After making it into the early break on stage 1 at the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah, Roman Van Uden (Pure Black Racing) easily won the first two intermediate sprints to ignite his quest for the sprinter’s jersey.
“I jumped them on the first one, I got a good gap and they didn’t really fight it out.” van Uden said after the stage. He jumped earlier the second time around because he was expecting another rider to go for it. “So I made sure he couldn’t get on my wheel for that.”
With top sprint points awarded at the finish line, van Uden is fourth in the sprint classification at five points down. The good news for the young Kiwi is that the three riders ahead of him are more interested in the general classification. The other good news is that stage 2 is a flat stage with three more chances to garner points.
“I’m definitely keen to pick up more points.” he replied when asked if he was going for the points on Thursday. He then laughed and said that he wasn’t going to say exactly how he planned to do that.
Van Uden was thinking about a special jersey before the start of the stage but it wasn’t the copper XO Communications Sprint Jersey.
“I was sort of thinking more about the King Of the Mountain jersey because if I got that today then I’d have it through Saturday which would have been an easy ride.” he explained. “Getting ready for the sprint the first time up the KOM but I just had nothing. When the guys went for it, I just had to ride at my own pace and then get them on the way down.”
Though short, the climb up North Ogden Pass hurt many riders on Wednesday. “It was only five kilometer but man, it was eight or nine percent the whole way, it was tough. It was hard to push 15 km/hour, it was slow.”
Seeing that he could not outclimb the others in the break, the 23-year old changed his focus to the sprinter’s jersey.
The break. Van Uden was quite active off the front as soon as the stage started. “The plan was for one of us to get into the move and I saw pretty early on, within the first couple of kilometers that not a lot of guys were going on the attack so I thought that something was going to go pretty quickly without too much effort. ” Van Uden said.
“There was a group of about 15 riders after three kilometers that got a gap and I went solo from that group for a kilometer and a half before it all came back together. I was just trying to make something happen. Jay Thomson was solo up the road, I slipped away and made the move across to him and two other joined us.”
With that, the Kiwi was off the front with Jay Thomson (BISSELL), Rubens Bertogliati (Team Type 1) and Brad White (UnitedHealthcare).
The four, working well together, stayed away for most of the two 38-mile (61-km) loops with the gap hitting the eight-minute mark by end of the first lap.
“We working pretty well up the climb the first time, we were riding pretty fast. We got a huge time gap after the first lap and I was struggling quite a bit on the climb and sitting on so the others were nice to give me a bit of a break, it was quite steep to me.” van Uden said.
But the gap came down on the second lap due to the break slowing down and the field reacting to a dangerous chase group. “On the second lap we sort of lost a bit of momentum, our pace really slowed down even though we could have kept the pressure on and also the attacks from the field, the gap came right down.”
And then there was the helicopter. “For awhile, we also had a TV helicopter sitting right in front of us, it gave us a headwind for about 15 kilometer or something.”
The commissaire waved the helicopter away a few times and tried to use their car to shelter the riders from the wind created by the blades. By that time the gap was hovering around the one minute mark and the break was doomed.
Not that van Uden truly believed that they would make it. “The first time up the hill we had a gap of I think 3:30 minutes at the base of the climb and then by the top it was only a minute and a half so I knew that they would be able to pull us back pretty quickly.”
Following the second intermediate sprint, Thomson attacked the break and the cooperation was gone. Behind them, eventual stage winner Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-Optumhealth) was chasing solo and would eventually pass them.
Van Uden was the final rider of the original break to be caught by the hard-charging field the third and final time up the climb.
“Heading the last time up, I climbed as hard as I could without destroying myself to get in the best position that I could over the top and I was happy to make the first group. They caught me at 700 meters from the top and they were just blowing by me so fast, I couldn’t go any harder to hang on on the back and ended on the third group.”
At that point, it was a matter of making it to the finish line to live to fight another day.
“Today was a pretty hard day. I haven’t had a hard day like that in America for awhile because it’s a different style of racing until today with the ProTour teams, they control it a lot better.” van Uden said about his experience.