Tyrone, New Mexico – Neilson Powless finished third and Tao Geoghegan Hart was sixth as four Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team riders placed in the top 20 in Friday's individual time trial at the Tour of the Gila.
In addition to Powless's second straight podium result and Geoghegan Hart's second top 10 finish in the five-day race, teammates Geoffrey Curran finished 16th and Will Barta was 17th.
Powless jumped from 13th to sixth in the overall standings and donned the "best young rider" jersey while Geoghegan Hart moved up from 10th to seventh. Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis) remains the race leader after winning Wednesday's opening stage. He is 1:06 ahead of Alex Cataford (Silber Pro Cycling) and 1:10 in front of Robert Britton (Rally Cycling).
Powless and Geoghegan Hart are both 2:09 back of Morton with Saturday's criterium and a mountainous road race Sunday still to come.
Past U.S. national time trial champion Tom Zirbel (Rally Cycling) won the 26.0-kilometer out-and-back race against the clock by averaging 45.2 kph. Cataford was second, six seconds back. Neilson was 15 seconds off the winning time while Geoghegan Hart was 40 seconds back.
Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Jeff Louder said he was pleased to see such a strong results across the board.
"I think both Tao and Neilson gave it all they had and they certainly both rode to really great performances," he said. "They are moving in the right direction and are closer now than when they started out this morning. We are a little outside of the podium for the general classification, but they are obviously riding really strong and we have a good team here, which you can see by the results of everyone else."
Powless said he greatly benefited from a pacing strategy Louder shared. For the first half of the race, the leader of the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour piloted his Specialized S-Work Shiv time trial bike into a stiff headwind.
"Jeff had said that pretty much 70 percent of the race was going to be won on the way out because of the headwind and that there was more to be gained on the way out than on the way back," Powless said. "So I kept that in mind. I saved just a little bit for the way back and reminded myself that it was going to be a tailwind and quite a bit faster coming home. It is harder to put out power like you want, especially with it being at altitude. It was definitely a bit of a different scenario. So it was more based off feel than just having a goal power to hit."
Geoghegan Hart said he was a bit disappointed with how much time he conceded, but was quick to point out he had not competed in a time trial since the USA Pro Challenge last August.
"It always takes me a little while to get going in a time trial, which isn't ideal on that course because the first 10 kilometers are really important," he said. "So I was just trying to focus on that. If anything, I might have kept a little bit too much back. I have a few clear things in my mind that I can adjust ahead of the time trial in the Amgen Tour of California. That time trial is different from this one, but not incredibly different."
(Photo of Neilson Powless by Davey Wilson.)