Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) crossed the line alone at the top of Powder Mountain, claiming the stage 4 win and the GC lead at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
The defending champion relied on a strong effort by his Garmin-Sharp team at the base of the final 6.1-mile climb. Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) set a furious pace, which shattered the small lead group.
From that point on, Danielson was only challenged by Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida), but before they even saw the five kilometers-to-go marker, Horner was dropped, and Danielson soloed to victory with a comfortable 56-second advantage over the Vuelta a España champion.
“I’ve never won a stage like that before, especially with the pressure on [me],” Danielson said. “I came into this race and I just put my hand up. I didn’t want to be one of those guys that says, ‘Oh, whatever, I don’t know…’ I wanted to just deal with the full pressure and overcome it. So I put my hand up and then my teammates turned themselves inside out. Winning a stage like that after your teammates have worked so hard for you, there’s no better feeling in the world than that.”
Danielson is now first overall in the Tour of Utah, followed by Ben Hermans (BMC), 56 seconds behind, and Horner third, 57 seconds in arrears.
Big early breakaway
Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) was again a protagonist, along with Dylan Theuns (BMC).
The two summited the category 2 climb up North Ogden Divide about 12 miles into the race, with Theuns taking maximum points, followed by Voigt, then the king of the mountains leader, Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Sportswear Development).
The breakaway group then grew in size to nine riders, as others jumped across the gap, but Cannondale was not content with the scenario and pulled the move back.
After about 30 miles of racing, the next move went up the road, with eight riders attacking. They were soon joined by several other attackers, coming in twos and threes, to eventually form the final selection of 14 riders: Thomas Dekker (Garmin-Sharp), Luca Dodi (Lampre-Merida), Andrea Vaccher (Lampre-Merida), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Yannick Eijssen (BMC), Ryan Eastman (Trek Factory Racing), Alex Kirsch (Trek Factory Racing), Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin), Jonathan Clark (UnitedHealthcare), Jeffry Louder (UnitedHealthcare), Thomas Soladay (Optum), Travis Mccabe (SmartStop), and Gregory Daniel (Bissell Development).
On the first trip through Eden, Basso won the bonus sprint, followed by Vaccher and Dodi.
With several riders within 17 seconds of the GC lead and a general lack of cooperation, the break rarely saw its gap grow beyond one minute on the stage’s flat miles around Pineview Reservoir.
Sensing the danger, Louder and Eijssen attacked, attempting to create their own counter-move. Their gap over the chasing field was small, and soon Voigt and Riccardo Zoidl (Trek Factory Racing) jumped clear to bridge up to the two leaders.
Gradually, the attacking riders gave up on the move, until Zoidl was alone at the front. Soon, with around 15 miles remaining in the race, the field reabsorbed the Austrian, with Garmin-Sharp firmly in control at the front of the peloton.
Toward the top of the day’s second KOM, the return trip over North Ogden Divide, Alex Diniz (Funvic) attacked and soon had a gap of 17 seconds. The reward for his efforts was first place over the divide. He was followed by a chase group of 24 riders. Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp) took second over the climb. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) was third.
Powder Mountain finale
By the time they reached the base of the day’s final climb, up Powder Mountain, the lead group was established, with a two-minute lead over the peloton. The group included notables like Cadel Evans (BMC), Carter Jones (Optum), Horner, Danielson, Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare), and Basso.
Garmin-Sharp got down to business immediately, putting Howes on the front to set a blistering pace on the false-flat run-in. The group quickly shattered.
“We were under a lot of pressure. We have a young team here, and guys that just came from the Tour de France that are young, so they’ve got a lot on their plates,” Danielson said. “Ben [King] was not even sure he could start this morning because he’s in such a bad place with [his shoulder]. But today he ended up being the MVP, holding that 14-man break by himself. The team really stepped it up today; they were really throwing everything at them.”
Lampre-Merida’s Winner Anacona made a daring solo move with about 4.5 miles to go, but he was soon reeled in by Danielson and Horner, who had just dropped Evans.
Horner didn’t last much longer at the front with his American compatriot. About 3.5 miles from the top, Danielson got a gap and never looked back.
“I just kept trying to ride a really constant pace and we were flying…going at 400 watts, I don’t think anyone could go faster than that at that high altitude,” Danielson said. “So it was pretty cool to be there with him. And then it was a really long way to the finish! [laughs] I even took a gel on the climb.”
Horner didn’t crack, but he was unable to elevate the pace to match Danielson.
“I didn’t seem to be affected too much by the bronchitis,” Horner said of the respiratory infection he’s been struggling with since the Tour de France. “I could feel it a little bit earlier in the stage. I could feel it a lot yesterday, but maybe there was more smog down there. More importantly though, I’m on multiple different cold medications so maybe it has a little affect here or there. Clearly there was good power up the climb today, so I can’t complain much. I’m on the right path to go win the Vuelta again.”
Just under two miles from the top, Hermans caught Horner and the two rode together, keeping the Garmin-Sharp leader’s gap to just under one minute.
After 3,106 feet of climbing, some of it nearing a 17 percent gradient, Danielson came across the line alone.
Hermans did the lion’s share of the work to cross the line 56 seconds behind, with Horner right on his wheel. Anacona was fourth, 1:47 behind, and Diniz finished fifth, 2:06 off of Danielson’s winning time.
“I rode my own tempo,” Hermans said. “It is at altitude, so you don’t want to go over your threshold. So I pulled with Chris [Horner] as fast as I could to keep the gap as low as a possible.”
Friday’s 101.4-mile stage from Evanston, Wyoming to Kamas, Utah will offer one major climb, over Bald Mountain, before about 50 miles of downhill and flats to the finish.