“Before the race I was asked a question if I was coming here to win, I would stupid to say yes because I don’t have any teammates and I felt that I had a good chance to win a stage, so that’s my reply. Of course, that turns into the story of Levi is not trying for the GC, and that wasn’t necessarily true, it’s just that I didn’t make that my intention.” said Levi Leipheimer after he won the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
Racing with no teammates, the Radioshack rider, wearing a Mellow Johnny’s kit to follow UCI rules, grabbed the lead in stage 2 after soloing to victory on Mt Nebo, the highest point of the race at 9000 feet.
He explained. “In the first two days, if a break away had gotten up the road on a flat part, I would have been out of it, 10, 20 minutes. But as long as it stayed together, I got my stage win, I got the jersey, of course I’m going to keep trying.”
Leipheimer finished second in the time trial to increase his lead on second-place Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles) after stage 3. Then the carnage at Park City Crit, where the yellow jersey was seen at the front of the field, staying attentive and marking his closest competitors defending champion Mancebo, Fly V Australia teammates Darren Lill and Phil Zajicek and BMC’s Brent Bookwalter.
Once again, on the final stage Leipheimer took a flyer on the final climb to catch to and finish second behind eventual stage winner Jai Crawford (Fly V Australia).
Thanks Terry. Like many others, Leipheimer was remembering Terry McGinnis who passed away in October last year after a prolonged battle with cancer. McGinnis, as executive director, was instrumental in bringing back the race in 2008 after a year hiatus and in elevating it to its current status.
“I’ve done all these roads with Terry, back in the day when I going to school. He would come training with me, rain, snow, sleet, any kind of weather he would come out and we had some fantastic rides together. This week I’ve remembered more and more of those rides and how much he meant to me because that was a period in my life where I was just getting going in cycling and I think that’s a decisive period in someone’s career when they are just starting off. To have a training partner like that really helps motivate you and brings you up to the next level.” said Leipheimer.
BMC’s Jeff Louder also paid homage to his friend after winning, no crushing, the Park City Criterium. “I just wanted to say that I really had my thoughts the whole day to Terry McGinnis, one of my best friends, he trained with me for years. Terry would always go out and ride with me not matter what weather, any conditions, once I was out there and I felt I had a chance, I really felt like I had him with me and it meant a lot just to think of Terry today.”
Leipheimer added. “I think the Tour of Utah owes a big thank you to Terry, all the riders here owe a big thank you to Terry and me as well, I owe a big thank you to Terry.”
Tough race. For Leipheimer, the hard profile and difficult course actually played in his favor, as he found that it took away a lot of tactics.
Billed as ‘America’s Toughest Race’, the stage race challenges riders with tough routes, elevation gain, altitude and heat. So tough that only 71 out of 143 riders finished the race.
“I think the riders make the race. The field here was very strong, maybe not like Tour of California to be fair, or obviously the Tour de France, but it’s a very hard race.” said the Tour of California winner. “I know there is no other race in America that has such long and sustained climbs like we have here in Utah, it’s a beautiful place for a bike race. I really hope it continues to get better and bigger, the climb up Snowbird is Tour de France worthy.”
Like many others, Leipheimer admitted to struggling with altitude. “I’m actually staying close to 9000 feet at night, so I’m getting a bit of a penalty there but I can still feel it.”
It was about getting ready for the next three big races, the Grand Prix Cycliste ProTour Québec–Montréal and the US Professional Road Championships. “Hopefully it will pay off for the ProTour races in Canada and US Pro in September.”
But through it all, Leipheimer was enjoying the race and the fans. “Absolutely.” he replied with a smile after the time trial when asked if he was having fun. “I’m relaxed, I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Future. “We’re trying to figure out what it looks like.” said Steve Miller, President of the Tour of Utah. The race is looking to add a two more days of racing.
“How big is whatever the appetite of the teams is, whatever the appetite of the sponsors is, whatever the appetite of the spectators is. As long as those three things are in concert, it will get as big as everybody allows it to get but we don’t want to force anything that is not there. I think if we can get to an 8-day stage race is probably the sweet spot. Any longer it gets to be a a major project, anything shorter I think we leave good stages on the table. There are stages that we would like to do that we can’t do, in its current iteration.” explained Miller.
Miller sees the growing interest of the communities as good sign to continue on the same track. “The race is growing in stature and we are getting communities reaching out to us and saying ‘what does it take to get you guys to come through our town, our county, our municipality’? And we say that as a good thing, we see that as signs that we are doing the right things and that we have a product that people want. As long as you’re producing something that people want to have, you’re on the right track.”
As for Leipheimer, he would like to come back “Obviously I can’t say yes right now. It will be a great preparation race for Colorado, or they’ll go well hand in hand together.”
And with young riders who shined at Utah, such Ian Boswell (BISSELL), Lachlan Morton (Holowesko Partners), Alex Dowsett and Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong), Alex Hagman (On the Rivet), David Tanner (Fly V Australia), I’d say the future looks bright.