Silver City, New Mexico - The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team concluded five days of racing at the Tour of the Gila on Sunday with Sean Bennett winning the Brian & Lynn Robinson/Southwest Bone & Joint Institute White Best Young Rider Jersey and Christopher Blevins winning the Sky West Sprinter Jersey. As a team, the Axeon riders placed 3rd behind winner Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling and 2nd place team Rally Cycling.
“I thought the guys raced a really good race today,” said sport director Jeff Louder. “It was good having Revard in the breakaway to stay ahead for the first climb and be there to help out the guys that made it over towards the Cliff Dwelling. Today is always about who is the strongest and we had two really strong performances out of Blevins and Bennett.”
Bennett finished the fifth and final stage 0:38 behind winner and Axeon alumnus Gavin Mannion (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling). Bennett’s 7th place finish was his 5th top 10 finish of the season. Blevins finished the 100.6 mile, grueling stage in 10th place.
“It was pretty amazing being a part of this squad,” said Bennett. “Everyone did exactly what we talked about in the race meetings. That almost never happens. We all just knew what we had to do and without hesitation did it.”
Rob Britton (Rally Cycling) held onto his advantage over Mannion to win his second Gila title after winning in 2015. Britton’s teammate Kyle Murphy was 3rd. Bennett and Blevins were the team’s top finishers in the GC, finishing in 8th and 9th places respectively. Bennett’s youth classification victory was the first of his career.
“I didn’t quite know how I was going to be riding this week,” said Bennett. “After the time trail, I knew best young was going to be possible and I’m really happy to come away with the jersey. It feels like a win and I know I’m in good form leading into Redlands.”
The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team actually swept the youth classification with Blevins and Revard finishing in 2nd and 3rd behind Bennett.
The victories by Blevins and Rice on stages 2 and 4 brought the team’s total of UCI victories this season to 8.
“All of the guys should be proud of themselves today and the whole week really,” said Louder. “It was a hard race to start given the circumstances and they really showed their character and maturity. They made today a very positive day. I’m really happy and proud of not only how they rode, but how they carried themselves. I think we honored Chad [Young] memory very well.”
(Header photo of Christopher Blevins and Sean Bennett by Casey B. Gibson.)