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Start Your Pedals!

The 21st annual Tour of the Gila brings top-ranked bike racing to the region, May 2-6.

Rainbow-bright uniforms glimpsed in a blur of speed, grueling mountain climbs, a whirr of wheels, the splash of hastily chugged water bottles, thighs toned like something you'd see on a superhero. . . that pretty much sums up the annual Tour of the Gila bike race, which returns to the Silver City area May 2 through 6. Except of course for the cute kids and average Joes and Janes who'll race on Saturday in the citizens' event. And the volunteers—don't forget the volunteers, says Jack Brennan, co-director of the race and co-owner of Gila Hike & Bike in downtown Silver City.

"We get such community support," says Brennan. "From the local businesses to the hundreds of volunteers who make this race possible, it's just a great thing for the town and something to be proud of."

The 21st annual Tour of the Gila, which will be named in honor of state Sen. Ben D. Altamirano, will bring more than 500 bike racers to the area from as far away as Honduras and Switzerland. It's one of just 41 events in the whole country to make USA Cycling's 2007 National Racing Calendar, and one of only two such races in the entire Southwest.

If you want to follow the flying wheels, here's the complete schedule for the week of racing:

Wednesday, May 2: Dan Potts Memorial Tyrone Individual Time Trials. Stage 1: Men Pro,1; Sr. Men 2; Sr. Men 3; Men 40+ and Women Pro,1,2,3. A 16.15-mile out and back course with a total of 1,070 feet of climbing, starting on Hwy. 90 just south of Copper Drive in Tyrone. Men Pro,1 start at 10 a.m., followed by Women Pro,1,2,3 at 11:15 a.m., Men 40+ at 12:30 p.m., Sr. Men 3 at 1:15 p.m. and finally Sr. Men 2 at 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 3: Silver City to Mogollon Road Race. Stage 2: Men Pro,1; Sr. Men 2; Sr. Men 3; Men 40+ and Women Pro,1,2,3. All races start at Gough Park in Silver City. Sr. Men 3 start at 8 a.m., followed by Men 40+ at 8:10 a.m., Women Pro,1,2,3 at 8:25 a.m., Men Pro,1 at 9:05 a.m. and Sr. Men 2 at 9:45 a.m. The Men Pro,1 and Sr. Men 2 races are 94 miles long with 5,650 feet of climbing. The finish is atop a 5.5-mile Category 1 climb on a very narrow alpine road. Sr. Men 3, Men 40+ and Women Pro,1,2,3 will race over a 73-mile course with 4,530 feet of climbing to the same uphill finish.

Friday, May 4: The Inner Loop Road Race. Stage 3: Men Pro,1; Sr. Men 2; Sr. Men 3; Men 40+ and Women Pro,1,2,3. Stage 1: Sr. Men 4,5 and Women 3,4. Men Pro,1 start at 9 a.m. at Fort Bayard Medical Center on Hwy. 180. This race is an 80-mile clockwise loop traveling through Pinos Altos, Lake Roberts and the town of Bayard. The course has 5,781 feet of climbing and finishes at Fort Bayard Medical Center. Sr. Men 2, Sr. Men 3, Men 40+ and Women Pro,1,2,3 also start and finish at Fort Bayard Medical Center, bypassing the loop through the town of Bayard, with about 5,854 feet of climbing. Sr. Men 2 start at 9:40 a.m., Sr. Men 3 at 10 a.m., Men 40+ at 10:20 a.m. and Women Pro,1,2,3 at 10:40 a.m. Sr. Men 4,5 and Women 3,4 will start six miles north of Silver City on Main Street in Pinos Altos. Sr. Men 4,5 start at 8 a.m. Women 3,4 start at 8:05 a.m. This course is a 64.2-mile point-to-point course finishing at Fort Bayard Medical Center with 4,595 feet of climbing.

Saturday, May 5: Downtown Silver City Criterium. Stage 4: Men Pro,1; Sr. Men 2; Sr. Men 3; Men 40+ and Women Pro,1,2,3. Stage 2: Sr. Men 4,5 and Women 3,4. Sign-in and start line are on Bullard Street in front of the Silver City Food Co-op at 6th and Bullard. This is a 1.08-mile closed course on city streets. There are four 90-degree corners and 60 feet of climbing per lap. The first race will be Women 3,4, for 12 laps starting at 8 a.m. The Sr. Men 4,5 start at 8:45 a.m. for 15 laps. The Sr. Men 3 start at 9:35 a.m. for 20 laps. The Men 40+ start at 10:35 a.m. for 20 laps. Sr. Men 2 start at 11:35 a.m. for 30 laps. Citizen races follow at 1 p.m. The Women Pro,1,2,3 race is 25 laps beginning at 2 p.m. The last race is Men Pro,1, a 40-lap race starting at 3:15 pm.

Sunday, May 6: Gila Monster Road Race. Stage 5: Men Pro,1; Sr. Men 2; Sr. Men 3; Men 40+ and Women Pro,1,2,3. Stage 3: Sr. Men 4,5 and Women 3,4. All races start at Gough Park in Silver City and finish in Pinos Altos. Men Pro,1 will start at 8 a.m. and follow a 105.7-mile loop, going to the turnaround at the Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitor Center, then to the finish in Pinos Altos, climbing 9,131 feet. Sr. Men 3 will start at 8:10 a.m. and follow an abbreviated loop of 71.8 miles, with 5,610 feet of climbing, bypassing the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Sr. Men 2 race a different course, going to Emory Pass and then to the finish in Pinos Altos, with 102.6 miles and 8,940 feet of climbing, starting at 8:20 a.m. Men 40+ will start at 8:30 a.m., Women Pro,1,2,3 at 8:40 a.m., Sr. Men 4,5 at 8:50 a.m. and Women 3,4 at 8:50 a.m. and will race the same course as the Sr. Men 3. Much of the race is on narrow mountain roads.

There will be kids' races and citizens' criteriums on Saturday, and a citizens' road race of 32.5 miles with 2,100 feet of climbing on Sunday. Call 388-3222 for information. For more on the Tour of the Gila, see www.tourofthegila.com.