The last couple days have been quite hectic here at the Tour of Utah, so there’s been a bit of lag time on my part for my updates. Stage 5 was the downtown circuit race in Salt Lake. We had a fairly late start with the race not starting until 4:40 and the day before the weather was forecasting a pretty nasty storm. It rained all morning but luckily by the time we got to the race it looked as though the weather was going to hold up. The race was fairly short with 55 miles consisting of 7 laps with a 1 km climb up to the finish. After the finish you had this false flat section before you would rip down the descent through town to get in good position for the climb.
Once the race started a group basically rode off the front with SmartStop controlling. They put one of there riders in the move to ease off the pressure which they were under to control the race. The first 4 laps were relatively uneventful with the break getting no more then around a minute or so. The climb didn’t seem too bad at first but each lap after all the accelerations and technical parts of the course it was starting to drain a bit on myself. The hardest part of the course; for me at least, was the race down the last 4 km to set yourself up in good position for the start of the climb. We had about 5 lines which would go down to two after a series of corners and with it being slight down hill we would be racing at 40+ mph to try to stay towards the front. A constant swarming of riders made it very difficult to keep position up front. With 2 laps to go the race started to get moving as the break was just about back and riders now started to attack off the front of the field during, and after the climb. There would be many groups splitting off the front but nothing was sticking as it kept getting chased back. Once we came into 1 to go it was full gas with everyone trying to stay up front. After the climb there were more attacks and it was either follow and put an effort in or wait and try to save yourself for the end. I followed a group which didn’t get much of a gap and it came back and that point I was at the back end of the field now trying to get back up front. Once we hit the descent it was single file so moving up became even more difficult. As we were coming into the final few km I was still too far back to be in any contention, but I still kept looking for ways to get up front before the climb. Once we hit the climb I was about mid pack which was not ideal so I basically just went all in and tried to keep moving up. About half way up the climb my legs started to feel a bit empty which was the first time I felt this with this entire week so far, not a good feeling. I ended up not making much progress and crossed the line 32nd and losing a bit of time. I was a bit bummed on this because I knew a lot of it came down to positioning on my part, which is just something I need to learn to do better at at these big races.
It could’ve been worse though because about 5 minutes after the stage ended the storm came down and it was gnarly. The wind was so strong it knocked the finish line canopy down on a group of people and seriously injuring a staff member.
We had a 45 minute transfer to Park City after and once we got to our hotels and ate and got massage it turned out to be a pretty late night for us.
Stage 6 just so happened to be the Queen Stage here at the Tour of Utah. With 110 miles and over 13,000 feet of climbing it would end up being a very big day. Going into the stage I wasn’t quite sure where I would be at the end. For sure I wanted to be up front and being a bit of climber I thought I could possibly do something today, but at the same time I’ve never done this big of a week of racing and after the last 5 days I wasn’t quite sure how I would hold up. The race started very fast and we went up from the drop of the flag. I was basically in the box for the first 30 minutes of the race trying to just stay with the group and ride myself into the race. I finally started to feel a bit better and followed a couple groups that were going up the road, but at the same time trying to play it smart and not do too much work. Once the break went we still kept a descent tempo as we road. I was starting to feel the effects of the last 5 days and just felt tired through out the stage. It was pretty windy in sections so that made it for not the most relaxing stage. On the climbs I would feel better so that was a bit inspiring, but I was really starting to feel it on the faster parts of the course. Once we got to Park City, we had a steep climb to get over then a long descent before the last HC climb. I felt okay on the start of the climb, but with about 3 km to go I could tell I was starting to drift back through the group. I ended up losing contact with the lead group and kept them close in my sights as I rode slightly behind them hoping they would ease up a bit and I could catch back on. We hit the top of the climb and it flattened out a bit, but with a head wind it was just making it tougher for me to close in on the group. At this point I was with a couple other guys and we worked hard to get back to the group, but once we hit the descent they started to put time on us. The descent was fast, but not steep enough to where we couldn’t pedal so we tried everything we could to get back but it didn’t end up working we just cooked ourselves even more. Once we hit the bottom and started the next climb, I still kept pushing a descent pace in hopes to catch some of the other riders but by about half way up the climb I had nothing left.
It’s been quite a while since I had these feelings in a race or mainly on a climb. It’s a whole different world with this race and competition on these long days. I’m not quite sure if I didn’t eat enough or bonked or just didn’t have the legs from the fatigue of the past few days. I guess we’ll see how the last stage goes as it’s another tough one. I’m hoping for the best with it being a shorter stage and climbs are steeper that may be in my favor, but after yesterday I can only hope it will go up from there.
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Hincapie Racing Team and is also is the owner of Fast Tours Cycling.