Race organizers announced the final nine teams Tuesday that will round out the 17-team line up competing this August at the 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and two-time Tour of Utah champion Levi Leipheimer's Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad was the final UCI ProTeam to accept an invitation. Eight other teams were named earlier this year for the six-stage, UCI 2.1 race that runs August 7-12.
Leipheimer's Belgian squad, currently ranked fourth in the UCI World Tour, will join previous invitees Liquigas-Cannondale, RadioShack-Nissan, BMC, Garmin-Sharp and Rabobank in filling out the field of six ProTeams. Champion System, Team NetApp, Spidertech-C10 and UnitedHealthcare will join Argos-Shimano in the five-team Pro Continental field, while Bissell Pro Cycling, Bontrager-Livestrong, Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies and Team Exergy will represent the six-squad Continental Team contingent along with previously announced teams Competitve Cyclist and Colombia's EPM-UNE.
The final field represents teams registered from nine countries, including two teams from the Netherlands and one team from China, all three first-time entries. Other countries represented include Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the United States. Coming on the heels of both the Tour de France and the London Olympic road cycling events, which take place just a week before Utah starts, the race promises a field of riders featured in both events. Seven of the teams (all six UCI ProTeams and Argos-Shimano) are currently competing at the Tour de France.
The 2012 Tour of Utah will traverse 877 km and feature 11,734 meters of climbing along the Rocky Mountains' Wasatch Range. The race begins in Ogden and will finish in Park City, and the 2012 schedule also boasts the only professional team time trial in the US this year.
"The field this August provides a unique opportunity for Utahns and out-of-state visitors to see a level of competition only available in the U.S. a few times a year," said Tour of Utah President Steve Miller. "To watch these riders battle it out in the team time trial and on the most challenging climbs in North America is an experience not to be missed."
Greeting the riders this year will be a significantly tougher route with more kilometers and more climbing. The race has added 33 percent more distance, much of which comes on the first day in Ogden with a 211.7-kilometer road race rather than a short prologue time trial. The Tour will also include 13 King of the Mountain climbs this year, an increase from just five in 2011. Elevation gain over the week will increase by 25 percent over the 2011 route.
"It's billed as America's toughest stage race," Leipheimer said when this year's route was announced last month. "I believe the courses reflect that. We have some very difficult climbs, especially this coming year. There are a couple of new ones that will really shock people."
Although final rosters haven't been announced, organizers said they anticipated that Omega Pharma-QuickStep would bring Leipheimer to defend his two consecutive wins and to compete for a prize purse that totals $127,000. Of the nine teams announced Tuesday, four will be making their Tour of Utah debuts. Champion System, Team NetApp and Team Exergy will join Omega Pharma-QuickStep as first-time Utah participants.
Champion System, led by four-time Tour de France stage winner Jaan Kirsipuu, is the first-ever Asian-based UCI Pro Continental squad. The team's roster also includes two Americans known for climbing: Chris Butler, formerly of the BMC Racing Team, and Craig Lewis, an acquisition from the now-defunct HTC-Highroad squad. Utah newcomer NetApp, of Germany, is only in its second year as a Pro Continental squad. The team made its first Grand Tour appearance earlier this year at the 2012 Giro d'Italia. Team Exergy, a second-year Continental Team, is led by veteran rider and Giro d'Italia stage winner Freddie Rodriguez. The team's roster also includes Americans Matt Cooke and Morgan Schmitt along with Columbians Andres Diaz and Carlos Alzate.
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Omega Pharma-QuickStep (BEL)
Rabobank Cycling Team (NED)
UCI Professional Continental Teams
Champion System Pro Cycling Team (CHN)
Team Argos-Shimano (NED)
Team NetApp (GER)
Team SpiderTech powered by C10 (CAN)
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team (USA)
UCI Continental Teams
Bissell Pro Cycling (USA),
Bontrager Livestrong Cycling Team (USA)
Competitive Cyclist Racing Team (USA)
Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA)
Team Exergy (USA)