Tour of Utah connects professional and recreational cyclists

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The Tour of Utah brings professional and recreational cyclists together as they face “the ultimate challenge,” a rigorous climb, on the same day. (Jonathan Devich)

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Utah is a perfect venue for cycling. It offers challenging terrain with canyon roads that wind and climb through beautiful mountains. It offers miles of open roads that allow riders to accelerate for extended periods of time, increasing their endurance and stamina. The high elevation challenges riders to build strength and improve their climbing skills and the beauty of Utah’s scenic roads and byways is second to none.

Each year a professional cycling race is held in Utah, taking advantage of everything Utah has to offer.

The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah race originally began in 2000 as the Thanksgiving Point Stage Race, and it only attracted recreational riders. The race name changed to the Tour of Utah in 2004. 

Today, the race attracts professional teams and riders from all over the world. It is a seven-day event with a new challenging stage beginning each day in a different part of Utah.

One thing that makes the Tour of Utah interesting is the opportunity recreational cyclists have to participate in one of the stages on the same day as the professional cyclists.

“The Ultimate Challenge,” or “Queen Stage,” is the second-to-last stage of the race and is a grueling event spanning 98 miles and climbing over 10,000 feet in elevation.

“A bond exists between cyclists, but this is truly a shared experience for recreational and professional riders as they tackle the challenging Queen Stage on the same day,” said John Kimball, the managing director of the Tour of Utah.

“The public gets a chance to finish in front of big crowds on the official course at Snowbird Resort and then watch the professionals climb Little Cottonwood Canyon,” Kimball said.

This year the Ultimate Challenge will begin in Park City and will run through Summit and Wasatch County communities before climbing up Guardsman Pass, over the mountain into Big Cottonwood Canyon, up Little Cottonwood Canyon and into Snowbird Ski Resort to finish.

“The atmosphere is quite memorable, and the sense of accomplishment is palpable for everyone. The Ultimate Challenge should be on every rider’s bucket list,” Kimball said.

Andrew Smart is a recreational cyclist from Las Vegas, Nevada, and has raced in the Ultimate Challenge multiple times.

“I love the feeling of starting out early with hundreds of other cyclists who have trained and are ready for a fun event,” Smart said.

The course is really challenging, but there’s nothing better than riding on the same course as the pros up the canyon and through the finish line where the crowd is gathering to watch.”

Lori Birchall of Highland, Utah, has watched the Tour of Utah as a spectator with her family many times.

“It’s super exciting. The whole vibe around the race is just awesome,” said Birchall. “I am in awe of the way we can push our bodies and what our bodies can do. To watch these people climb Little Cottonwood Canyon — it’s incredible to me.”

The Ultimate Challenge stage of the Tour of Utah will take place on August 11. Those interested in watching professional cyclists race to the finish line at Snowbird are encouraged to be there well in advance since the road closes while the professional riders are in the canyon. The event is free for spectators.