Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo) continued his stunning run of form with a spectacular victory on the sixth and final stage of the 2018 Tour of Utah on Sunday. BMC’s Brent Bookwalter and Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott), who were close to catching Kuss in the final meters, finished second and third. Haig’s ride was good enough to move him from fifth to third place overall, while Israel Cycling Academy’s Ben Hermans finished 38-seconds back to hold on to his overall runner-up position.
The 126-kilometer final stage started and finished in Park City and featured a final climb up the steep Empire Pass, before a fast 8-kilometer descent to the finish line. A large breakaway got away early, but the LottoNL-Jumbo team of race leader Kuss held the gap to a small margin of roughly four minutes.
The gap was small enough that a group including Isiah Newkirk (303 Project) and Rally Cycling teammates Evan Huffman and Kyle Murphy attacked out of the peloton to bridge up to the break. Newkirk and Huffman blew up a few meters before making contact with the early break, while Murphy successfully made contact directly before the race hit the final climb up Empire Pass.
EF Education First-Drapac’s Nate Brown attacked while the break was on the lower slopes of the climb and quickly established a gap. Back in the peloton, Kuss found himself isolated from his LottoNL teammates. Haig attacked in an attempt to capitalize on the situation, but Kuss was able to follow the move with ease, while Hugh Carthy (EF Education First-Drapac) dug deep to go with the duo.
However, Carthy found himself unable to follow the pace shortly after. After a few kilometers of following Haig, Kuss attacked to set off in hot pursuit of the lone leader Brown.
Kuss would quickly catch and drop Brown and continued to build his advantage over the chasers while pushing a massive gear to the summit of the climb. By the summit, Kuss held a 45-second lead on a revived Carthy and chasing Haig and Keegan Swirbul (Jelly Belly-Maxxis).
Kuss descended slowly down the rain-soaked descent, while Bookwalter was able to take risks to catch and pass the more cautious Carthy and Swirbul.
Kuss entered the final kilometer in downtown Park City with his overall race lead locked up, but the stage win was still on the line as Haig and Bookwalter were closing down on him on the uphill pitch to the finish line. However, Kuss dug deep to find the strength to hold them off as he crossed the line for his third stage win of the week and an impressive overall victory.
Kuss’s victory came in conjunction with an announcement that his LottoNL-Jumbo team was planning to take the young American sensation to the upcoming Vuelta a Espana.