OGDEN – Pull on your shorts, shave your legs, it’s time for the toughest stage race on two wheels — the Tour of Utah.
Only weeks after the end of the Tour de France, the most prestigious cycling competition in the world, 17 teams have gathered to climb, sprint and race along 540 miles of pristine Utah scenery.
The tour began today, with stage one departing along historic 25th Street in Ogden, Utah. Fans gathered alongside the barricades early to see 128 riders set out to cover a circuit that would take around five and a half hours to complete. Not only would the riders have to traverse 131 miles of asphalt and climb 8,939 vertical feet, but the weather also factored into the race, with highs above 90 degrees Fahrenheit that compounded an already difficult stage.
The cyclists wound their way past Snowbasin Ski Resort, up Hogsback Summit and then back down into Ogden. The peloton wound back into Ogden around 3:45 p.m., bringing a close to the first stage of the tour. Rory Sutherland of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling crossed the finish line ahead of the competition, posting a finish time of 5.25’31”.
“To get (the win), at altitude, in hot temperatures, is a pretty hard way to start the Tour. The last climb was definitely hard, especially after how far we had already ridden,” said Sutherland, in a news release. “I’ve been trying to win one of these for six years in the U.S. and finally had the abilities to get one done. So this is huge for me and for my team.”
While finishing first earns Sutherland the privilege of wearing the maillot jaune for the sprint stage Wednesday, the drive for yellow is not the only prize available. Ben Jacques-Maynes of Team Bissell Pro Cycling was the most dominant climber of the day, collecting three straight summits to garner 16 points in the King of the Mountain competition. He finished the stage with a four-point lead over Eduard Alexander Beltran Suarez of Team EPM-UNE.
American cyclist Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma-Quickstep is the favorite in the race this year, as he looks to defend his title after a victory in last year’s tour. Leipheimer finished in the main group, where he shares a time of 5.25’41” with the other riders who crossed the finish line together.
Other race favorites, Jens Voigt of Team RadioShack-Nissan-Trek and Tyler Farrar of Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, finished far behind the leaders, posting times of 5.44’42” and 5.34’50” respectively — times these two experienced riders were likely not expecting to post.
The stage began at 10:15 in the morning, but bicycles continued to fill downtown Ogden the rest of the day. Mayor Caldwell joined up with locals for a community bike ride along the Ogden River Parkway. More courageous riders hopped on their saddles for bike jousting at Ogden Municipal Park at noon, while children participated in a bicycle rodeo at the Ogden Amphitheater. The GOAL foundation set up a kid zone complete with bounce houses, an obstacle course, slackline, disc golf, a climbing wall and tug-of-war.
The Tour of Utah gets back under way Wednesday, with an individual time trial stage over at Miller Motosports Park in Tooele, a 13.5 mile affair that is all about speed.
Stage One Top 10 Results
1. Rory Sutherland, UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling Team, 5:25:31
2. Damiano Caruso, Liquigas-Cannondale, + 00:04
3. Brent Bookwalter, BMC Racing Team, + 00:06
4. Caleb Fairly, Team Spidertech p/b/ C10, + 00:10
5. Lawson Craddock, Bontrager Livestrong, + 00:00
6. Leopold Koenig, Team NetApp,+ 00:00
7. Michael Schar, BMC Racing Team, + 00:00
8. Christian Vandevelde, Garmin0Sharp-Barracuda, + 00:00
9. Mathias Frank, BMC Racing Team, + 00:00
10. Christopher Baldwin, Bissell Pro Cycling, + 00:00