The Tour of the Gila is probably THE biggest event of the year in Silver City! Thousands of bike racers and bike racing fans pour into the town for this event. Residents are asked to open their homes and host bikers, which we will probably do next year.
There's five days of races. Wednesday they raced through the downtown area and then NW to the ghost town of Mogollon, over the Continental Divide (which US 180 crosses about three miles west of Silver City). That's only 73 miles ... a warm-up. The bikers start in categories, so you never see all 600 or so of them at once; the bottom two pictures show them in the downtown area.
Thursday we did the real deal. The "Fort Bayard Inner Loop" race starts at historic Fort Bayard about five miles east of SC and loops over the Continental Divide to Piños Altos to Lake Roberts, down through the Mimbres Valley and back to Fort Bayard ... 80 miles and more than a mile in elevation!
That's Fort Bayard in the background as the Men's Pro, 1 group takes off Thursday morning. Above that is another group of men at 7000 feet, approaching the Continental Divide, with Silver City in the background and Mexico over the distant hills.
One of the lady riders is caught with the Mimbres Valley in the background as she rides up the LOOONG grade out of Mimbres. And, finally, at the top, we have a duel at the Fort Bayard finish line as a challenger in one of the men's groups pours it on in an unsuccessful attempt to catch up with the leader, who only moments before had been a minute ahead of the next biker.
We're taking a day off today. They're SW of SC, riding around Tyrone and we didn't see any reason to get up early and haul our bods after them. These folks are like mushers; they want to be up and rolling early! Too early for us old folks!
Tomorrow should be fun photographically, though; it's the "Downtown Silver City Criterium" ... street racing in a rectangle in the downtown area. The official description says, "Course hazards include rough pavement and errant pedestrians." There's nine different groups, including the only chance for locals to race, so it'll be all day long.
Sunday is the "Gila Monster" ... "a 105.7 mile point-to-point road race with 9,131 feet of climbing and 8,252 feet of descent." Not sure how we'll handle that one, but it should be a challenge for the racers!
It's a glimpse into a different world for us. I've learned that "peloton" is the term for the grouping they ride in to cut down wind resistance. It's an in-group, where the pro racers know each other's race history, etc. This year we don't have the international status that brought Lance Armstrong to Silver City last year, but it's still a big event, with a number of foreign racers and many race teams. And they're ALL like Jack Spratt ... not an ounce of fat anywhere! And they creste the Continental Divide at 7000+ feet with ease, going faster at the end of the grade than I can ride on the level! tv