The Tour of Utah kicks off on Monday with its traditional climb-heavy route, which traces a line from Zion National Park in the state’s southwest corner to its finish high in the Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City. As it has done since 2012, the seven-day race will finish with two brutal stages that should decide the overall.
On Saturday, August 6, the peloton climbs up and over Guardsman Pass before finishing up the Little Cottonwood canyon climb to Snowbird Ski Resort. On Sunday, August 7, the race concludes with the ascent of Empire Pass, followed by the fast finish into Park City. Keeping to its traditional format, the 2016 race does not feature a time trial.
The route heavily favors its defending champion Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale – Drapac), who enters the race as he prepares for the second grand tour of his 2016, the Vuelta a España.
Dombrowski enters the race after an impressive Spring campaign. He was a regular aggressor during the Giro d’Italia before helping his teammate Andrew Talansky finish fifth at the Tour de Suisse.
Dombrowski said he expects a challenge in Utah to come from other top climbers.
“Lachlan [Morton] (Jelly Belly) will be there for sure. I think Darwin Atapuma (BMC) could also be good,” Dombrowski said. “There are always guys who come out of the woodwork. You can’t write anybody off.”
Dombrowski’s Cannondale – Drapac enter the race with one of the strongest teams on paper. Shepherding Dombrowski are Talansky, Ben King, Alex Howes, Alberto Bettiol, PHil Gaimon and Jonathan Dibben.
“I just want to stay out of trouble for the first few days,” Dombrowski said. “We have some guys who can look for breakaways, and we even have some guys who are fast finishers.”
There are other strong teams that could challenge Cannondale on the climbs. Trek – Segafredo enter the race with three cards to play: American Peter Stetina is joined by Laurent Didier and Julien Bernard. UnitedHealthcare has climbers Jonathan Clarke, Matthew Busche and Janez Brajkovic.
Other challenges could come from Rob Squire (Holowesko – Hincapie) and Rob Britton (Rally Cycling). Another rider to watch is former Giro d’Italia champion Damiano Cunego, who is at the race riding with the Nippo – Vini Fantini Pro Continental squad.
Perhaps the biggest challenge will come from the Axeon Hagens Berman squad. The talented U23 team enters the race with current U.S. national champion Gregory Daniel, as well as talented stage racers Adrien Costa, Neilson Powless and Tao Geoghegan-Hart.
“Last year we had a stage win and I won the KOM jersey,” Daniel said. “I don’t know if we can do that again this year, but we’ll be aggressive.”
Opportunistic GC riders have an extra opportunity this year to snag a lead. On Wednesday, Aug. 3 the race summits 9,360-foot Mt. Nebo before dropping to the finish line in Payson.
Chris Horner, who finished second in 2013 behind Tom Danielson, said the race could come down to how well Dombrowski’s team is able to protect its leader. Horner is competing in the race for Team Lupus.
“You gotta make Cannondale do every bit of work on as many stages,” Horner said. “Then I try and follow Joe as long as I can and hope everything works out.”
2016 Tour of Utah (August 1-7)
Stage 1: Zion Canyon Village – Cedar City
Stage 2: Escalante – Torrey
Stage 3: Richfield – Payson
Stage 4: IM Flash – Kearns
Stage 5: Antelope Island – Bountiful
Stage 6: Snowbasin Resort – Snowbird Ski Resort
Stage 7: Park City – Park City