‘I buried myself to stay ahead of the charging pack for second place’

Taking part recently in her eight Tour of the Gila in a row, Olivia Dillon took second place on Stage 2, which she described as “her favourite stage of one of her favourite races”.

However, despite being in a break away for a significant part of the race, the Mayo native had to ‘bury’ herself in the closing km to hold onto second place at the end of the 119km stage behind Annie Ewart.

“(I’m) so happy to be on the podium today on Stage 2 of the Tour of the Gila. I have done this race so/too many times and this stage is, by far, my favourite because the terrain is just so varied and relentless.

“I’ve always wanted to win or podium and I finally did.”

Dillon in the break. Pic: Tour of the Gila.
Dillon in the break. Pic: Tour of the Gila.

The Tour of the Gila is a UCI 2.2 five-day stage race in Silver City, New Mexico, and Dillon was riding for her 2015 team Visit Dallas Cycling. Dillon has been based in the US, riding on pro teams, for a number of years and said the the overall team plan was to go for stage wins and compete in both the QOM and the Points Jersey competition.

“The race is considered very difficult due to its location in the high desert at 7,000ft and so much climbing.”

Stage 1 ended with an 11km climb to the ghost town of Mogollon and the team set up Flavia Olivera for the finishing climb, where she finished fourth, behind stage winner Mara Abbott.

But, it was on day two that Dillon came to the fore, over the 119km stage which took in some 6,000ft of climbing. After securing QOM points in the early part of race, the team started attacking after the treacherous Sappillo descent and Dillon made her move.

“I got away solo and immediately got a good gap and then Annie Ewart from Optum bridged across. We had about 40 miles to ride in a hot windy valley and then long climbs back to Silver City.

“Our time gap went up to seven minutes and then down to six seconds for me at the finish where I buried myself to stay ahead of the charging pack for second place. ”

The ride left Dillon one point off the Points Jersey and with a criterium on the cards, she conserved her energies for this.

“The sprint laps were hotly contested as bonus seconds were also available but I managed to get second in one and first in the last one, which was six laps before the finish. We were down riders already for the crit and then my teammate and lead-out, Mia, crashed.

“I was unable to score points in the finish but secured second overall in Points Competition after the final stage.”

The race finished with Dillon’s teammate Flavia taking second in the Queen of the Mountains category.

Here she is telling Women Race Bikes about the stage.