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The 2006 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah concluded Saturday with the much-anticipated Stage Six Snowbird Road Race, won by TIAA CREF rider Blake Caldwell. The 91-mile stage included three very difficult climbs and more than 12,000 feet of climbing as it traversed the Wasatch Mountains from Deer Valley Resort to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
The decisive third climb of the day, in Little Cottonwood Canyon affected the final General Classification as Scott Moninger took the yellow jersey from teammate and hometown favorite Jeff Louder.
Team TIAA CREF forced an early break with four riders in a group of twenty just ten miles into the stage and powered the break for the entire day. By the 28-mile mark, the lead was four minutes and growing as the race drew closer to some of the toughest climbing in American cycling. As the group of lead riders made the turn to begin the day’s first major climb to the 8,035-foot summit of the Alpine Loop, its lead was 4 minutes 50 seconds over the field.
HealthNet-Maxxis went to the front of the peloton on the climb to drive the chase and protect the yellow jersey of Jeff Louder, as well as Scott Moninger who began the stage in second place overall, just two seconds behind Louder. At this point in the stage, TIAA CREF rider Blake Caldwell was ahead of the yellow jersey by 1 minute 30 seconds and the race leader on the road. As the riders neared the summit, a group including most of the race favorites attacked from the main field, including Team Navigators rider Burke Swindlehurst, who began the day in fourth place overall, Moninger, Louder, Glen Chadwick, also of Team Navigators and sitting in third place overall after Stage Five, and Chris Wherry of the Toyota United team.
By the start of the day’s second climb to the Suncrest summit, the breakaway leaders had been brought back by the chasers to 2 minutes 15 seconds, as Team Navigators and Toyota United were forcing HealthNet-Maxxis to set the pace of the chase group. Steven Cozza of TIAA CREF accelerated on the climb and opened a gap on the breakaway group, causing the group to react and chase as they rode over the summit of the climb and caught Cozza on the very fast descent. Louder was powering the yellow jersey group at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour on the descent in an effort to catch the break before the final climb to Snowbird.
On the lower slopes of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Caldwell attacked off the front of the lead group as the Louder group chased hard 2 minutes behind. The stage was won by this move, as Caldwell was able to create a large enough gap to hold off the numerous attacks behind him on the 7-mile climb to the finish. At the line, he crossed just 11 seconds ahead of Neil Shirley, riding for the KJZZ composite team, and 21 seconds ahead of third place finisher, Phil Zajicek of Team Navigators. Team Navigators riders Cesar Grajales and Swindlehurst tried to escape on the climb, but were chased and caught by Moninger and Louder, then Glen Chadwick attacked, and Louder faltered slightly, unable to respond immediately. Moninger, playing the team role for his leader, covered the attack in order to preserve the win for the team, and in the process, took the overall lead and earned the final overall first place for the Tour.
Results of the stage show Caldwell’s strong ride paying off with first place on the day in a time of 3 hours, 29 minutes, with Shirley’s strong second place at 11 seconds behind, and Zajicek was strong again in the mountains after his excellent ride in Stage Four, finishing third on the stage, 21 seconds behind the winner. Other notables include Moninger in sixth place, 1 minute 21 seconds behind Caldwell, Chadwick beside him with the same time, Swindlehurst next, in eighth place, 1minute 47 seconds behind, and Louder finished the day 10th, 2 minutes 22 seconds behind the stage winner.
Final overall General Classification for the 2006 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is topped by Moninger in first place, with an overall time for the six stages of 14 hours, 57 minutes and 50 seconds. Second place overall belongs to Chadwick, 21 seconds behind the Champion, and Louder’s ride Saturday saved him a podium spot as he finished third overall, 59 seconds behind teammate Moninger. Swindlehurst maintained his fourth place overall, finishing 1 minute 16 seconds behind the leader and Caldwell’s Stage Six win moved him to fifth place on the final overall standings, 1 minute 29 seconds behind Moninger.
In the race jersey competitions, Moninger finishes in the winner’s yellow jersey, Shirley takes the King of the Mountains Competition, Sergey Lagutin of Team Navigators finishes with the Sprint Competition jersey and Caldwell takes the Best Young Rider Competition. Overall Team standings finish with Team Navigators in first place, followed by TIAA CREF in second and HealthNet-Maxxis in third place.
The 2006 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is considered America’s Toughest Cycling Event, and Saturday’s stage showed why. With 12,000 feet of climbing, beautiful Alpine settings and racing on challenging mountain roads, the Tour of Utah has many characteristics of the Grand Tours of European racing, and was a perfect showcase for America’s best riders.