SALT LAKE CITY (VN) — By the end of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah’s stage 4, the sweat — if there was any fluid left in the peloton — was dripping in buckets.
So, too, were the comments about the brutally tough the 7.4-mile circuit around the downtown of Utah’s capitol city.
At the finish, though, is was a rider from Colombia — where cyclists are no stranger to heat and altitude — who broke free on the final ascent of Salt Lake City’s Capitol Hill for the victory.
“I am extremely happy,” Javier Acevedo, of the Gobernacion de Antioqia team, said through a translater. “It is hard to win a stage anywhere in the world, but today it was especially difficult.”
Acevedo and the rest of the Gobernacion team entered the stage with a distinct plan after losing Sergio Henao’s yellow jersey Friday night. The plan was to be a part of any breakaway attempt and put as much pressure as possible on Levi Leipheimer and the RadioShack team.
It was mission accomplished in that regard as the breakaway group swelled to 24 riders and was able to push its lead to more than 2:30 after six of the 11 laps. After the break assembled, Leipheimer’s teammates took charge at the front and desperately tried to drag the new yellow jersey owner closer to the front. But the damage done by the breakaway — not to mention the searing heat and nasty hard course — took its toll on the RadioShack riders, who were dropped from the chase group, leaving Leipheimer and Janez Brajkovic to forge reluctant alliances with other racers fearful of falling down the overall standings.
Leipheimer finished 1:38 behind Acevedo and was able to hold on to the yellow jersey by a slim 23 seconds over Henao who escaped from Leipheimer’s chase group on the final lap and rolled across the finish line 33 seconds earlier.
“It was difficult,” Leipheimer said after the stage. “We were under pressure the entire time and with the finish the way it was, I had to leave something in reserve for that last lap and climb.”
The circuit, dubbed the Louder Loop because it has been a popular training ride for BMC rider Jeff Louder and his father, Ken, over the years, featured a gnarly little climb up State Street to the Capitol with grades in excess of 13 percent at points. A long false-flat section after the steeps kept heart rates pegged and made for an exciting day of racing with thousands of fans lining the streets and ringing cowbells.
Acevedo proved the smartest on the day as he placed himself in the winning break, then jumped at precisely the correct time to open a 5-second gap at the finish line. That result helped him move from 25th to eighth in the GC. Henoa also moved up, climbing back to second. And the Gobernacion team is already looking forward to the challenge on Sunday’s Queen Stage from Park City to Snowbird.
With temperatures in the upper 90s and only a slight breeze blowing, staying hydrated in the dry Utah air was a constant challenge. Several riders commented publicly and on Twitter about the difficulty of the stage.
“I have a feeling that the Colombians were the only riders happy with how hard today’s stage was,” tweeted United Healthcare’s Davide Frattini.
Another racer, Bissell’s Jeremy Vennell, sent his comment directly to the course designer, Burke Swindlehurst.
“Text from a rider a few mins ago re; today’s course “Ur trying to kill me arnt u!” Me: “not you specifically” (evil grin),” Swindelhurst tweeted.
One rider who didn’t mind the course was Liquigas-Cannondale’s Tim Duggan.
“I’ve got to say this kind of race is my absolute favorite,” Duggan said after showing strongly in both intermediate sprints and jumping up the GC from 15th to sixth and shaving a whopping 1:37 off his time behind Leipheimer. “I wish every race was like this, with a circuit with a hill and a really great crowd.”
With the GC tightened up a bit and the contenders well within shouting distance of each other, Sunday’s final stage should hold all sorts of intrigue. Starting in Park City at 11 a.m., stage 5 includes roughly 100 miles of racing with 10,900 feet of climbing. The course has three categorized climbs, including a l’Alpe d’Huez-rivaling ascent of Little Cottonwood Canyon to the finish line at Snowbird.
There will be ample room for error as well as a race-changing break.
- 1. Javier Alexis Acevedo Colle, (COL) Gobernacion De Antioquia – Indeportes Antiquia, in 2:56:18
- 2. Javier Megias Leal, (ESP) Team Type 1, at s.t.:05
- 3. Rubens Bertogliati, (SUI) Team Type 1, at s.t.:06
- 4. Francisco Mancebo Perez, (ESP) Realcyclist.Com Cycling Team, s.t.
- 5. Chad Beyer, (USA) BMC Racing Team, s.t.
- 1. Levi Leipheimer, (USA) Team RadioShack, in 11:32:59
- 2. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya, (COL) Gobernacion De Antioquia – Indeportes Antiquia, at s.t.:23
- 3. Janez Brajkovic, (SLO) Team RadioShack, at s.t.:27
- 4. Oscar Sevilla Ribera, (ESP) Gobernacion De Antioquia – Indeportes Antiquia, at s.t.:29
- 5. Christian Vande Velde, (USA) Garmin-Cervelo, at 01:18