Wednesday’s Tour of Utah stage winner, Fly V Australia’s David Tanner, quietly ate a plate of eggs by himself Wednesday morning, at the race hotel in Salt Lake City. The Aussie from Melbourne was anything but quiet seven hours later, when he outsprinted Trek-Livestrong’s Alex Dowsett for the stage.
Tanner and Dowsett — who took over the race lead from his teammate, prologue winner Taylor Phinney — had broken away from a breakaway of six riders on the descent of Emigration Canyon; they finished 26 seconds ahead of the field sprint, won by Team Type 1’s Javier Megias Leal.
Dowsett, the European U23 time trial champion, was second in the prologue, finishing three seconds behind Phinney. He won’t go cold — he now owns the race leader’s jersey and the climbers’ and best young rider jerseys. Tanner added to his wardrobe, too, as he now leads the sprinters’ competition. Jeff Louder (BMC Racing) retained the lead in the best Utah rider competition.
Heat, climbs; must be Utah
Stage 1 got under way beneath a burning Utah sun Wednesday morning at Union Station in Ogden, Utah. Temperatures were in the upper eighties at the line by start time, but the cover of the Ogden Canyon gave the peloton respite from the heat as the group finished the neutral roll-out.
A number of riders got chippy in the gradual ascent of the canyon. Local Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Australian Ben King (Trek-Livestrong) were among those to test the waters early. The peloton was all-together as they crested onto the shores of Pineview Reservoir.
An exposed circumnavigation of the reservoir led the group to the day’s first intermediate sprint in Huntsville. Attack after attack flew ahead of the sprint, but nothing was able to get wings. Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong) opened his bid to trade his yellow jersey for the brown sprinter’s frock, taking out the first sprint ahead of Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Robbie Squire (Holowesko Partners).
Andrei Krasilnikay (Holowesko Partners) was an early aggressor and he jumped into a promising move with Jeremy Vennell (Bissell), Chad Beyer (BMC), Brad White (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) and Jay Thompson (Fly V Australia) after the sprint. The dangerous fivesome wasn’t allowed any room to operate, though.
Punchy at Snowbasin
The field was all together as it rode onto the base of the day’s first KOM climb of Old Snowbasin Road. A group of five jumped off early on the 2,500-foot ascent: Christopher Parrish (Hagens Berman), Jonathan Baker (Kenda-Geargrinder), Alex Hagman (On the Rivet), Lachlan Morton (Holowesko Partners) and Joshua Bennett (California Giant Berry Farms).
The group could only build a gap of 20 seconds over the opening miles of the climb. Redtail hawks looked down from the near cloudless sky as the peloton drew the escapees in 2.3 miles from the summit of the climb.
Another group, including Dowsett and his Trek teammate Julian Kyer, countered the catch and went over the KOM 30 seconds clear of the first chase group. Robbie Squire (Holowesko) and Morgan Schmitt (UnitedHealthcare) were there as well, but it was Kyer who took full points atop the climb.
Back in the quickly shrinking first chase group, defending overall champion Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles) attacked high on the climb, splitting the field across the slopes of Snowbasin. Six riders went over the summit together and quickly absorbed the leaders to make a front group of 10 riders. “Mancebo drilled it over the top and basically blew it to bits,” said Louder.
The high-speed, three-lane descent of SR 167 saw constant reshuffling in the front group, which pulsated between five and 25 riders. When they reached the Morgan Valley after seven high-speed miles, the lead group was 13 riders thick. The split looked to be set for a run at the finish and included Kyer, Johnson, Thompson, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Rob Britton (Bissell), Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home), Ian Holt (Rio Grande Racing), Max Jenkins and Chris Baldwin (UnitedHealtchcare), Krasilnikay, Taylor Sheldon and Caleb Fairly (Holowesko), Davide Frattini and Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1).
Tensions built in the group as they approached the gradual rise to the East Canyon Dam. “No one could just get organized,” said Fairly. “People kept skipping out on pulls and you know, when you see someone skipping a pull, you skip one and that’s what happened.”
Johnson took the day’s second intermediate sprint, but the combination clearly wasn’t working, so Jacques-Maynes went on the attack. “Once it got established, everyone wanted to sit on, no one wanted to work really hard, so I attacked again,” said Bissell’s strong all-rounder. Jacques-Maynes drew out Frattini and Tanner and the trio rolled even turns around the north side of the reservoir.
Meanwhile, the field regrouped 2:30 behind and opened a full gas chase as they neared the dam. “We started messing around and (Ben) attacked and got away and we got absorbed by the peloton.” The 80-rider-strong peloton was single file when they reached the water and scooped up a cramping Holt and the other remnants of the break – other than the leading trio.
Ben King (Trek) and Phil Gaimon (Kenda) attacked the field on a small rise near the day’s final feedzone. When Dowsett sensed the group backing off, he launched a bid to bridge to his Aussie teammate and protect his team’s leader’s jersey. “With such small margins after the prologue, if there’s ever a day to do it, it’s today,” said Dowsett. “There was a lull in the bunch, everyone was just chilling out, so my thoughts initially were, ‘I’ll get myself a gap before the climb and stay with the front group until we make the top.’ I really never had staying away in my mind, to be honest.”
When Dowsett made contact with King and Gaimon, the former went to the front of the group and pulled them across the gap to the leaders. As they reached the foot of the Big Mountain climb, 21 miles from the finish, the breakaway was six riders strong and held a 1:40 advantage.
“When it was Davide, myself and Tanner, I thought we had a chance,” said Jacques-Maynes. “Then when the other three came on right at the bottom of the climb, I was thinking, ‘This could work out.’ Unfortunately, there was a six-mile climb in the way of that, so it didn’t work out too well for me.”
The final selection
The leaders worked together over the first half of the climb, which wound over steep ramps and false flats through high-altitude forest. King killed himself with long pulls to put his teammate into the overall lead before falling off of the pace. Jacques-Maynes and then Frattini were the next to come off, high on the ascent. At that point, the pace making fell to Dowsett, as Tanner’s GC leaders were in the first chase.
“I sort of pulled all the way to the top,” said Dowsett. “Dave had some GC stuff within the team, so he was sitting on.”
By the time he began skipping pulls, Tanner was sure the stage winner would come from the break. “We worked well together and we rode fairly hard up the climb and at the top, I was fairly certain we’d pull it off,” he said. “We really cooperated. Alex was riding for GC and it was the perfect combination.”
BMC was setting pace back in the field to keep the leaders in check. “We put Chad Beyer on the front,” said Louder. “He rode the whole thing bottom to top in the group and I thought it was pretty steady. He pretty much rode it down to that front group by himself.”
As the trio fought a headwind and off-camber corners down Emigration Canyon, Gaimon couldn’t hold on and as they reached the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Dowsett and Tanner were alone. “It was definitely his job to do more work than me,” said Tanner, who benefited from the Brit’s pursuit of the GC lead. “He knew that, I knew that. I cooperated, but at the end of the day that’s just how it works in cycling.”
As they turned onto the finish straight Tanner jumped his companion and rode away with the stage win that he has focused on for much of the season. “Ever since I knew I was doing this race, I really targeted this stage,” he said. “I’ve really concentrated on this stage and gave it everything today. I knew that for a stage win this was probably my opportunity, so I’m rapped to be able to pull of a win like that.”
With an even harder day ahead, the 25-year-old Aussie from Melbourne said he’d cap the day with a cold beer and a soft pillow by 10:00 p.m.
Megias outsprinted Fairly and Frank Pipp (Bissell) in the field, which trimmed the gap to just 26 seconds by the finish.
Dowsett began the day 15 seconds ahead of Tanner and finished just four seconds back to secure the yellow jersey. Tanner moved into second overall, at 11 seconds. Brent Bookwalter (BMC) finished with the first chase group to move into third overall, at 40 seconds.
“I was more concerned about yellow,” said Dowsett of the work he did over the closing miles. “I know Dave quite well and I know that he has quite a kick on him, so I didn’t really fancy my chances at the finish anyway. To be honest, yellow was more the priority. If I can squeeze a couple more seconds out, that could well be good what with the mountaintop finish tomorrow and then the time trial. If I can limit my losses tomorrow and then do a good time trial, we’ll see what happens in the crit and the final stage.”
When tomorrow comes
The tomorrow Dowsett spoke of is the Mount Nebo stage, which finishes high up the tallest peak in the Wasatch Range. The 78.5-mile stage starts in Thanksgiving Point at 10:00 a.m. and rides the flat edge of Utah Lake for the opening 55 miles. When the race turns through Nephi, the road pitches up, climbing 20 miles up the south side of the peak.
The most consistently steep terrain lies low on the climb, just past the winter closure gate. Much of the rolling terrain found high on last year’s ascent of the northern flank is missing. The 10-plus-percent lower reaches give way to a series of long, gradual slopes, short, power climbs and sub-one-minute descents.
Dowsett hadn’t seen the climb, but planned to fight tooth and nail to defend his lead. “I just know that it’s flat and uphill,” said the all-rounder. “That’s good enough for me.”
- 1. David TANNER, (AUS) V Australia, in 03:22:11, 10s bonus
- 2. Alex DOWSETT, (GBR) Trek-Livestrong, at s.t. 6s bonus
- 3. Javier MEGIAS LEAL, (ESP) Team Type 1, at 26 4s bonus
- 4. Caleb FAIRLY, (USA) Team Holowesko Partners, at s.t.
- 5. K Frank PIPP, (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling Team, at s.t.
- 1. Alex DOWSETT, (GBR) Trek-Livestrong, in 3:28:16
- 2. David TANNER, (AUS) V Australia, at 00:00:11
- 3. Brent BOOKWALTER, (USA) BMC Racing Team, at 00:00:40
- 4. Rory SUTHERLAND, (AUS) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling P/b Maxxis, at 00:00:41
- 5. Jeff LOUDER, (USA) BMC Racing Team, at 00:00:44