Lachlan Morton out sprinted his breakaway companion Hayden McCormick to win the fifth stage of the Tour of Utah.
Lachlan Morton is known more for his climbing than his sprinting skills. Yet on Saturday, Morton won the fifth stage of the Tour of Utah with a sprint and bike throw that would make Mark Cavendish proud.
Morton (EF Education First) out kicked his breakaway companion Hayden McCormick (Team BridgeLane) of New Zealand by nary the width of a bicycle tire to win the stage in Canyons Village.
“I’m not an amazing sprinter—my sprint stays the same,” Morton said after the win. “I could do a 30-hour race and still sprint the same. I thought if I just commit through this corner and go, the only chance to come around is in that last 50 meters, it turns out it was about a meter too late for Hayden and very perfect timing for me, which I’d love to say I planned but sometimes luck just falls that way and you get the win. That’s how the day played out.”
The sprint came at the end of a hilly 142.1-kilometer stage that saw a sizable breakaway establish early.
Present in the break were Morton and McCormick, as well as Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane), Evan Huffman (Rally-UHC), Matt Zimmer (DCBank), Michael Rice (Hagens Berman Axeon), Travis McCabe (Worthy Pro Cycling), Simone Velasco (Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia), Dylan Sunderland (Team BridgeLane), Bernat Font (303 Cycling), and Sam Boardman (Wildlife Generation Cycling).
The breakaway gained as much as five minutes on the peloton, while overnight leader Ben Hermans had his Israel Cycling Academy team riding the front.
The course’s second half gradually climbed to the finish, and included King of the Mountains climb at kilometer 99 and then a final climb just 5 kilometers from the finish atop the Utah Olympic Park climb.
Sunderland broke free from the group in the run-in to the final climb and held a small advantage on the field. Behind, it was Morton who accelerated first, dropping the pack and drawing out McCormack, who had ridden himself into the lead in the King of the Mountains competition.
Morton tried to drop the Kiwi on the ascent, which included more than a kilometer of gravel at its peak, however McCormack stayed glued to his wheel. The two plummeted to the finish together, while a group containing Canola, Boardman, and Huffman chased 15 seconds back.
The final kilometers of the course kicked back uphill to the Canyons Resort Village, and Morton surged to the front with just a few hundred meters remaining. McCormack countered Morton’s sprint with a surge of his own. But in the end, it was Morton’s bike threw that won him the day.
The stage win is Morton’s fourth at the Tour of Utah. In 2013 Morton won the third stage of the race and in 2016 he won two stages, en route to the overall victory.
Morton said he hadn’t felt on top form for much of the year. The Australian has done a mixture of road, gravel, and mountain biking this year, and just last weekend finished third at the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race.
After a few stages at the Tour of Utah—a race he won in 2016—Morton said he finally began to feel strong. The feeling helped convince him to attack into the day’s breakaway.
“I just hadn’t raced hard really since California—I had a decent result in Leadville but I didn’t feel great to be honest,” Morton said. “Then, the first few days here I knew I was missing that 10 percent you need to win here. Especially having won here before, I know what you need. I think it was just a combination of not racing and then doing a few hard races immediately before. All of a sudden it turned around last night. I knew I had it in there, but it was just a matter of getting it right.”
Behind the breakaway, the GC riders attacked each other up Olympic Park Drive, with Hagens Berman Axeons’ Joao Almeida bolting away from the group. Hermans gave chase on the final run-in to the line, and grabbed a handful of seconds on his closest rivals.
“We were lucky also that no other team was interested in the stage,” Hermans said at the finish. “So, my teammates could also have an easier day, we controlled only with one guy, Hamish Schreurs, really excellent work so the other guys could really save their legs for tomorrow. It was really nice. It was good also for EF Education so they could take a stage win.”