Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare) sprinted to victory in stage one of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Monday afternoon, out of a five-man group that contained Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing), who held on for third in his comeback race.
During a cool and rainy day of racing, Reijnen and Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin) bridged to the two remaining riders of the day’s breakaway, Greg Daniel (Axeon Cycling) and Johann Van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka), on the first of two finishing circuits. The surprise addition of Phinney, who bridged up soon thereafter, provided just enough firepower for the quintet to hold off the peloton.
On the final finishing circuit, the peloton was disorganized and the gap to the leaders began to open. Phinney charged down the 600-meter finishing straight with Reijnen tucked in behind, followed closely by Howes. Reijnen powered to victory on the slick roads, as the rain had subsided from the finish of the stage. Howes came in second with Phinney just edging out Daniel for the final spot on the podium. Van Zyl, gapped on the final run-in, held off the charging peloton to finish in fifth. Eric Young (Optum) led the peloton four seconds after Reijnen.
Uphill from the gun
The 132 -mile first stage of the 2015 edition of the race stayed true to the race’s slogan, “America’s Toughest Stage Race.” A lollipop type circuit through Logan Canyon and around Bear Lake starting and finishing in Logan included over 2,500-meters (8,700-feet) of climbing.
Despite the dismal conditions at the start and facing an uphill grade for more than the first 50km (32mi), the attacks started in earnest. A seven-rider breakaway quickly established itself and set about opening a massive gap. The breakaway included Emerson Oronte (Team Smartstop), Carlos Ramirez (Team Colombia), David Williams (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Josh Berry (Team Budget Forklifts), Daniel, and van Zyl.
Leading by nearly fourteen-minutes at one point, the moderate gradient heading up Logan Canyon allowed the breakaway to keep a decent pace and work well together. The teams of Unitedhealthcare and Drapac were the first to show interest in bringing down the gap, as the breakaway approached the top of the category 3 climb.
Daniel captured maximum points over the top, followed closely by Berry, and Ramirez. A windy and rainy descent on the wide highway created uneasiness amongst the riders in the breakaway. The group split on the descent, but did come back together.
Circumnavigating Bear Lake, the peloton crossed into Idaho for part of the stage. David Williams led the breakaway into Idaho and in the process captured the first intermediate sprint of the day, which took place on the state line. The rolling terrain around the lake allowed to peloton to considerably narrow the margin between themselves and the leaders. Back in Utah with 80km (50mi) to race the gap had shrunk to seven minutes.
Daniel took the second intermediate sprint of the day, but a big test remained — the climb back over Logan Canyon. Although shorter, it was steeper and rated as a category 2.
Not quite enough
Daniel took maximum points again over the top of Logan Canyon, uncontested. The lead group had been blown to pieces though, as only van Zyl and Oronte remained with Daniel. The long gradual uphill the riders faced going out of town now became a blitzing fast decent. The peloton crested the top of the climb in full chase mode, trailing the leaders by less than six minutes. Bardiani-CSF came to the front trying to bring the leaders back to et-up their sprints Sonny Colbrelli. High speeds and wet roads made it not a chase for the weary of hear. BMC Racing, Unitedhealthcare, Drapac were also all present at the front.
Heading into town, a tough uphill kicker dispatched Oronte from the lead group, while van Zyl powered along driving the pace, clearly stronger than Daniel.
Entering the finishing circuits the peloton had closed the gap to a mere 25-seconds, having absolutely flown down Logan Canyon. The 2.4km (1.5mi) finishing circuit included a tough little climb and immediately riders began attacking in pursuit of the leaders once the peloton got to it.
Reijnen, Howes, and Phinney were able to get across to the leading duo, while Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies tried to organize themselves to set-up Eric Young.
Ultimately, the five-escapees survived to the finish and Reijnen will roll out tomorrow wearing the leader’s yellow jersey. Howes sits four-seconds back in the general classification with Phinney a further two-seconds in the arrears.
The race continues tomorrow with a 159.6km (99.2mi) stage from Tremonton to Ogden.
Top 10, stage 1
- 1. REIJNEN Kiel, UNITEDHEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM, in 5:09:02
- 2. HOWES Alex, TEAM CANNONDALE – GARMIN, at :00
- 3. PHINNEY Taylor, BMC RACING TEAM, at :00
- 4. DANIEL Gregory, AXEON CYCLING TEAM, at :00
- 5. VAN ZYL Johann, MTN – QHUBEKA, at :00:02
- 6. YOUNG Eric, OPTUM P/B KELLY BENEFIT STRATEGIES, at :00:04
- 7. COLBRELLI Sonny, BARDIANI CSF, at :04
- 8. MOLANO Sebastián, COLOMBIA, at :04
- 9. CARPENTER Robin, HINCAPIE RACING TEAM, at :04.
- 10. HAEDO Lucas Sebastian, JAMIS – HAGENS BERMAN, at :04
Top 10, GC
- 1. REIJNEN Kiel, UNITEDHEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM, in 5:08:52
- 2. HOWES Alex, TEAM CANNONDALE – GARMIN, at :04
- 3. PHINNEY Taylor, BMC RACING TEAM, at :06
- 4. DANIEL Gregory, AXEON CYCLING TEAM, at :00:07
- 5. VAN ZYL Johann, MTN – QHUBEKA, at :11
- 6. RAMIREZ BOTERO Carlos Mario, COLOMBIA, at :00:13
- 7. YOUNG Eric, OPTUM P/B KELLY BENEFIT STRATEGIES, at :14
- 8. COLBRELLI Sonny, BARDIANI CSF, at :14.
- 9. MOLANO Sebastián, COLOMBIA, at :14.
- 10. CARPENTER Robin, HINCAPIE RACING TEAM, at :14