Showing that he is full recovered from his knee problems, Taylor Phinney (Trek-LIVESTRONG) crushed the prologue at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, setting a time of 6:02.59 on the 2.8 miles (4.5 km) out and back course. His teammate Alex Dowsett, the European U23 time trial champion, came in second at 3 seconds down. Last year’s prologue winner, Brent Bookwalter (BMC) was third at 11 seconds.
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“It was incredibly hard, I can tell you that, my lungs, my legs are burning. That’s to be expected and to come out with a win is great, and to come out with a 1-2 for the team is even better. It’s a lot more that I could ask.” said Phinney. His presence at the race was a last minute decision. “I only decided to do this race yesterday, I flew in last minute because my team needed an extra spot. I had a little injury in my last race, I was racing in Denmark so I’m recovering from that but I’ve been training really well. It all came together today.”
For Dowsett, it was another second place finish. “It’s another second after Cascade prologue, it’s another second to a teammate, it’s another second to a guy that specializes in that distance so I can’t be too unhappy.”
With a one-second difference from his winning time in last year’s prologue, Bookwalter was content with his results. “It’s always nice to start off with the win but we have a small team here. Thinking for the overall, it’s not bad to have someone else in the jersey because last year that was sort of our undoing, I think, the first day having that responsibility.”
A tough course. Same design as in 2009, the course started off with a 200 meter kicker straight from the gate, went around the canyon with a tricky turnaround and back down with a chicane to the finish line. Though well-suited for trackies, it was still hard out there.
“Sometimes, when you have races where you feel nothing, and you feel invincible and just go go out, come back flying and you win, today was nothing like that at well. 20 seconds in, I was just like ‘Oh God this is going to hurt’. I’m still shaking.” said Phinney, who set an average speed of 27.768mph (44.689km/h).
It was all out for Dowsett. “Some people talked about easing up over the first climb but I just went full gas. At altitude, once you get in that level of hurt, you can’t get out of it. Six minutes of my life, if I can hang on from that long, I shouldn’t be in cycling.” laughed Dowsett. “I just went flat out. It’s too short, it’s too quick to be backing off, I was hoping I was going to get some rest on some of the corners, but that didn’t happen.”
For some riders, the chicane on the way back to the finish was difficult to handle. For Bookwalter, “it’s all psychological.” He added. “If you come out here and ride it without barriers, it looks like nothing. They put the barriers up and it makes for a blind spot, and it’s all mental. You have to trust that the road is still going to be the same as when you saw it before. And when you’re going 65 km/hr, it’s hard to trust that.”
The 7th rider out of the gate, Bobby Lea (On the Rivet p/b Ion), another rider with an extensive track background, set the earliest fast time of 6:15:07. He sat on the hot seat for the next 50 minutes until Dowsett crossed the finish line with a faster time. Lea finished fifth at 13 seconds from the winner. Defending champion Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles) finished 13th at 19 seconds down.
Nathan O’Neill (On the River p/b Ion) crashed on the turn-around and is out with a broken clavicle.
And now we climb. 20-year old Phinney is the GC leader going into the BIG mountain stages and also picks the blue jersey as best young rider. Finishing in 7th, Jeff Louder (BMC) is the Best Utah Rider.
Wednesday’s stage is a doozy. The 85.2 miles (137.1 km) Stage 1 Presented by University of Utah Health Care starts in Ogden to finish in Salt Lake City and includes 6,400 feet of climbing with a flat finish in Research Park. The second climb up Big Mountain was decisive last year, when Francisco Mancebo and his then Rock Racing teammate Oscar Sevilla dropped everyone to win the stage and take over the lead. Will history repeat itself?
“I’ve been at altitude for about a week, I could feel it today. Really looking forwards to the next days.” said a wry Phinney.
Along with his team, Bookwalter will fight for the GC while enjoying the race. “We have a small team, and none of us are coming in with the same focus we had last year. Last year for us this was a really important event and we were all really focused and thinking about it a longways out and this year, we didn’t even know if we were going to do it until just a few weeks ago. We’re still going to fight just as hard or harder than we did last year. We even appreciate it even more being here because it came about last minute. Jeff and I were talking about it even at training camp this winter, the ideal scenario would be do Europe, do some Grand Tours, go to Utah, ride mountain bike, do the Tour of Utah and it worked that way.” he laughed, “So it’s really cool.”
Sprint and KOM jersey is also up for grabs starting with stage 1.
Racing starts at 11am MT and estimated finish time is 2:30pm. Follow @podium_live for updates during the race.
Top 10 Results (Complete Results)
1. Taylor Phinney (Trek-LIVESTRONG) 6:02:59
2. Alex Dowsett (Trek-LIVESTRONG) +0:03
3. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) +0:11
4. Rory Sutherland (Unitedhealthcare Pro) +0:12
5. Bobby Lea (On The Rivet p/b Ion Sports Nutritio) +0:13
6. Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team) +0:14
7. Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team) +0:15
8. George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team) +0:16
9. Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team) +0:16
10. Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) +0:18