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Stage Two of the 2006 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the Steve Williams Memorial Road Race, was a hot and dry 97-mile stage from Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, to the newly constructed Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele.
Riders battled shifting winds and temperatures topping 100 degrees as they raced along a portion of the historic Pony Express Trail through Utah’s West Desert. The race began with a series of gradual climbs out of Lehi, then onto rolling terrain as it moved toward the finish at the motorsports park.
Attacks were launched almost immediately as the race climbed out of Lehi, with Mike Dietrich of Kodakgallery.com/ Sierra Nevada and Daniel Ramsey of Successfuliving.com establishing a quick one minute advantage on the field.
Their lead grew to 2:20 at the seventeen-mile mark, as Team Navigators controlled repeated attempts by riders to bridge on the climb to Five Mile Pass. With Navigators forcing the pace to prevent additional attacks, the gap decreased to 1:25 over the next two miles, and was down to :40 at 21.5 miles into the race. TIAA CREF joined Navigators at the front, and the peloton quickly absorbed the breakaway, reestablishing the field near the summit of the pass.
After a succession of attempted breaks, controlled by Team Navigators along the rolling hills approaching the Feed Zone forty miles into the race, a strong move off the front by HealthNet-Maxxis rider Mike Sayers and Ryan Yee of Successfulliving.com proved the decisive break of the day as the two gained just over one minute as the race approached the town of Stockton and the day’s final climb. The race entered Tooele and the first Sprint bonus of the day, which was taken by Sayers. The two riders held their advantage as the race sped along the slightly downhill approach to the motorsports park, where it finished with nine laps of a 2.3-mile circuit on the racetrack.
On the fourth lap of the motorsports track, a five-man bridge group rode off the front of the main field and two laps later caught the two breakaway riders. Once again Team Navigators was forced to power the chase to protect team member Sergey Lagutin, who was in the leader’s jersey, but also because the team had failed to place a rider in the break. The field caught the break on the penultimate lap, and an immediate counter attack was launched by Zach Grabowski of the KJZZ composite team. The 21-year-old former National Champion quickly forced a gap on the field, which caused a quick reaction by the race favorites, with Toyota-United forcing the chase.
Grabowski was caught on the final lap, and with two kilometers to go, the field was intact and accelerating in anticipation of the sprint for the finish. At nearly the same moment, with 2k to go, current U.S. National Road Champion Chris Wherry, Toyota-United , and HealthNet-Maxxis favorite Jeff Louder attacked separately, with Wherry holding a slight advantage to the finish, winning in a time of 3:27:17, less than a bike length ahead of Utah rider Louder, who was awarded the same time. Overall leader Sergey Lagutin of team Navigators finished third, also being awarded the same time as the stage winner. Andrew Pinfold followed his strong ride in Stage One, finishing fourth at 0:05 behind the winner, and the main field followed at 0:08.
Overall General Classification is still topped by Lagutin, who retains the Leader’s jersey, the Sprinter’s jersey and the Best Young Rider jersey. Wherry’s win moves him to second overall, four seconds behind the leader and Louder moves from fifth to third overall after his strong showing today. Andrew Pinfold and Michael Friedman round out the top five overall.
Jesse Anthony retains his lead in the King of the Mountains competition.
Highest placed Utah rider is Louder, who finished second on the stage and is currently ranked third overall. Utah rider Burke Swindlehurst, another pre-race favorite is in 15th place overall, 0:22 behind teammate Lagutin.
Wednesday’s Stage Three KJZZ Individual Time Trial in Heber will test the riders against the clock for an explosive 7.9 miles; the race will start at 11:00 a.m., with riders leaving at one-minute intervals.