Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 Wins Three of Five Stages at 2023 Tour of the Gila
May 2, 2023
Team tops the podium in road race, individual time trial, and downtown criterium
ROANOKE, Virginia — May 2, 2023 /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 traveled to southern New Mexico for the 36th edition of the Tour of the Gila, April 26-30. The five stages over five days feature some of the toughest climbing in North America, coupled with the first really warm temperatures of the race season. The UCI Women’s field welcomed 63 athletes and 12 teams over the course of the week’s racing, and impeccable teamwork by VBR TWENTY24 led to the top step three out of five days.
“The Tour of the Gila is one of three big stage races in the United States this season, and I am confident we had the right team put together for the challenges the riders would face,” said Nicola Cranmer, General Manager, Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24. “I couldn’t be more proud of how our riders performed, and taking three of the five stage wins was a tremendous accomplishment.”
The VBR TWENTY24 team roster for the Tour of the Gila included Emily Ehrlich (USA), just off her GC win at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. She was joined by the majority of the Redlands race squad including sprint specialist Marlies Mejias Garcia (CUB), Sofía Arreola Navarro (MEX), Laurel Quinones (USA), Nicole Steinmetz (USA), and Danielle Morshead (USA).
The five days of racing kicked off Wednesday with a point-to-point 71.2-mile road race, starting at Gough Park in Silver City, NM and finishing on the notorious 3.8-mile Mogollon Climb. The narrow, rough road pitches up at times to grades of 13-19 percent before finishing at a cattle guard. Three VBR TWENTY24 riders stuck with a small chase group of 10, all ultimately finishing in the top 15 with Ehrlich in 8th, Laurel Quinones in 13th, and Mejias Garcia in 14th. Offering strong team support, 19-year-old Steinmetz rounded out the top ten in the UCI Elite U25 category.
The Inner Loop Road Race took the riders along the Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway for most of the second day of racing. Seventy-four miles and 5,854 feet of climbing were on deck for the women, and “Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24’s sprint specialist Marlies Mejias Garcia lit up the finishing stretch into Fort Bayard Thursday at Stage 2 of Tour of the Gila after “surviving” each climb and turning on the afterburners,” said Tour of the Gila race communications. “I had to survive each climb, but the idea was to reach the end and have Emily and Sofia help me in the end, and that’s how it went,” said Mejias Garcia.
Ehrlich picked up her third consecutive individual time trial win this year at Stage 3 of Tour of the Gila. The out-and-back TT course gained 1,000 feet of elevation over 16.15-miles. “I put it all out there for another win in the time trial,” said Ehrlich. “I’m forever grateful to VBR TWENTY24 and KX3 Lifestyle and Coaching for the opportunities and supporting me and pushing me to find my best self!”
Saturday’s Stage 4 Downtown Silver City Criterium was relentless, exhilarating, fast, and fun for the full 27 miles. “The team raced hard and aggressively and had so much fun doing it.” said Shelley Olds, Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 Team Director. “It was a perfect leadout by Sofía and Marlies to deliver Emily for the team’s third stage win!”
“Congratulations to all the teams for coming out to play today!” said Ehrlich. “It was completely and entirely a showing of perfect teamwork. I’m speechless at how humbled these girls make me feel. Marlies, Sofia, Laurel, and Nicole—they’re incredible. Team work makes the dream work.”
Day five and the Gila Monster Road Race from Silver City to Piños Altos is one of the toughest races in North America. Similar to the Thursday stage, this iconic stage takes the racers in a reverse loop with 5,610 feet of climbing and 4,714 feet of descent. It’s always a rowdy day on the bikes with two bonus sprints and three QOM sprints. Ehrlich finished 4th on the day, securing 3rd in the overall GC.
In a race like the Tour of the Gila, the terrain, the temperatures, the competition, the history of the event—they all play a part in how a team will prepare to show up and perform at their best. One integral part of the team’s preparation to be in top-form each and every day is how they fuel and recover optimally from a nutrition and hydration standpoint. Personal chef MaryAnne Wiederhold traveled with the team to Silver City for this year’s race.
“I was told this race is the hardest on the national calendar,” said MaryAnne Wiederhold, personal chef onsite with the TWENTY24 for the race (@energechef). “It challenges every rider to give everything they’ve got and then some. It was incredible to see how much grit, determination, and dedication these teams put into every stage. Thank you TWENTY24 and Nicola Cranmer for inviting me to travel and cook for the riders and staff. An unbelievable experience, and it’s always amazing how you make me feel like part of the team. I loved watching everyone execute their part with precision. A well-oiled machine indeed, and it showed with three stage wins out of five and third in GC.”
VBR TWENTY24 also traveled with soigneur, Amber Donahue. Donahue was responsible for supporting the athletes with their physical recovery and ensuring their bodies were primed for each of the race days. “It’s always an honor to work with the TWENTY24 athletes,” said Donahue. “I love bringing my expertise to help the team and also just to be there for them however I can. Stage races take a lot out of anyone, and being there as a part of the family is rewarding in so many ways—it’s just a whole lot of fun to be a part of the crew!”
Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 Stage Results at 2023 Tour of the Gila:
Stage 1 – April 26 – Mogollon Road Race (71.2 miles)
- 8th – Emily Ehrlich (1.39 back)
- 13th – Laurel Quinones
- 14th – Marlies Mejias
Stage 2 – April 27 – Inner Loop Road Race (74.1 miles)
- 1st – Marlies Mejias Garcia
Stage 3 – April 28 – Individual Time Trial (16.15 miles)
- 1st – Emily Ehrlich (38.15)
- 6th – Laurel Quinones
- 12th – Marlies Mejias Garcia
Stage 4 – April 29 – Downtown Silver City Criterium (27 miles)
- 1st – Emily Ehrlich
- 18th – Marlies Mejias Garcia
Stage 5 – April 30 – Gila Monster Road Race (65.9 miles)
- 4th – Emilie Ehrlich
- 16th – Marlies Mejias Garcia
- 3rd – Emily Ehrlich
- 10th – Marlies Mejias Garcia
For complete race results and more information, visit: https://tourofthegila.com/
Image Credit: Brian Hodes – Emily Ehrlich winning stage 4 after a perfect leadout from her team.
Up next for Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 is the Joe Martin Stage Race, May 18-21 in Fayetteville, AR. The race consists of two road races, one individual time trial, and one criterium.
About Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24
When the team was formed in 2005, the goal was to create a pathway for athletes to the 2012 London Olympics. In 2009, the team’s name became TWENTY12, changing every four-year cycle, followed by TWENTY16, TWENTY20, and now TWENTY24, representing the Paris 2024 Olympics. The TWENTY24 program is responsible for developing many of the most successful American female cyclists to date. It has created opportunities for elite, junior development, and para-cycling athletes. TWENTY24 has established a consistent athlete talent pipeline for road and track cyclists and additionally provides opportunities for athletes who excel in the virtual world of Zwift eSports and the relatively new dynamic discipline of gravel racing. The team identifies and develops high-performance athletes and the next generation of competitive cyclists and is committed to successfully aligning student-athletes with college scholarships through cycling and academics.
Key sponsors and partners of Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 include Virginia’s Blue Ridge, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Felt Bicycles, Zwift, Berglund Automotive, Kenda Tires and Velotec.
Media Contact: Nicola Cranmer
Cell: +1 415 246 8791