The Tour of Utah is quoted as “America’s Toughest Stage Race” and it sure does look like it will be living up to the name this week. This will be my first time racing one of the big North America stage races. I thought I’d be here a bit quicker, but with cycling its never a sure thing. In 2013 I was set to stagiaires but that fell through, last year on 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda we didn’t receive an invite, so this year the stoked level is high to be finally racing.
It’s amazing what the difference a week can make, we just came off a pretty stellar race at the Cascade Cycling Classic where we went 1 & 2 on GC, won team classification, best young rider jersey, 2 stages, and going into the last stage actually held all 4 jerseys at one point. We controlled the race the last 2 days to bring home the win. Just riding around that race the confidence just was there knowing we could do it. One week later and I feel like I’m almost doing my first race again, that confidence feeling isn’t quite as high as last week. Here at Utah we have a bit of everything with former Grand Tour winners, Tour de France podium finishers, a decent international field and more. Two of the Pro Continental teams are supposedly here with teams that they will be looking to pick there Vuelta squad from, so they are a bit stacked with some climbers (Columbia & Bardiani).
So, lets get into the days stage. Waking up real nice and early at 6:00 am we were treated with a bit of a shocker this morning. All over the internet / social media were the reports of the former 2 time winner of this race testing positive. He was here and set to defend his title, but obviously that isn’t going to happen now. That’s about as much as I’ll speak on that, there’s enough people already sharing there two cents on that matter. I could care less, not my problem. The next surprise was the fact that it was raining out, we were planning on a more dry day with afternoon showers. That was not to be the case. The stage for the day was 132 miles with around 6,000 feet of climbing. Really not too much climbing for the amount of miles. We basically went up a 32 mile canyon, dropped down for a loop around the lake then climbed back up and descended to town where we started. The plan for the day was that we had 2 guys to look for the break, 2 of us (myself included) are more just sitting in and saving it for the last two days, and the other 4 guys to work for the sprint if it came back.
Once we started our roll out and hit km 0 the racing started up the canyon. I was anticipating a pretty long hard race up the canyon, but maybe 5 minutes into the stage a group of 7 riders got off the front and that was that. Luckily we had Joe Schmalz get in there as planned, so we were happy. The next 45 minutes to an hour were slow, and I mean slow like beach cruiser speed. I’ve always heard that these races are real easy at times, but also real damn hard when the racing gets going. Once we crested the top of the canyon the break had 15 minutes on us. Also, would like to point out that its been raining the entire time. Once we hit the descent going down to the lake we started racing a bit more with some sprinters teams taking control. We had a pretty solid tail wind coming down and that plus the rain caused some splits in the field. Once we hit the bottom there were about three groups on the road but after about 15 minutes or so we all came back together. At this point, the race was more or less on with teams now chasing, but not too bad of a pace. There was always that chance of a cross wind wreaking havoc on the field as we went around the lake so that caused for some nerves with people fighting for spots and a lot of nerve wracking feeling. Nothing ever really happened and once we started coming back around the lake we were mainly faced with a head wind. With the rain and cold, riders were constantly going back to the car for more jackets or less plus food and more drinks. Myself included, I went back a couple times just asking for anything that is dry. I even saw Frank Schleck stop on the side and dam near put a new kit on. Once we got about 10 miles out from hitting the climb the pace started to really pick up as riders & teams were really moving forward. We weren’t too sure what was going to happen because it was a decent kicker at 5 miles with an average grade of 6% and there were some tired and wet legs in the field. Once we hit the climb we had a pretty stellar head wind so that didn’t make it too difficult. If you were the team pulling on the front though, that was definitely hard. We crested the top of climb with more or less the majority of the field and began racing down the canyon. At this point I went back to the car for another dry layer. First we had a ripping tail wind then turned into a massive head wind. The break was falling apart and we finally hit the town to do the 2 lap finishing circuits. There were still 2 riders left from the break right in front of the field during these circuits; Phinney, Keil, and Howes bridged up to them to go for the stage win. They finished a few seconds in front of the field and we came sprinting in for 5th at 14 seconds down. I finished 61st with same time and out of trouble.
My first few days here are really more or less staying out of trouble and not losing time at the finishes, and then I’ll get to see where I stack up at the end of this tour with the top climbers.
After the stage finish it was pretty standard, we rode back to the campus dorms which we are staying at till tomorrow and grabbed some lunch followed by massage. After that we have about an hour or so for some relaxing time then to dinner and then pack afterwards to be ready for the next days transfer. A bit of a stretch before bed and thats about it.
Strava Data from Stage 1
If anyone is more interested in looking at the numbers from the race you can check them out on my Strava page with the link below. My current height & weight are 5’10 at 131 lbs.
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Hincapie Racing Team and is also is the owner of Fast Tours Cycling.