Veteran cyclists among the hundreds taking part in this year’s Tour of the Gila

(Press team photo by Jordan Archunde)
Ride Gila cyclists around the corner at the intersection of US 180 East and the 32nd Street Bypass while riding from Fort Bayard to Pinos Altos early Thursday morning.

Hundreds of cyclists descended on Silver City for the 35th annual Tour de la Gila race, which returned this week after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race started on Wednesday and should end on Sunday.
The Tour de la Gila, which is part of the Union Cycliste Internationale – or UCI – racing calendar offers nine different categories of racing, including UCI Men, UCI Women, Men 1/2, Men 3 with an additional overall prize for 35 and over, Men 4/5 with additional price for 35+, Master Men A 40+ 1/2/3 with additional prices for 45+, 50+ and 55+, Master Men B 40+ 3/4/5 with additional prizes for 50+ and 60+, Women 1/2/3 with an additional prize for 35+ and 45+, Women 4/5 and, of course, the citizen races on Saturday.
Cyclists from across the United States and around the world compete here during the race, and everyone has a fascinating story to tell about how they got to where they are today. Many more experienced runners came out to prove that age is just a number and that you really can do whatever you want.
Randy Warren, 60, rode all the way from Asheville, North Carolina for his first-ever Tour of the Gila. He races in the Master A class for his team, the Downtown Asheville Racing Club.
“When I was in California, I was a pretty good climber a long time ago,” Warren said. “Everyone always said, ‘You have to go do the Gila Tour’, and it never worked with my schedule. I never got to do it. This year they added a category of over 60, and I just turned 60 this year – so I thought this was the year.
Warren trains cyclists for a living in Asheville and has been racing since 1987. He got into the sport while running a dorm in California. After the residents became interested in cycling, they formed a team and asked him to be the coach. With only a background in running and wrestling, he had the opportunity to go to the US Olympic Training Center for a camp, where he learned a lot about things specific to cycling.
“I said, ‘Sure, I can train you,'” he recalled. “I won the first five or six races I did. It was a lot of fun, and since then I’ve been training, cycling and racing.
After teaching, advising and working as a bike advocate, Warren had a son and has been a full-time coach for – 16 years. Full-time training gives him a flexible schedule, he said, allowing him as much time as possible with his son.
Cycling has taken Warren all over the world, including in 1994 Russia, where he represented the United States at the World Masters Championships.
“I was able to win a race there,” he said. “I was not world champion, because you had to win the stage race at the time. I was fourth overall, and that was right after the fall of the Soviet Union. They were trying to develop tourism there, so they hosted the World Masters Championships.
He said representing the United States was a really cool memory he’ll never forget, and he plans to continue in the sport for as long as physically possible.
The oldest cyclist participating in this year’s Tour is Whitney Fanning, at 75. He’s been racing for nearly 50 years and traveled from his ranch just outside of Waco, Texas to compete in his first-ever Tour of the Gila in the Master Men B category.
Fanning’s team is called Geri Atrix, which he thinks is a cute name for a bunch of guys who compete while still taking care of themselves.
Racing “gives me the opportunity to continue to compete in a semi-friendly environment, which is kind of what you want,” Fanning said. “Most of our races are difficult – we want to win the race. But at the same time, if we have a competitor who has a problem, we will help him.
Staying healthy keeps him motivated to keep running, and he said in his brain he hasn’t aged a day.
While most cyclists tend to have a structured training method, Fanning just prefers to get out and ride the bike because he really enjoys it.
“One of my teammates just turned 89 last Wednesday,” he said. “We rode 101 miles together on gravel roads to celebrate his birthday. It wasn’t competitive at all – it was long and a hassle.
Fanning rides all types of bikes including gravel, mountain and road bikes. If he has two wheels, he says, he likes to drive it. After riding the bike for years and years, one or two weird episodes will inevitably occur, and he says he has more than a few.
“Five years ago, I was riding towards the start line of the HOTTER’N HELL 100 in Wichita Falls, Texas, and I broke my shoe,” he said. “I really wanted to race, so I shouted into that massive crowd, asking for duct tape. A guy came out with duct tape and we taped my foot to the pedals.
He wanted to run and wasn’t going to let a broken shoe stop him. Fanning said he ended up having a baseball-sized charley horse on the back of his leg due to his inability to pedal normally.
The safety of cyclists is very important and drivers should always keep an eye on them when sharing the road with them – and especially during race week. Fanning said residents of Silver City seem to accept cyclists, but in some places that is not the case.
“A bunch of us got run over in 1997,” he said. “We were at the end of one of our rides at about 7:00 p.m., and a kid was driving. We thought he was just staring at the girls and hadn’t braked. He wiped out four d between us, and one of the guys who was riding with us was in a coma for two weeks. He did fine – one of our guys had broken his face, and I broke my pelvis and my stomach. shoulder. But we all healed.
Women are also pushing their limits on the Tour of the Gila, including Sue Lloyd, 66, who has been racing since 1980. She traveled from Wheat Ridge, Colorado, to compete in her first Tour of the Gila in the Women 1/Category 2 /3.
“My kids ran there,” she said. “I have two sons, and the eldest is a former pro, and he’s been here a few times. The youngest also raced and was a USA Cycling official on the bike several times.
Lloyd signed up for the race in November last year and has been training ever since. A cycling trainer for about 13 years, she rides often and has focused her training on the Tour.
“It’s kind of a race out of my comfort zone,” Lloyd said. “I’m a sprinter – I love getting out on the track and sprinting. So these big, long climbs that we’re going to do are way outside of my comfort zone.
As the COVID-19 pandemic waned, she wanted to try new and different things, and she said the Tour of the Gila was the perfect fit for her. Lloyd rides for a Boulder-based team named Sonic Boom, and three of his teammates made the trip to compete alongside him.
“The racing community is such a wonderful thing,” she said. “There are people from all walks of life, from all different belief systems, and I think it’s fantastic that we can come together. Despite the differences, we all love bike racing and cycling in general. Many people are bike safety advocates. I’ve never been to Silver City before, but it looks like there’s quite a bike-friendly infrastructure here.
For more information on the races and to find the perfect places to watch the final stages of the Tour of the Gila unfold, visit tourofthegila.com or look for the official spectator guide in this month’s Independent.
Jordan Archunde can be reached at [email protected] press.com.

Clyde P. Johnson