Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo) attacked on the lower slopes of the climb to the finish at Snowbird Resort on stage five of the 2018 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and emphatically took his second stage win of the week. The young climber also extended his lead in the general classification with just one stage remaining in the race.
EF Education First-Drapac drove the peloton to the base of the Hors catégorie final climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon and started attacking the greatly reduced peloton as the road kicked upward. First, Mike Woods had a go and then Joe Dombrowski, a former overall winner of the Tour of Utah, attacked. Kuss looked cool, calm, and collected the entire time. He brought both Woods and Dombrowski back into the fold himself before launching his winning attack with 8.2 kilometers still to go.
“It was really cool,” Kuss said of coming down the finishing straight alone and high-fiving fans. “Halfway through the stage, the team had done such a good job that I thought I’d try to go for the win, to do it for the six guys on the team that helped me out so much. To make it across I was happier for them and the staff and everything because it’s been such a nice atmosphere at the race with this team. Really all credit to them and also the fans and everything. It’s fun to be able to relate to the people that are watching the race and have a good time with them.”
Israel Cycling Academy’s Ben Hermans chased Kuss valiantly up the climb and finished the stage in second, over 30 seconds down on Kuss. He also moved into second overall 1:21 behind Kuss. Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) rounded out the stage podium.
Dombrowski still had a solid ride up the climb to move into third overall at 2:05. Nielson Powless (LottoNL-Jumbo), who entered the day sitting second overall, had a tough time up the final climb and lost considerable time. He relinquished his Best Young Rider jersey to Luis Villalobos (Aevolo).
How it unfolded
The rolling terrain at the beginning of the fifth stage of the 2018 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah saw an exciting start with constant attacking. It was nearly an hour of racing into the 157.7-kilometer stage from Canyons Village to the ski resort at Snowbird before a breakaway was firmly established. Team LottoNL-Jumbo then took the responsibility of setting the pace in the peloton, as they have done since Kuss captured the yellow leader’s jersey on stage two.
The breakaway contained 10 riders with Evan Huffman (Rally) the highest ranked rider in the overall standings at less than four minutes down. Joining Huffman were Daniel Jaramillo and Jonny Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Taylor Shelden (Jelly Belly), Kilian Frankiny (BMC Racing), Kiel Reijnen and Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo), Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott), Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy), and Ivan Santaromita (Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini).
The leading group entered the town of Park City and soon headed up the penultimate climb of the day with less than 60 kilometers remaining. The cat. 1 Guardsmans Pass (12km at 6.8%) is a brutal affair with the final few hundred meters of the climb having rough pavement and incredibly steep gradients. Shelden would be the only breakaway rider dropped on the climb. The peloton would be no more than about 30 riders by the time they arrived at the summit of Guardsmans Pass and they would be less than two minutes behind the leaders.
Heading into the climb to the finish, there was a changing of the guard at the front of the peloton with EF Education First-Drapac taking over the front. The boys in pink set a blistering pace and the gap to the leaders tumbled down.
Though isolated, Kuss looked to be on cruise control on the lower slopes of the Little Cottonwood Canyon climb. Kuss didn’t necessarily attack off the front of the group, but simply increased his pace and no one was able to follow. He quickly brought back the last remaining breakaway rider, Frankiny, and powered into the lead with just over eight kilometers to go.
Hermans missed Kuss’ initial move and would chase the young rider all the way up the climb. He would limit his losses and jump up to second in the overall standings by the end of the day.
Stetina, who finished over two minutes behind on stage two over Mount Nebo, found his rhythm a couple of kilometers into the climb and powered away from the chase group to take third on the stage.
Defending champion Rob Britton (Rally) had a strong day to finish fourth. Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) and the EF Education First-Drapac duo of Dombrowski and Huge Carthy finished in the same time as Britton.