Going into the Queen Stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Roman van Uden of PureBlack Racing was in second place, five points down in the XO Communications Best Sprinter competition. All he had to do on the final was to get six points in the two intermediate sprints during in the 106-mile (170-km) stage and finish the stage. Sounds easy but it wasn’t.
“I’m in a world of pain, that was unreal.” van Uden said after the stage on Sunday. Legs hurting, he tripped on his way up the ramp to the podium.
By the time he crossed the finish line, van Uden was 50 seconds from the time cut.
“At the bottom of Sundance climb, we let the race ride away from us and I had my teammates there to support me all the way to the finish. We had to dig pretty deep just to come in under the time cut so I could win the jersey, I can’t thank my teammates enough.”
After getting into the break on stage 2, van Uden grabbed the copper jersey which he successfully defended the next day. He then lost it on the brutal Salt Lake City circuit race to the stage winner Janier Acevedo (Gobernacion de Antioquia) but the young Kiwi and his team had not given up.
The goal on Sunday was to get in the early breakaway and snag the points, the problem was that a lot of other riders also wanted to be in the move. The battle was also on between Team Type 1 and UnitedHealthcare to get their guy in the break for the KOM points.
“We were definitely trying to set something up to get up the road but UnitedHeatlhcare were trying to get Brad White into the breakaway without Rubens Bertogliati of Team Type 1 in the climbers jersey but Bertogliati was just far too strong. They were probably controlling it a lot more so we took advantage of that. They were trying to set up the perfect breakaway which is just too difficult.” van Uden explained.
He added, “I just had to try and go with the right moves and try and cover all that so I was up there for the sprint because if I missed one that would have been it.”
With his whole team supporting him, van Uden was able to take top points in the two intermediate sprints.
“The whole day was absolutely brutal. We did the first two hours just flat out, I was struggling from kilometer one and then I needed my teammates all day to just pull me through, and get me across the first couple of sprints in the first position. I’m so grateful for them.”
But the next challenge was to finish the stage within the time cut. The attacks flew at the bottom of first climb of the day, up Alpine Loop unhitching van Uden with 40 miles (64 km) to go.
There was no time to waste for van Uden who had his teammates with him. “Going up Sundance, we were riding with a couple of Bissell guys and they said we weren’t going to make it so I stepped on it. They rode with us pretty hard. We started catching groups but it was mainly the boys from PureBlack that did all the work on the flats especially and we just rode pretty steady up the climb.”
His teammates rode a steady tempo up the first climb and after a fast descent, made junction with other riders.
“Then I had heaps on help in the gruppetto from guys,” van Uden smiled, “it was awesome.”
The final climb up Snowbird was brutal in the heat and the sun beating down on them.
“I was just sitting on the back, getting water dumped all over me just to keep me cool. They pulled me all the way to the finish, it was fantastic.” van Uden said of his teammates.
After four hours and 48 minutes in the saddle, van Uden crossed the finish line on his teammate Tim Gudsell‘s wheel, over 27 minutes behind the stage winner. His two other teammates Daniel Barry and Scott Lyttle were a few seconds behind. If enforced, the 11% time cut would have been at four hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds. It was that close.
The Sprinter jersey was a big accomplishment for the first year Continental team out of New Zealand.
“This is a huge result for the team. It’s probably the biggest ever especially setting up for next year, we’re hoping to become a better team next year and get invited to races like Colorado which we missed out on this year. We obviously want to come back to the Tour of Utah, it’s fantastic.” van Uden said.
On a personal note, van Uden commented, “It’s a great result. I knew this was the race to stand up and showcase myself.”
The team did its homework for their biggest race of the year in Utah and it paid off. Their GC contender Glen Alan Chadwick finished 16th overall.
“We have a strong team and a really great group of guys that work fantastically together. We came and did a little bit of preparation, checking out the stages and reconning all the courses, we tried to have a little bit of advantage from the guys that were coming in not knowing what was ahead of them. We definitely don’t have the caliber of Radioshack and some of the Pro Tour teams but I think we definitely stepped up and showed our own here.”
The Tour of Utah wrapped the North America season for the all-Kiwi squad who can now look forwards to racing at home in New Zealand.