Brent Bookwalter says his preparation for the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah has not been as intense as it was before the Tour of California in May, but the BMC Racing leader who finished third in Utah in 2015 is quietly confident about his chances to pull off the overall win.
"I've had a pretty laid-back approach,” Bookwalter told Cyclingnews Saturday evening at the Tour of Utah team presentation. "I've been riding my mountain bike and I have some altitude time in me. I haven't had the same level of focus in my prep like I had in California, but knowing I have some good experience myself at this race and we have a really deep team, I feel good about it."
Bookwalter, 33, is in the midst of another consistent season with BMC. He finished second on the queen stage at the Tour of the Alps and was second in the Big Bear time trial in California on his way to fourth overall in the first-year WorldTour race.
From there Bookwalter went to Critérium du Dauphiné in support of Richie Porte, and he raced most recently USA Cycling Pro Road Championships at the end of June, where he finished second to teammate Joey Rosskopf in the time trial.
"I feel good," Bookwalter said of coming off his extended break. "I'm healthy and I think freshened up a little bit since Nationals. I took a little off week and had the rare chance to go back to Asheville in the summer, which I haven't done for a long time. It was good."
Bookwalter's previous crack at the Tour of Utah came in 2015, when he finished on the final podium behind Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapac) and Michael Woods, who was riding for Optum at the time but has since signed with Cannondale. Without Cannondale and fellow US-based WorldTour team Trek-Segafredo on the start line in Logan on Monday, this could be Bookwalter's year to add a Utah win to his palmares.
"Honestly, I haven't been thinking about it too much," Bookwalter said. "California was my big goal for the first part of the year, and then this is part of the rebuilding for the second half.
"In a perfect world, I could end my season in the next few weeks and come in guns a blazing, but the team's got me going all the way through October, so I'm not in maybe my absolute best form, but maybe I am too, and I don't know it," he said. “I haven't raced in six or eight weeks, but I'm motivated, and I'm inspired to race in Utah. I'm feeling really strong and fit and healthy in training, so I have as good of a chance as ever."
Bookwalter won’t have to wait long to find out how his legs are feeling. Stage 2 on Tuesday offers the first summit finish of the race with a 152km route that ends at Snowbasin Resort. Climbs over Sardine Canyon and North Ogden Divide will provide the prelude to the final 10km climb. The next day riders will tackle a 9km uphill time trial.
"The time trial will absolutely be decisive in the overall, and it will produce a deserving winner," Bookwalter said. "I wouldn't say it's tailor-made for me, but I've done some good climbs up here, so I'm looking forward to it.
"Personally, it's not super exciting from a race perspective," he said. "It's this high-altitude straight road. It's a beautiful canyon, don't get me wrong, but what I like to see in a TT at a competition level is some dynamic diversity that really tests everything that a rider's got. This one will definitely test climbing ability, altitude adaptation and ability to suffer."
Bookwalter will benefit from a deep team that also includes Rosskopf, Kilian Frankiny, Tom Bohli, Silvan Dillier, Martin Elmiger, Manuel Senni and stagiaire Patrick Müller.
"Being the only WorldTour team here, I think there will be some extra pressure on us to be present," Bookwalter said. "We're capable of it. We have maybe two new-timers in Utah, but everyone else has been in this race before and we know what we’re getting into.
"We have Joey coming off a strong TT ride in nationals, and we have Kilian Frankiny. I don't know if a lot of Americans recognise his name, but he's a pure climber and he's really motivated for this race. He's been training really hard for it at home, and he's been up high in the mountains in Switzerland, so I think he could be a surprise this week that maybe people aren't expecting."