After 25 years, the current economic status means that New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila is in danger of extinction, unless a title sponsor can be found for 2012 and beyond.
With mountains on tap every stage, there’s no such thing as an easy day at the Gila, and yet, this race is also one of the first chances that many amateur & professional cyclists get to race a true, multi-day stage race.
Beginning in Silver City, New Mexico, the men’s course covers around 540 km over five days, while the women’s course covers about 100 km less. It consists of three road races (currently stages 1, 2 and 5), a Individual Time Trial (currently stage 3) and a Criterium (currently stage 4). The Tour of the Gila is currently classified as a national race, which prohibits both UCI ProTour and UCI ProContinental teams from competing in it, so it is truly a showcase for riders on smaller, development teams to show what they’ve got … and many of the top domestic professional cyclists have done well here, including three-time winner Burke Swindlehurst, as well as two-time winners Chris Wherry and Scott Moninger.
In recent years, the race has also been able to attract some of the top international pros, competing without the support of a full team; including riders like two-time winner Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner.
The women’s field has also attracted some of the top domestic and European based professionals, including two-time winners Kristin Armstrong and Mara Abbott, as well as Amber Neben, Mari Holden, Canada’s Clara Hughes, and French superstar Jeannie Longo, each of whom have won the race on one occasion.
One of the nice things about the Gila? While prize money doesn’t go as deep, due to the smaller field sizes, the three Elite (Pro/1/2) women’s podium placers actually received more than the three Elite men’s podium placers in both the overall general classification and individual stage places. This is an event that recognizes the value of parity between the men’s and women’s events.
However, even smaller races cannot survive on entry fees alone; sponsorship is required. If your business is looking for sports marketing opportunities, please let me know via email (flahute2004 at gmail dot com), and I’ll pass your information on to the race directors.