Mobius-Bridgelane), who finished third.
“It was a super chill day until the base of the final,” said Bennett. “Then it got a bit more aggressive. I hit the climb in really good position, but a few minutes later, the rider in front of me opened up a gap and I couldn’t jump across to the leaders. Afterward, I just tried to keep my own pace up the climb.”
Thomas Revard finished the stage in 16th place, 8 seconds behind Bennett, and 2:28 behind Sanchez.
“I felt pretty good today, but missed the first group heading up the climb,” said Revard. “Eddie and I bridged on the flat section and then I just did my own thing and tried to make the most out of the cards that I had been dealt. I eventually caught up to Sean and tried to help him the best I could. At the end of the day, it was a great team effort.”
The 92 mile stage from Silver City to Mogollon that featured 4,252 feet of climbing served as an almost warmup for the days ahead. Thursday’s second stage, while shorter at 76 miles, has 1,500 feet more climbing.
“Tomorrow’s stage is quite a bit hillier,” remarked Bennett. “I think everyone was really fresh when we hit the climb today, so tomorrow should be good.”
Sport Director Jeff Louder thought the riders raced a good race, one that came down to who could keep pace up the final climb. “Execution was good today and we’ll focus on that teamwork to keep hunting results all week,” he said.
Thursday’s stage begins at 9 am MDT.
(Header photo of Sean Bennett by Davey Wilson.)