Tour of Utah organizers on Tuesday will announce a new look route for the sixth edition of the race they deem “America’s toughest,” and that slogan has never been more appropriate. The six-day UCI 2.1 stage race will kick off August 9 with an uphill prologue at the Utah Olympic Park and include four new stages, among them a return to the über steep North Ogden Pass, a brutal 84-mile circuit race in Salt Lake City, but just one mountaintop finish, at Snowbird Resort on the final day.
“The route this year will definitely challenge the best cyclists from around the globe,” said race president Steve Miller. “We expect each course to be packed with spectators, while enjoying the striking parts of the state of Utah and the local communities. Six days of challenging courses and terrain will not only test pro cyclists, but showcase Utah in a national and international spotlight.”
With a step up to UCI registration in 2011, the tour will attract its highest caliber field to date, with BMC Racing, Garmin-Cervélo, HTC-Highroad and RadioShack each committed to take the start. Missing the long, selective climb of Mount Nebo, the new route will provide plenty of fodder for the climbers on the first two days before the rolleurs and sprinters take over. After the stage 3 time trial, the all-rounders will turn affairs back to the climbers in the final two days.
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A 1.25-mile uphill time trial will open the week at the Olympic Park, where Nordic events took place for the 2002 Winter Games. At roughly 6,500 feet in elevation, the Olympic Park prologue will start at the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center and climb to the start house for the bobsledders high above the valley. Time splits among the GC favorites will be small here, but the early classification will take a definite shape above the Alf Engen Ski Museum.
Road Race, presented by Miller Lite
The race returns to a familiar site, downtown Ogden, for the first stage, but the similarities stop there. Riders will complete three murderous circuits for a total of 116 miles and 8,250 feet of climbing. Absent from the stage will be the climb of Old Snowbasin Road, but in its place will be the even harder 10-plus-percent North Ogden Pass. Abandoned after 2008 in part because of its difficulty early in the stage to Salt Lake City, riders will face the pass before a circuit around the often wind-swept Pineview Reservoir and a descent down Ogden Canyon to the start/finish in the city each lap. While the downhill finish will limit big time gaps among the elite contenders, the parcours will shake out anyone not up to task in the overall.
Road Race, presented by Adobe
Another new course, stage 2 will start – as it did in 2010 – at the Xango headquarters in Thanksgiving Point before making a lap of Utah Lake. Hard winds around the lake had the bunch guttered last year before the final selection was made on the climb to Mount Nebo, the highest point in the Wasatch Mountains. Gone is the summit finish, however, and the 100-mile day will finish at the Vivint headquarters in Provo in what will likely be a bunch sprint, assuming any splits come together before the finale.
Individual Time Trial, presented by UnitedHealthcare
Back for 2011 is the individual time trial at the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, west of Salt Lake City. The desert motor track is nearly pancake flat with a long lap around its exterior before riders roll onto the almost non-stop sweeping turns on its interior. At 9.7 miles and often miserably hot and windy, the race track TT has traditionally been a place for movement on the GC and a show for the specialists.
Circuit Race, presented by University of Utah Health Care
The 81.4-mile circuit in the capital city is a short but hard affair. Starting at the State Capitol, the 11-lap race includes the previously used prologue track and a steep ascent from downtown to the step above the city every lap. With a total of 7,246 feet of vertical over such a short parcours, and the 12-percent climb of State Street to the start/finish, the fourth and penultimate stage will devastate the peloton after two days on the flats.
Road Race, presented by Zions Bank
The race’s queen stage is back with more than 10,000 feet of climbing over 100 miles between Park City and Snowbird. The wind and rolling climbs along Jordanelle Reservoir have kept the leaders’ teams busy gluing the field together in recent years and the first Cat. 1 climb of the Alpine Loop, below the striking Mount Timpanogos, is where the big players will show themselves for the first time. A technical descent carries riders to the valley below and the short, but exposed Suncrest Drive climb and the six-mile, 10-percent slog up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The climb to Snowbird has seen service on the final day of the race since 2009 and has seen overall champions Levi Leipheimer (2010) and Francisco Mancebo (2009) crowned atop its long, steady and often windy road.