After slogging up and down the mountains, the sprinters finally had a chance to play at the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah, on the final stage, the 90-minute criterium in Salt Lake City. As typically happens in the four-corner crit, positioning at the last corner was key, and Australian Crit Champion Bernie Sulzberger of the Fly V Australia squad cut in the inside, came out of the corner in first place and held it to the line for the win. US Crit Champion John Murphy (OUCH) was second and BMC’s Chris Barton third.
“I had Murphy’s wheel but I knew that I had to be in front of the guys in the last corner so I laid off his wheel a little bit and took the corner at a bit of a different angle and got the run on the boys and that’s what gave me the advantage to come into the finish.” said Sulzberger.
“Unfortunately Bernie beat me and I came second, it would have been nice to win, it’s my first time wearing the Stars and Stripes but I was beaten fair and square, that’s how it goes.” said Murphy who was crowned Crit Champion only last week in Downers Grove.
Rock Racing’s Francisco Mancebo finished safely in the pack, after riding in the top 10 of the field for most of the race, and claimed the overall victory, in front of an estimated 7,000 strong crowd. Utah resident Darren Lill (Team Type 1) was second overall at thirty seconds back and took home the Best Utah Rider jersey. Defending champion and Utah native Jeff Louder of BMC finished third overall at forty-two seconds down from the winner.
“Winning this race was really important because it was my first victory in America.” said Mancebo who picked the yellow jersey on stage 2 when he and his lieutenant Oscar Sevilla broke away to win stage 1. His Rock Racing team then successfully defended against all attacks to keep the yellow jersey and claimed the overall team classification. “It’s a race where you have to be strong everyday, you can never rest.” concluded Mancebo.
“As it is, I have to be content with second, I think Mancebo showed yesterday that he was really strong and hats off to him, he did a good ride and his team rode a great race, I tried my best.” said Lill who lost some time when he crashed at the prologue. “I don’t know how much I ended up losing, it definitely wouldn’t have been 46 seconds so I could have still said I would have lost the tour by 15 or 20 seconds anyway, maybe it would have been that much closer, who knows. ”
Nothing to lose. While the race for the yellow jersey was settled – barring mishaps – before the final stage, a stage victory was still on the line and once again, the BMC team came out fighting hard.
“We rode really aggressive and strong all week, pretty much everything out on the road yesterday, it didn’t quite work out so came into today with nothing to lose.” said Barton.
After a few laps of jockeying for position at the front around the 1.2 kilometer rectangle-shaped course, two riders, BMC’s Brent Bookwalter and USA Elite Crit Champion Justin England (CalGiant) made it off the front.
They were soon joined by David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit) and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) who was wearing plain red jersey and shorts due to confusing rules about ProTour riders and sponsors.
“Zabriskie just launched it to go across and I followed him.” said Veilleux. “He was right in front of me and I saw he was putting a couple of gears on so I followed him.”
With three strong time-trialists in USA TT Champion Zabriskie, U23 Canadian TT Champion Veilleux and prologue winner and third in the Utah time trial Bookwalter, the break started to gain some time on the field. The Rock Racing squad assumed position at the front of the field and took control, content in letting the break at the front, as they were not threat to Mancebo.
Ten seconds, fifteen seconds, the gap was growing and the sprinter’s teams started to get ansy as they didn’t want their stage to get away from them. The OUCH p/b Maxxis came to the front and started to chase in earnest, but the gap was still growing as Zabriskie put his head down and went into time-trialing position on the back straight.
“When a guy like Zabriskie is off the front, you always have to be a little worried, no matter if he’s by himself or with five guys, you can’t give him too much, you have to keep him on a short leash.” said Murphy.
Soon the Fly V Australia squad sent in riders to help with the rotation. The foursome gained a maximum of thirty seconds before being reeled in.
The first HotSpot sprint of the day, at 45 minutes to go, was not contested and Veilleux grabbed the 5 points to put in on top of the competition for the green Sprints jersey – his target for the day.
Finally with 35 minutes to go in the race, the break was caught and immediately, Barton counter-attacked in a solo move. The young rider stayed away for the next 5 minutes, taking the next HotSpot sprint at 30 minutes to go. Veilleux won the sprint for second place to grab more points and won the overall Sprint classification.
Go for broke. A few more attacks were tried but the writing was on the wall, a bunch kick was in. With ten laps to go, the OUCH and Fly V squads lined up, pushing up the pace to set up their sprinters. With one lap to go, after setting up Barton at the front of the field, Louder launched an attack and the crowd roared in appreciation for their rider.
“First of all, there’s like a one in a hundred chance that you can stay away in a situation like that but I really wanted to give it a shot, I wasn’t going to sprint. Really go for broke. ” said Louder. “In some ways, I just wanted to put out a stunt for friends and family, people who have come down here today, cheering us on, supporting us. There was a little of people yelling for me which is pretty unusual, I felt really good and I wanted to support the fans. And then the last but not least, set up Barton, I didn’t want to lead out the race but if I could make the other teams chase really hard, Chris Barton was in a good position for his sprint, and he did well, he got third place which is a great result for Chris and I’m really happy he got on the podium for BMC today.”
The chase was on and Louder was caught with a third of a lap to go, and the sprinters battled for Murphy’s wheel into the last corner. “A few head butts being thrown around” said Barton about getting ‘the’ wheel.
“OUCH p/b Maxxis was perfect today. We took over with five laps to go and all the guys working great, we had them at the front to bring back an earlier move and kept it to a bunch kick, that’s what we wanted to do and the guys kept control until the last corner. Bernie just sneaked through, I left it a little bit too open and he beat me. ” said Murphy.
“The team worked awesome, did nearly all the race in the front, all the boys did an excellent job, I can’t thank them enough, I just had to pay it back to them and I did, so I’m very happy.” said Sulzberger.
Alex Howes (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin) finished safely in the pack to claim his final Best Young Rider jersey and the overall in the King of the Mountain competition.
Complete results here
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