The team just got back from the deserts of New Mexico racing the 2019 edition of the Tour of the Gila. Widely renown as one of the most challenging stage races in the PRT circuit, Gila attracts a wide crowd. Young riders hoping to strike a claim square up against veteran outlaws still on the run. Unforgiving winds and steep climbs in the baking sun make for dramatic showdowns akin to a high noon draw. By the end of the race there’s blood in the streets; but also smiles, high fives and salty hugs of empathy. Such a demanding race brings out a range of emotions, for some it’s a disappointment landing just off the podium, for others it’s rejoice in finishing the Gila Monster stage.
We caught up with Cooper who rode an impressive race finishing just outside the top 20 and picked his brain about what it was like to race one of the hardest stage races in the nation.
Having done Gila in the p12 race the year before, how did the transition to the Pro field feel?
The cat 1/2 field was much more akin to local racing in that there was less predictable tactics and random attacks flying all the time, just overall a less controlled race. In the UCI field with the strong teams that were present it really just came down to if you had the legs to hang at the front on the climbs or not. I like this style of racing. There’s no hiding.
Silver city is a unique town to say the least. What were some of the places you'd suggest to a modern prospector?
To a prospector? Well, there is plenty of mining around... but on your way you might want to stop by Don Juan’s burrito drive-thru (they’ll still take your order if you’re on a bike). Once you get back you might want to check out The Jumping Cactus for some ‘cowboy coffee’ or maybe just head straight to Little Toad Brewery. I also hear there are plenty of natural hot springs in this area...
Tip: for the non-local you should decide if you like red or green chile before you arrive because you’ll be expected to know when placing your order.
How did you prep for such a demanding event coming from sea level?
For Gila I just tried to do a lot of long rides and focused on being good at the longer climbs. We don’t do any climbs like this on our normal racing circuit so having two proper summit finishes was a new challenge. Luckily it got pretty warm at home in the weeks before the race so I could spend some time climbing in the heat, which is supposed to help with altitude but I’m not sure if it did.
What were some of your goals leading into the race?
After Redlands I thought I might be able to ride into the top 20 overall if I didn’t have a similar implosion to my day on the Sunset Loops. So we rode for that all week and almost pulled it off.
I’m super glad the team was able to send a squad down to New Mexico so we could race against a UCI field on some of the hardest courses on the PRT. Stuff like this is what motivates me so I’m just happy we got the chance.
How efficient is Dairy Queen as a recovery routine? Asking for a friend...
With DQ’s wide ranging menu there’s definitely something to meet everyones recovery needs. There’s only one rule, you have to finish the stage first.