Horner: Tour of Utah GC battle isn’t over

Airgas-Safeway leader trails Joe Dombrowski by 1:09 but says anything can happen on Sunday’s climb over Empire Pass

Chris Horner (Airgas-Safeway) stumbled on the climb to Snowbird on Saturday as Cannondale-Garmin’s Joe Dombrowski surged away from a select lead group to take a commanding lead at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah with one stage remaining.

The 43-year-old American currently sits fourth overall, trailing Dombrowski by 1:09, Mike Woods (Optum Pro Cycling) by 19 seconds and Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) by two.

Horner told Cyclingnews after the stage that he suffered a bout of asthma just before Dombrowski attacked, hampering his ability to fight for the stage win and the overall lead.

“I used everything I had to get back up to the wheels, and by the time I got there he was gone,” Horner said of the stage winner. “I just couldn’t pull anymore. It took so much out of me just to close the gap to them again, because I had to do two accelerations: one when they went, then when I blew up and then I had to go again to come across, so we’ll see how tomorrow goes. Maybe it’s a little better.”

Horner fought his way back into a group of four riders that finished more than a minute behind the Cannondale climbing prodigy, crossing the line with Woods, Natnael Berhan (MTN-Qhubeka) and Schleck.

Despite his current deficit of more than a minute, Horner said the general classification battle in Utah is far from over. Sunday’s 125.5km stage is relatively short but packs quite a punch, with more than 2,379 metres of climbing.

The first climb of the day, the category 2 ascent of Wolf Creek Pass, comes 58.8km into the day, while the day’s main challenge, the hors category climb over Empire Pass, tops out just 8km from the finish.

Horner, who lost his overall lead to Tom Danielson on the climb in 2013, insists Dombrowski could easily lose his jersey by the time the riders descend into Park City for the finish.

“It’s only Froome or somebody like that, that you start writing those stories about,” Horner said of his ability to pull back the time he needs to take the race lead.

“We’ll see what happens. [Cannondale-Garmin] will have to ride all day tomorrow. [Dombrowski] will be isolated, and tomorrow is a real tactical climb. The first part is best legs, but if you can survive that it becomes real tactical.”

Horner said if Dombrowski is isolated on the final climb he’ll likely lose the jersey.

“If he has teammates, it’s a different story,” he said. “But if he’s isolated you can jump on those stair-step parts and easily gain a minute, minute and a half. You’ve seen it done before. But he’s clearly riding better than the rest, and we’re just going to have to have a little of luck and a little bit of tactics.”

 

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