Thursday, July 27, 2017

USCR's Jamie Naragon Takes A Closer Look At The Upcoming Larry H. Miller's Tour of Utah

Tuesday, August 7th, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah will commence in Ogden with a 211km long road stage. What originally started as the Thanksgiving Point Stage Race, the race itself was renamed the tour of Utah in 2004. Though postponed in 2007 due to sponsorship issues, the Larry H. Miller group bought the race, allowing it to return to US national race status in 2008. After the 2010 edition, the race was included as part of the UCI America Tour, opening it to Pro Tour teams. 

Tour of Utah 2012 logo

This 6-stage long race has been dubbed by man “America’s Toughest Stage Race,” largely due to the altitude, heat, and climbing associated with this long tour.

Following the first day’s stage, the riders will tackle a 21.75km team time trial on Wednesday in the Miller Motorsports Park. Each team will complete three laps of a 4.5mile long course. The 138km Ogden to Salt Lake City stage will follow on Thursday. Several climbs will be on deck, including a 5.5 mile, 7% climb up big Mountain. Friday, 215.6kms will be raced along the Pony Express route and through Salt Lake City. Stage 5 is known as the “Queen Stage,” climbing over two miles through various local ski and summer resorts. Finally, a 121.3km loop through Wolf Creek Ranch, yet more climbs, finally, an assent up Empire Pass will conclude the race with a fast descent into the Kimball Arts Center.

Up for grabs are six leader’s jerseys: the yellow overall leader’s jersey sponsored by Larry H. Miller Dealerships, the purple XO Communications sprint jersey, the pale blue and white young rider jersey from Subaru, the blue/yellow/white Ski Utah king of the mountain jersey, the blue/white/pink Miller Lite best Utah rider jersey, and the white/black/green most aggressive rider jersey presented by Exergy Communications.

Last year, the race was won by Levi Leipheimer, flanked by Sergio Luis Henao Montoya and Janez Brajkovic. This year, however, there will again be very stiff competition for the podium. Of the 17 teams competing,7 competed in the Tour de France this past July. Furthermore, 11 of the riders taking to the start have raced in the Olympics (between 2000-2012). The teams taking to the start include:

Omega Pharma-QuickStep; Liquigas-Cannondale; BMC Racing Team; Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda; Rabobank; RadioShack-Nissan-Trek; Argos-Shimano; Champion System Pro Cycling Team (the first Asian Professional Continental team to participate); Team NetApp; Team SpiderTech; UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team; EPM-UNE of Colombia; Competitive Cyclist Racing Team; Bissell Pro Cycling; Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies; Team Exergy; and Bontrager Livestrong Cycling.

Who to watch? Well, Leipheimer will surely be keen to try to defend his 2011 win, especially having attended high school in Salt Lake City, making this race important to him on a personal level. He will have great helpers from twins Peter and Martin Velits. Peter was third in the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, and Martin is currently the national road race champion of Slovakia. In defense of his win, however, Levi will need to keep an eye on some of the following riders:

Brent Bookwalter (BMC) who is from Michigan, though now lives in North Carolina. Bookwalter was second in the ITT of the 2010 Giro d’Italia and has performed very well in numerous other road races as well.

Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell (Livestrong) both have had amazing successful seasons. Boswell was second in the U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege while Dombrowski was fourth on Mount Baldy, twelfth overall in the Tour of California, and won the 2012 Girobio (aka, the “Baby Giro”). Their teammate Connor O’Leary is also a good bet for Best Utah Rider.

Tom Danielson (Garmin) finished third for the second time in the Amgen Tour of California after a solid ITT and a climb up Mount Baldy. He was also seventh overall at the Tour de Suisse. After withdrawing from this year’s Tour de France with shoulder injuries, he will be determined to show that he has returned to good form. He’ll be supported by California resident Christian Vande Velde who has finished in the top-10 in many elite races, including Garmin’s 1st-place finish in this year’s TTT of the Giro d’Italia. He was also second on Stage 15 of this year’s Tour de France. Furthermore, Garmin can mix it up in the sprints with Tyler Farrar and with a possible best young rider contender in Peter Stetina.

Chris Horner (Radio Shack) has won many, many domestic races, including the Tour of California, the Sea Otter Classic, Redlands, and Fitchburg. Therefore, he’s no stranger to racing on US soil. Add to that his second overall at this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico, 8th overall in the 2012 Tour of California, and the excitement of competing in the Olympics just over a week ago, and he will be very excited to please the Utah crowd.

Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) is another rider very familiar with the US domestic scene (albeit an Australian himself). He is currently ranked second in the NRC. His teammate Jeff Louder won the 2008 Tour of Utah, and being from Salt Lake City, he too could contest for several jerseys.

Jesse Anthony and Andy Bajadali (Optum) have spent much of this year racing throughout various climates around the US. Anthony won last year’s Ogden stage of the Tour of Utah, while Bajadali has coursed through many US races at the front of the group!

Craig Lewis (Champion) has won a stage at the Tour de Beauce, and the team’s assistant director sportif, Burke Swindlehurst, is from Utah, so Lewis will have plenty of knowledgeable support.

Lastly, Chris Baldwin and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) are two riders ever-aggressive in the US racing scene. Bissell is one of the strongest domestic teams as well, having finished in first on the NRC last year and currently sitting third in the classification. This is the fifth time the team will be competing in Utah, so they are very familiar with much of the course.

Overall, however, the depth of field as well as the difficulty of the course, particularly with the climbs, makes this anybody’s race! Anyone could take a flier and spoil the fun for one of the pre-race “favorites,” so it should be very interesting to watch this domestic thrill!

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