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2024 Tour of the Gila Stage Five Report

By: Rebecca Reza  April 30, 2024

Paredes, Dixon Ascend to Gila Monster Road Race Victory; Stites, Stephens Take Overall Wins

Stephens Goes Home With Mimbres Trophy Bowl

Elizabeth Dixon clenched victory on the final Gila Monster Road Race to wrap a tough, five days of racing in Silver City. The FOUNT Cycling Guild rider finished over a minute ahead of the Tour of the Gila 2024 overall leader, Lauren Stephens of Cynisca Cycling. Dixon’s teammate, Eleanor Wiseman finished third to wrap the podium.

Having not only hung onto the New Mexico True leader jersey, Stephens used the fifth stage to increase the margin of her win as well. “This feels really incredible to do so well in this race. My first time here was in 2012, and it’s a race that makes you decide if you really want to bike race or not. I kept at it, and here I am many, many years later, winning the race.”

With plans to race in the 2024 Olympics this summer, Stephens affirmed that Tour of the Gila provided training that will be essential to her performance in Paris. Her team, Cynisca, also took the team GC with, trailed by FOUNT Cycling Guild then DNA Pro Cycling.

Going into Sunday’s UCI Women’s Stage 5 Gila Monster Road Race, excitement was understandably at an all-time high Not only would this stage determine final rankings for the pro women overall at the 2024 Tour of the Gila, but it’s also an incredibly advanced course that even the strongest riders face with some trepidation.

With a background in ballet, FOUNT’s Dixon had warmed up for the stage with a few pirouettes in the Town of Silver City administration building parking lot—her teammates the audience. FOUNT Cycling Guild’s Alia Shafi came in fourth place on the stage, and taking three of the top four spots on one of the nation’s most difficult road race courses is a testament to the program, which provides the support to talented athletes working their way up in the sport.

Jennifer Wheeler and David Richter, who are the owners and founders of FOUNT Cycling Guild, said, “There’s no way to prove yourself unless somebody’s willing to invest in you before you get the big results.”

A result on the Gila Monster Road Race is huge. The 65.9-mile course started in Gough Park in downtown Silver City, followed US 180 and NM 152 through the Mimbres, then took NM 35 to the intersection with NM 15 before turning up the climb from Sapillo Creek towards Pinos Altos for the finish. Only the first 20 miles of the course includes wide roads with paved shoulders; the remainder of the stage consists of narrow, curved roads, two incredibly technical, high-speed descents, and three climbs that totaled 5,487 vertical feet ascended.

Paredes Ascends to Gila Monster Road Race Victory for Team Medellín

Team Medellín’s Wilmar Paredes conquered the Gila Monster Road Race presented by Gila Regional Medical Center, cresting the finish for victory over a minute ahead of second place Ian Lopez of Aevolo Cycling and Tyler Stites in third for Project Echelon. On the final stage of Tour of the Gila 2024, the Colombian also secured the King of the Mountains classification and polka-dot jersey.

Stites crossed the line a short time later celebrating his first overall victory at a UCI race, with a 54-second margin ahead of Team Medellín’s Walter Vargas and Paredes in third. “The team was just amazing today,” Stites said. “I didn’t touch the wind a single time until the last 200 meters. We controlled the race from start to finish, which made it easy on me. This win is big for me and the team; it’s the team’s first UCI GC victory which was a big goal for us this season, so we’re very happy.”

The pro men faced 100.6 miles with 9,957 vertical feet of climbing on the final day of racing at the Tour of the Gila. As the peloton saw the flag drop at kilometer zero, many teams tried to establish a break, but the field refused to allow anything to stick. First, Aevolo jumped, then CS Velo attacked the field, they gained a slight advantage before being joined by Team California, finally getting caught once again.

As the field made the turn entering the Mimbres Valley, Conn McDunphy (Team Skyline), Ulises Castillo (Above & Beyond Cancer), and Fabio Duarte (Team Medellín) escaped to gain a slight advantage. They held up to a 1:25 gap before getting caught rounding Lake Roberts as they began to scale the mountains.

The final stage saw a head-to-head battle in the King of the Mountain classification, between Heiner Parra of Canel’s-Java and Team Medellín’s Paredes. A three-point margin separated the two Colombians at the start, with Paredes in the lead. Parra had won the classification the previous two years and was just shy of leading the points en route to his third.

Paredes notched the first two KOM sprint points before Parra attacked just shy of the third. Paredes countered with one kilometer to go, catching Parra as the two eyed each other. Paredes launched once again within 500m to crest the mountain first, securing the mountain classification sponsored by Freeport McMoRan. Waiting to greet his team at the finish, disappointment was apparent on his face despite winning the stage.

“Heiner [Parra] made the race very difficult,” Paredes said. “My teammates did everything they could, and in the end, I was able to win the mountain points. I am happy except that in the time trial I lost a lot of time losing the GC lead. I had problems with my bike, but we did what we could.”

Project Echelon’s Cade Bickmore secured the green points classification jersey for a second year running, while Jonas Walton of Team EcoFlo Chronos held on to win the Best Young Rider Classification finishing fourth on GC. Team Medellín earned the overall Team Classification, seeing five riders finish within the top ten: Walter Vargas, Wilmar Paredes, Brayan Sánchez, Óscar Sevilla, and Róbigzon Oyola in that order.

The Gila Monster Road Race wrapped another successful edition of Silver City’s Tour of the Gila, a race that attracts the top talent throughout the Americas and the world each season. In 2024, the race was able to boost fan engagement by providing live video coverage throughout the road race stages, showcasing a week of exciting and explosive racing in southwest New Mexico.

Photo: Velo Images