PARK CITY, Utah (VN) — When organizers released the list of teams participating in the 2011 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, there was a fair amount of grumbling that certain domestic teams were excluded in favor of lesser-known teams from Colombia.
Those complaints can stop now.
Sergio Luis Henao, riding for the Gobernacion de Antioquia-Indeportes Antioguia squad, set a blistering pace up the mountainside at Park City’s Utah Olympic Park to grab the leader’s yellow jersey heading into Tuesday’s stage 1 in Ogden.
Leading a Latin show of power, Henao’s time of 4:05 was two seconds faster than Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) and five seconds better than that of Henao’s teammate Oscar Sevilla.
Henao, speaking through a translator, described the prologue as “very short, but very explosive.”
The nasty little climb beside the Olympic bobsled course is only 1.25 miles, but packs a punch with more than 600 feet of vertical gain. After a brief downhill stretch out of the starting chute, riders immediately tilt uphill and begin searching for a smaller gear; even the best of time trial specialists struggled to match the pace of the climbers.
Henao, a past winner of the grueling Vuelta de Colombia, didn’t come to Utah as a marked man. He will certainly be marked by those in the peloton now — with or without the leader’s yellow jersey.
Mancebo, the 2009 overall winner of the Tour of Utah and currently the most-successful racer on the National Racing Calendar, will likewise be marked and said he was satisfied with his result.
“The most important thing was to not lose too much time,” Mancebo said, also through a translator. “This year is more difficult because we have more strong teams. So we have to be in good condition.”
HTC-Highroad’s Tejay Van Garderen missed out on a podium spot by less than a second while Garmin-Cervelo’s Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde sandwiched RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer on the clock at less than 10 seconds off the winning time.
Utah native and six-time U.S. time trial champion Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo) rolled across the line 34 seconds off the time posted by Henao. Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home) sat in the hot seat for nearly an hour after setting the early best time at 4:16.
Wren’s time held up for a long time and he ended up with a more than respectable ninth-place finish on the day and will wear the Best Utah Rider jersey on Tuesday.
But with an all Spanish-speaking podium for now, the Latin revolution at the Tour of Utah is in full effect.
This year, many of the sprint points also feature time bonuses and will throw a new wrinkle into those stages by forcing the chase.
Tuesday’s stage is a three-lap circuit around the Ogden Valley in northern Utah and includes a rugged climb up the North Ogden Pass for KOM points before returning to downtown Ogden for the sprints.
Mancebo won a stage two years ago that included the North Ogden Pass and knows it will be more challenging to do the same this year.
“The experience of people competing this year is a lot higher,” Mancebo said. “That will make it a lot more difficult to win.”
Mixing in the sprints and time bonuses will add compelling storylines within the stage, but Mancebo said there will be plenty of time left to reel in the sprinters after the true climbing stages begin.
“For us, the climbers, the sprinters can take all the bonuses,” he said, saying any time the sprinters take early will be lost in the time trial and the mountains. “That’s not too important for the GC, I think.”
Henao, racing in America for the first time, is no longer content to simply enjoy the experience. And with Sevilla, a veteran of racing in the U.S. and in Europe as a trusted teammate and a GC threat himself also on the Gobernacion de Antioquia-Indeportes Antioguia team, the young Colombian will change his goals.
“We are a modest team and we are in competition with really great teams,” Henao said. “But we are here to have a really great showing and we will fight every day.”
- 1. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya, Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antio, in 4:05
- 2. Francisco Mancebo Perez, Realcyclist.com Cycling Team, in 4:07
- 3. Oscar Sevilla Ribera, Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antio, in 4:10
- 4. Tejay Van Garderen, HTC-Highroad, in 4:10
- 5. Thomas Danielson, Team Garmin-Cervelo, in 4:12