I started off the Tour of Utah coverage with a chat with 2008 overall winner Jeff Louder of the BMC Racing Team, and who better to close out this year’s race than the Utah-son. Louder made no bones about it, he wanted to win but it wasn’t to be as he finished third overall behind Rock Racing’s Francisco Mancebo and Team Type 1’s Darren Lill, making it his third time on the podium.
“It’s a little disappointing, I came in to win, I wanted to win, I prepared to win so to not win is definitely a let down, last year was perfect for us, it’s hard to improve on perfect.” said Louder. “Things couldn’t have gone better last year, looking back. This year, we got raced against better and that’s just how bike racing goes. I came in with a big target on my back and it’s hard to live up to that. We did our best and I’m really happy with the team, we did what we could.”
Looking back, Louder stated that it was a great race overall for his team.
“We had four different guys on the podium, more that once for a few of us, including guys that hadn’t been on the podium for NRC races in a long time or ever. Barton third today that was great, Brent winning his first NRC win as far as I know in the prologue which is fantastic, it’s just great to see him do well. “
But he was still looking for a stage win until the end, when he launched an attack on the last lap of the final stage, in the Salt Lake City criterium in front of a partisan crowd.
“Our goal was just to make it hard, to see what kind of pressure we could put Rock under, to see how the other teams reacted and that last lap, for me was sort of a stunt, try to set up Barton and try to win.” explained Louder who positioned his teammate Chris Barton at the front of the pack before kicking in his final move.
Louder was caught with a third of a lap to go and 21-year old Barton grabbed third on the final podium.
“I wanted to win, I feel that my only chance, if those guys faltered or hesitated a bit too much I think I could have stayed away but if it didn’t work, Barton was basically right on my wheel when I went so he was in perfect position for the big wind up if they did chase me and more or less it paid off. “ described Louder. “That’s a great result for him.”
No surprises as far as the race goes. “Without underselling the race, it’s a pretty formulaic race, it’s pretty easy to kind of predict what is going to happen.”
Except maybe the first stage when the Rock Racing duo of Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla attacked on the second and final KOM, caught and passed the break and took hold of the leader’s jersey.
“I was a little surprised the first day when Mancebo and Sevilla rode up the road and people didn’t react quite as, they didn’t seem to raise the alarm bells that it definitely did for me.”
With the yellow jersey on his teammate Brent Bookwalter‘s shoulders, most of the teams left the chasing to the BMC squad.
“Some teams didn’t seem to want to chase that back as drastically as I did so that changed the race a little bit. In the end, I think other people profited from that in different ways and that’s how bike racing works, everyone has an agenda and everyone has to do what they think is best and you can’t really fault anyone for that.”
On Sunday, prior to the start of the crit, I watched how often Louder was stopped on his way to meet his team, by folks that wanted to say hi and shake his hands. Friends, family and fans everywhere and his attack on the final lap raised a raucous cheer from the crowd.
“Last but not least, I kind of wanted to go out with a bang. Today was amazing, how many people were yelling my name, were cheering for me, it’s great to race in Utah, this is my home state, I’m born and raised, I’m proud to be able to do what I love in my hometown, in Salt Lake City. To be supported the way I was today, it felt great, it kind of gave me the extra motivation to really give it a dig at the end.”
Louder is now focusing on the US Pro Road Championships and the Tour of Missouri. Like many others, he hopes that the hard racing at altitude will help him take the Stars and Stripes. He finished fifth in last year’s race.