Mogollon, New Mexico – Tao Geoghegan Hart was the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team's top finisher on Wednesday's opening stage of the Tour of the Gila.
Geoghegan Hart finished ninth in the 148-kilometer race that started in Silver City and finished with a significant climb to Mogollon, a former mining town in the Mogollon Mountains.
Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis) soloed to the win, 25 seconds ahead of Robert Britton (Rally Cycling) and 1:15 before third-placed Daniel Jaramillo (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team).
Geoghegan arrived 2:09 after Morton in the race that featured a strong tailwind. The peloton averaged an extremely fast 64 kph in the first 30 minutes and 48 kph on the day.
"Tao did great and the team did great," Sport Director Jeff Louder said. "The guys executed the plan and rode with the legs they have. This is a tricky stage. It seldom leaves anyone satisfied. There is a lot of waiting around for 20 minutes of 'full gas' up the climb at the end. Obviously there are guys that are good at that and those are the ones who are at the top of the standings."
USA Cycling Pro Road Tour leader Neilson Powless was Axeon Hagens Berman's next rider to arrive, 2:46 back and in 13th place. He finished 16 seconds behind past Vuelta a España winner Chris Horner (Lupus Racing Team).
"Neilson took a real big risk early on to try to stay with Lachlan Morton in the leading group," Louder said. "But he hasn't been acclimated to the altitude, having come from sea level. But it was a solid effort."
The remaining six Axeon riders and their finishes: Will Barta, 31st at 4:09; Ruben Guerreiro, 39th at 4:43; Tyler Williams, 72nd at 8:59; Justin Oien, 82nd at 11:10; Geoffrey Curran, 89th at 11:19; and Logan Owen, 94th at 13:50.
Louder said a lot can change in the overall standings in the next four days. Two more road races remain, plus an individual time trial and a criterium.
"It is a lot more clear who is riding well, but it is not over until Sunday," Louder said. "I have seen the general classification change a lot over the last four days in the years I have done this race. We are not in the best position, but we are in a good position. And we have good riders for the stages."
Photo © Casey B. Gibson, cbgphoto.com.