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SNOWBIRD, Utah (VN) – Rally Cycling’s Rob Britton solidified his lead in the 2017 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah after an aggressive day of racing from BMC Racing. Britton started the day with a 44-second advantage over BMC’s Brent Bookwalter, prompting early attacks from the WorldTour team. Chaos ensued over the first climb of the day as BMC drove the pace, splitting the field, and isolating Britton from most of his team. With the leader’s jersey in jeopardy, Britton remained calm while leading his team in a tactical game of patience that would pay off in the end.
“I’ve been doing this for a while now and it rarely pays off to panic,” Britton said about his reaction to BMC’s attacks. “Usually keeping a cool head prevails and I had 100% confidence in [my team].”
Sepp Kuss was Britton’s sole teammate to survive BMC’s aggressive pace up the first climb. The two Rally cyclists covered furthered attacks by BMC and Holowesko-Citadel on the descent, keeping each team’s GC contenders within reach. “We knew ahead of time that TJ Eisenhart would probably attack because he definitely knows that descent and Brent did as well,” Kuss said. “A couple switchbacks into the descent, Brent attacked and I followed him.” Kuss overcooked the corner but escaped without incident. BMC’s Joe Rosskopf did not. “It looks like he had a pretty bad crash,” Kuss said. “I hope he’s alright.”
This hiccup helped Bookwalter and Eisenhart escape the main group and hook-up with several BMC and Holowesko teammates who had made the early breakaway. They gained over a minute on Britton, charging toward the second and most decisive climb of the day.
In a tactical move, Britton did not immediately chase this group down. Instead, the experienced rider waited for his teammates who’d been dropped on the first climb. “I could hear in the radio that Adam [De Vos] was catching back on and Danny [Pate] and Colin [Joyce] were just behind us,” he said. Once back together, Rally set to work, slowly taking time out of the Bookwalter group ahead. It wasn’t easy.
“We had to chase pretty hard to get those guys back,” Kuss said. “We had some help from some other teams which was nice but we still had to chase pretty hard.” Along with the Spanish Pro Continental team Caja Rural-Seguros, Rally pulled the break back, making contact just as the riders turned onto the 6-mile climb toward Snowbird.
With all major GC contenders back together again, Britton soared with confidence. “I knew that Brent and TJ [had been] going full gas,” he said. “This was actually a good situation for us.” Sensing the two riders were suffering from their time in the break, Britton remained calm, pedaling steadily as the other two started to falter.
As riders looking for the stage win started attacking each other, the group’s pace started to surge. This proved too much for Bookwalter and Eisenhart after their massive efforts to establish the break. Each rider slowly trickled off the back of the group and was left to suffer the final kilometers on their own.
Britton would go on to finish fifth on the stage and keep control of the leader’s jersey as the Tour of Utah enters its final stage on Sunday. He’s confident in his team and its ability to protect the jersey for one more day. “The team has done a fantastic job all week,” he said. “It’s really not so much about me as it is paying back all of their hard work.”