“America’s Toughest Race”, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, starts today and it’s tougher than it’s ever been.
“There’s been a lot of talk about it being too tough and this and that but bike racing is hard, it’s not meant to be easy.” Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare) said.
Utah-native and Salt Lake city resident, Louder has not only raced in most of the editions of the Tour of Utah – including the overall win in 2008 – but he’s also spent many hours training on many of the same roads that the peloton will face this year. Louder shared with podiuminisight on each stage of this year’s edition.
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“If you look at the terrain and the duration of the race, I don’t think it’s over the top. This is a high-caliber international stage race and I think if you want to call yourself a high-caliber international stage racer, it’s doable. I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy and I don’t think it will be, I think it will be a very hard race, harder than ever before but I think that’s what most of us cyclists, in sort of a dark way, we look forwards to.”
Six stages, including a team time trial, for over 545 miles (877 kms) of racing and 38,500 feet (11, 734 meter) of elevation gain. Louder thinks that the final two stages will be “by far” the two decisive stages for the battle for the overall win.
“Those are essentially mountain top finishes even though the last day has a downhill, there’s not going to be a lot of coming back together. The final climb of the last day is something else, that’s beyond anything else in the race. It’s a brute.” he laughed. “It’s probably one of the five hardest climbs in the world. From my experience and what I’ve seen out there, as far as the severity and altitude, the quality of the road, I think it’s right up there with those climbs that people like to talk about in Europe.”
It all starts with stage 1, a 131-mile (211-km) road stage that starts and ends in Ogden. Along the way racers will trade attacks through Morgan County’s lush ranchlands and canyons, pass two massive reservoirs, travel the back side of North Ogden Pass, and summit the infamous Trapper’s Loop from both directions. After all that the peloton returns to the finish in downtown Ogden.
“The first stage could be tricky, it’s not an easy stage at all.” Louder said. What could make it even trickier is that the race does not start with a prologue this year which might changes things a bit.
“It depends on who wants to stamp their authority on the race, who wants to go to bat and see what everyone else has to say about it. I’ve known, often-times especially in these week-long stage races, that the first stage is a lot of times the best stage for a breakaway to stick because of that. Because of the sort of in-fighting that you get when no one is clear leader, sometimes there’s more potential for miscalculations and things like that as opposed to having a prologue and then a stage.”
The two difficulty are the length of the stage and the final climb, North Ogden Divide which has never been done before in that direction at the Tour of Utah.
“It’s not quite as long but it’s similar to what we did last year on the first stage. It’s steep.” continued Louder. And what makes it even more difficult is that the summit comes 191 km into the stage. Then it’s predominantly downhill run to the finish.
Though the organizers predicted a bunch sprint, Louder is predicting a small group at the finish. “A small group or even what we saw last year where four, five guys set themselves apart and just motored. It depends how organized it can get, it’s very possible to have the same thing happen.”
In 2011, the stage was won by Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-Optumhealth) who outsprinted his breakmates for the victory in Ogden.
Stage 1 details:
- Length: 131 miles (211 km) (see map)
- Elevation gain: 8,939 ft. (2,724 meters)
- Start time: 10:15 am MT
- ETA finish time: 3:19 pm to 4:50 pm MT
- Neutral section: 0.7 miles (1.1 km)
- Time bonus at finish of 10, 6 & 4 seconds
- 3 XO Communications sprint lines for seconds (3, 2, 1 sec)
- in Morgan at mile 32 (km 52)
- in Henefer at mile 53 (km 85)
- in Eden at mile 112 (km 180)
- 4 Ski Utah KOMs
- Cat 3 on Trapper’s Loop at mile 15 (km 24)
- Cat 4 on Hogsback at mile 69 (km 111)
- Cat 3 on Trapper’s Loop at mile 100 (km 162)
- Cat 2 on North Ogden Divide at mile 119 (km 191)