When we arrived in Silver City, we were asked if we had come for Tour the Gila. No, what is that? we asked. It is a bicycle race, we were told. Well, it is a really big bike race. In fact, Lance Armstrong was in it for several years, including last year. It lasts 5 days. Stage 1 is 73 to 94 miles long, with the last few miles climbing 2,100 feet; Stage 2, 64 to 80 miles long, is a loop; Stage 3 is a 16.1 mile time trial; Stage 4 is a Criterium, whatever that means, with bicyclists riding a downtown loop for somewhere between 13 and 43.4 miles. Stage 5 is the Gila Monster Road Race, ranging from 72 to 106 miles in length. It is the most accomplished men's group climbing a total of 9,360 feet in 106 miles of riding. On Sunday, after the Criterium, the person in each group with the best overall time is the winner.
That is probably more information than I, or any of my readers, are interested in. But we really wanted to get a feel of what this was all about. After all, this is the 25th annual event here in Silver City. The opening day begins with a parade downtown, with the first group taking off at 8 am. We arrived before 7:30 to see what everything looked like. Yes, there is a bike race about to begin.
The bike riders aren't the only people involved. Each group has a support vehicle that carries extra wheels. No spare tires, but extra wheels, one or two per rider.
One of the professional women's teams had this waiting area.
And here are their bikes.
Here are two members of one of the men's teams. They didn't have chairs, so they leaned on the bikes.
Apparently, a race reaches the big time when some company agrees to sponsor a neutral support team, helping whatever rider needs it. SRAM sponsors this race and provides support. I think they sell bicycle equipment.
A tool kit is essential to a support team.
This is another way spare wheels make it onto the race course.
This guy looks like he is wondering if he will even make it to the starting line.
There has to be a more comfortable place for this woman racer to sit while she waits.
Racing bikes must not have kick stands. When you head to the porta potty, all you can do is lay it down on the ground.
I don't think this fellow was planning to ride in the race. My guess is, he was a spectator, just like us.
Here is the first heat of Men 40+, waiting for the start of the race.
And away they go!
And there they go.