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For the second day in a row, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) won a mountainous stage at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. And for the second year in a row, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) took the overall victory.
Evans, who is headed to the Vuelta a España later this month, won the sprint for the finish line from a five-man group after bridging across a 20-second gap to four leaders — Danielson, Chris Horner and Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida), and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin).
It was the second consecutive day that Evans bridged across to a leading group, and then won the stage with a strong, tactical finishing sprint.
“Today came as a pleasant surprise actually,” Evans said. “After yesterday’s effort I didn’t have too high of expectations. It’s been really hard racing, really competitive racing, at a high level every day. It’s been quite unrelenting, whether it’s flat or windy or uphill – it’s been uphill a lot – I’m coming better as the race comes on. It’s a good sign for me for my future races. Really, just a great surprise. I’ve been coming to dinner all week here in Park City on Main Street, so I’m really happy to get a stage win here as well.”
Kelderman finished second on the day, with Anacona third, and Horner fifth.
Danielson, who is headed to the USA Pro Challenge later this month, sat up in the final 500 meters of the stage, waving at the crowd and celebrating his overall win as he crossed the finish line fifth, a handful of seconds behind Evans.
“It’s magic,” Danielson said. “You come down that straight with all the fans. I wanted to start crying because there’s so much work put into it.”
Park City to Park City
For the fourth time in its history, the Tour of Utah returned to Park City for its finale.
This 78-mile stage was introduced last year, rolling out of Park City into rural, eastern Summit County before cresting a category 2 climb at Wolf Creek Ranch at mile 35, descending into Midway, and then tackling the toughest climb of the seven-day race, the 7.7-mile climb of Empire Pass, which gains 3,045 feet of elevation, averaging 7.5 percent, with several sections that exceed 20 percent.
Following the climb up Empire Pass was a six-mile descent into the finish in Park City.
After a fast and furious start that saw several escapes form and be reeled back by a Garmin-led peloton, the day’s main breakaway did not form until mile 21.
In the move: Cristiano Salerno (Cannondale), Maarten Tjallingi (Belkin), Jai Crawford (Drapac), Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly), Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Joe Lewis (Hincapie Sportswear), Tanner Putt (Bissell), and James Oram (Bissell).
Back in the peloton, Belkin came to the front to help set the pace, looking to set up Kelderman for the stage win, and to move up on the general classification — the Dutch rider started the stage fifth overall, 2:00 down on Danielson, and behind Horner, Ben Hermans (BMC Racing), and Anacona.
Forty-six miles into the stage, the gap was pegged at 2:15. From the breakaway, Lewis pulled off, and abandoned the race.
The mighty climb up Empire Pass
At the bottom of Empire Pass, the gap had come down to 35 seconds, and the GC contenders prepared to do battle on the final climb of the seven-day race as the peloton absorbed the break.
“The biggest thing I was worried about was dropping a chain or having a bike mechanical like yesterday,” Danielson said. “So I was leaving a lot in the tank so I could deal with those problems.”
Anacona attacked first, drawing out Danielson, and initially gapping off Horner. Cannondale’s George Bennett momentarily tried to keep the pace, but could not.
Danielson then counterattacked, and the two riders went clear. A few kilometers later, Horner bridged up, creating a lead group of three — two Lampre riders and Danielson.
Behind, Kelderman and Bennett chased, while a little further back, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Carter Jones (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) chased in a small group.
Kelderman ultimately bridged across alone, at 12km to go. Horner, who had been driving the lead group, did not look happy about the company.
Behind, Evans chased with Jones on his wheel, 20 seconds behind the four leaders.
As they crested the summit, Horner went to the front, at speeds that occasionally gapped off Anacona. Behind, Evans gapped off Jones and gained contact with the front four with 3.5 miles remaining.
“Today’s stage, I really wasn’t affected by [the chest infection],” Horner said. “It stayed dry all day, so I had the best legs today; I didn’t seem to be affected by the breathing at all. Today was the first day I felt normal, more or less.”
On the final lefthand turn, Evans swung wide at a speed that eclipsed the others, and won the sprint to the line.
Though the final results saw Danielson on top once again, he said the race felt entirely different from last year.
“It was totally different [this year]… I put my hand up to win this year. A lot harder, a lot more pressure on the team, a younger, less experienced team this year, with a lot of kinks along the way – illness, crashes and stuff like that – everybody performed above and beyond. It was the least I could do to perform well on my end.”
Final classification winners
Anacona moved from fourth overall into third, leapfrogging Hermans, who finished 25 seconds down on the stage. Kelderman finished fifth overall, with Evans sixth, and Jones seventh.
Former race leader Jure Kocjan (SmartStop) won the race’s sprint points competition.
Hincapie Sportswear’s Joey Rosskopf was awarded the King of the Mountains jersey.
Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) was awarded top honors as the race’s best young rider.
Anacona was awarded the most aggressive rider on the stage, and Lampre was awarded with the best team classification.