By Kirsten Robbins in Park City, Utah, USA
One of the most mountainous stage races in North America has returned to Park City – the 2008 Tour of Utah. The race is set to begin on Wednesday August 13 taking, the peloton on a five-day tour totalling 537-kilometres with over 30,000 ft of climbing. Riders will contest numerous sprint points, KOM ascents and battle for stage victories through the Rocky Mountain's Wasatch Mountain range before an overall champion emerges on Sunday August 17.
The peloton will start and finish in neighboring cities of Salt Lake City, Nephi, Snowbird and Ogden. The notorious ascents will challenge some of the best climbers in the country, including recent Tour de France participants Danny Pate and Will Frischkorn (Garmin-Chipotle).
Other riders to watch will be Scott Nydam (BMC), Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United), Moises Aldape (Team Type 1), Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing), Rory Sutherland and Phil Zajicek (Health Net-Maxxis) and Anthony Colby (Colavita-Sutter Home). Utah State favourites include Jeff Louder and Darren Lill (BMC) and Burke Swindlehurst (Bissell).
The prestigious jerseys available include the yellow overall leader, the green best sprinter, the polka dot best climber, the blue best young rider and the red best Utah rider jerseys.
Stage 1 - August 13: The tour starts with a 162 kilometre rolling course held in Nephi. It is considered a day for the sprinters, with three intermediate sprints available to start the green jersey competition. The first KOM will also present itself as the riders approach the foothills of the mountain range.
Stage 2 - August 14: The second stage will be a pivotal 137 kilometre journey from Odgen to Salt Lake City. It passes four major climbs, with more than 10,000 feet of climbing on this stage alone.
According to event director Terry McGinnis it is much harder than it looks on paper. "It will be a great course for an opportunistic rider or a strong group of climbers," he said.
Stage 3 - August 15: After a big day of climbing riders face a 90-minute twilight criterium the following day in downtown Salt Lake City. The standard four corner course stretches around a 1.6 kilometre circuit. This is another day for the sprinters to shine, racing for lucrative primes and valuable sprint points.
Stage 4 - August 16: The queen stage is where the climbing with resume. After a chance to recuperate on the criterium, the riders face over 14,000 feet of climbing on this stage. The leg starts in Park City and will finish 160 kilometres later a top the scenic Snowbird Ski Resort mountain top finish.
"As in 2006, Stage 4 finishes at Snowbird Ski resort and will be the toughest test for all the riders, including our general classification leader," said McGinnis.
Stage 5 - August 17: The flat, 19-kilometre time trial will start and finish in the Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele. The short time trial will make the race tougher for riders hoping to make up time on the true climbers. However Utah's typical heat and high winds could make this a deciding finale.