Only three riders cracked the 17-minute barrier at the Miller Motorsports Time Trial in Utah, with Taylor Phinney (Trek-LIVESTRONG) coming out on top of stage 3 at the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah. Twentieth rider out of the start gate, Phinney zoomed along the course, taking the banked turns at high speed to finally stop the clock at 16:46.90 on the 9.2-mile course.
Phinney then sat on the hot seat, waiting and waiting to see if anyone would beat him. Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL) came close, clocking 16:57 but the last rider, yellow jersey Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) came even closer, setting a time of 16:48, 2 seconds slower that his future teammate.
“It’s obviously a good race it suits me because it’s flat, I’m a big person I have a lot of power. I just went out and kept a consistent speed and tried to hold it, managed to hold it all the way through. Just coming through the finish line with a lot of pain, that’s natural, that’s what happens in a time trial. The worst part was the 30 minutes of waiting afterwards, waiting for somebody to beat me, it didn’t happen.” smiled Phinney who kept an average speed of 33 mph (53 kmh).
What was going through his mind as he waited to see if his time held up? “I’m not a very quiet person but I get a little quiet when I’m nervous. I was more nervous after the race than I was before the race. I was sitting in there bracing myself for something that may or may not come.”
It was the second win in Utah for Phinney who also took the prologue but surprisingly it is his first time-trial win in the United States. “To beat the guys that are here, the talent that is here, it’s pretty special. I sort of paid my price for chasing the points jersey on the road stages, getting dropped and losing a fair amount of time but it’s all worth it when you can come to the time trial and pull out the win and that’s the most important thing.”
The conditions were perfect, not too hot almost no wind as the shadows got longer with each rider starting off at 30-second intervals. Less wind than last year and certainly less wind than expected.
“Just a really fast course.” said Leipheimer who rode with an old-fashioned skinsuit, yep the bibs over the jersey. Leipheimer was fined in the prologue for wearing a Trek-LIVESTRONG skinsuit.
He continued. “It’s a little funny on the track because you’d get a little bit disoriented, you weren’t sure which way you were pointing. I just tried to keep it steady, a flat smooth course with not any one section any harder than an other, so it was just a matter of keeping it pegged the whole time.”
With almost no wind, Leipheimer decided to use a large front wheel. “That’s pretty rare for me, being a little guy, it’s hard to control the bike with a lot of wind.”
Vennell was able to use the knowledge from last year where he finished just off the podium in fourth place. “Knowing the course this year from last year I had a few more ideas in my head to where I should go. All in all, I don’t think I could have gone any faster this year, I was pretty happy. I think the winds being a little bit softer and actually for some reason, places that you thought you’d have a headwind, you’d get a tailwind, that was a good surprise.”
He also learned to keep a bit in the tank. “Knowing that when you come onto the race track, you have a little bit in reserve there, because it’s slightly up and downhill and pedaling through those corners is hard work. Maybe saving a little bit there, that way you can pick up some time.” said Vennell who added that he also tried to save a little bit for the final 3K. and then “just buried it.”
And about the corners themselves. “Knowing some of those corners that can take in aero bars, some are pretty tight but you close your eyes and you’ll make it.” Vennell chuckled.
Having fun. It wasn’t just the spectators that enjoyed the course. Both Phinney and Vennell called in fun, not a word you use often in conjunction with a time trial.
“With the racing course, it makes it more fun. The first bit is a little boring, an out and back and then you get into the twists and turns, you don’t feel like a race car driver because you’re only going 30 miles an hour but it’s still special.” said Phinney.
“I can bury myself for that long without worrying about judging it too much, how hard I have to go. It’s a good race, it’s fun, it’s really fun.” said Vennell who gave a little tip on how to handle the banked turns, “You just have to trust in the grip on the track and keep pedaling, it’s pretty cool.”
Leipheimer increased his GC lead to 1:37 over Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles) and 1:49 on Darren Lill (Fly V Australia). Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) moved up to 4th at 2:07, while Ian Boswell (BISSELL) dropped to 5th. On the strength of his 5th place finish in the TT, Brent Bookwalter (BMC) now sits in 6th at 2:40 down.
No changes to the jerseys.
Wait that’s no crit. With two more stages and no teammates, Leipheimer knows that he has a battle on his hands to defend the yellow jersey.
“I just had to take it mile by mile, obviously I have to be willing to lose the Tour of Utah. There’s really no way that I can mark everybody, I can’t put my team at the front.” smiled Leipheimer. “Tomorrow is hard so that might actually play in my favor, if it’s super hard the race will sort of take out 90% of the riders and then I just have to deal with the few. Sunday is a different story, there won’t be any way to stop the onslaught of attacks that will for sure come my way.”
The racing continues on Saturday with the 75-minute Park City Criterium, a crit in name only with its 1-mile course includes a leg busting 12% climb, all raced at over 7000 feet above sea level.
The course has been compared to Nevada City Bicycle Classic by some. “I like that.” smiled Leipheimer who finished third in the Northern California Classic in 2009. “I rode it the other day, the pitch isn’t as steep but it’s at altitude. It will be hard.”
It’s not only the yellow jersey that will be under attack. The Best Young Rider competition is sure to heat up once more. Boswell leads with 49 seconds on Tim Roe (Trek-LIVESTRONG) and 1:12 on Lachlan Morton (Holowesko Partners).
The action starts at 4:30pm, follow @podium_live for live updates during the race.
Top 10 Stage 3 Results
1. Taylor Phinney (Trek-LIVESTRONG) 16:46.900
2. Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) +0:02
3. Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team) +0:11
4. Alex Dowsett (Trek-LIVESTRONG) +0:16
5. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) +0:18
6. Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team) +0:24
7. Darren Lill (Fly V Australia) +0:35
8. Phillip Zajicek (Fly V Australia) +0:35
9. Danny Summerhill (Team Holowesko Partners) +0:41
10. Francisco Mancebo Perez (Canyon Bicycles) +0:43
Top 10 on GC After Stage 3
1. Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) 6:57:24
2. Francisco Mancebo Perez (Canyon Bicycles) +0:01:37
3. Darren Lill (Fly V Australia) +0:01:49
4. Phillip Zajicek (Fly V Australia) 0:02:07
5. Ian Boswell (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team) 0:02:29
6. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) 0:02:40
7. Cesar Grajales (On The Rivet p/b Ion Sports Nutrition) 0:03:05
8. Tim Roe (Trek-LIVESTRONG) 0:03:17
9. Jonathan Mccarty (Team Rio Grande) 0:03:27
10. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling p/b Maxxis) 0:03:34