Keough wins stage 4 at Tour of Utah; Vande Velde stays in yellow

American makes a statement with his downtown Salt Lake City stage win

Jake Keough won stage 4 of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah on Friday in Salt Lake City. Keough took UnitedHealthcare’s second stage of the race after Rory Sutherland won Tuesday in Ogden.

Marco Benfatto (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was second and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) finished third.

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) finished in the peloton to retain his overall lead with two stages remaining.

“It feels good. There’s a lot of high quality riders here,” Keough said. “I’m still learning. I’m still trying to progress. I’m kind of making these small steps one at a time.”

A nearby wildfire threatened to shorten Friday’s 134-mile stage, but organizers pressed on with the original route.

Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Thomas Leezer (Rabobank), Yann Huguet (Argos-Shimano), Craig Lewis (Champion System), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) and Jasper Stuyven (Bontrager-Livestrong) rode away from the field early on in the race’s longest stage.

The escapees pushed their gap out to almost 11 minutes inside the first 35 miles of Friday’s jaunt from the west of Nehi, north of Provo, to downtown Salt Lake City. With no categorized climbs, Friday’s stage provided a moment of respite for riders before Saturday’s 100-mile, three-climb race to Snowbird, at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

UnitedHealthcare chipped into the chase and best Utah rider Jeff Louder said a tailwind made it a hard job.

“I knew in the back of my mind that once things got pretty dire I was going to have to jump in,” said Louder. “It’s a team effort to win a sprint.

With 18 miles to go, the breakaway riders decided to go all the way to the line.

“We decided to go full gas and stay away,” said Stuyven. “I think everyone was suffering at that point. A long day. A windy day. I think that we rode well together… I think everyone is very tired now.”

The peloton timed the catch perfectly, scooping up the last of the breakaway with the finish in sight.

“We only caught the break just out of the last corner,” said Keough. “I was kind of battling the Optum guys because I was stuck on the outside.

“Then Tyler (Farrar) jumped and I came on his wheel and did the sprint… It felt good.”

Keough stormed away from the field to earn the biggest victory of his young career.