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The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah has once again attracted some of the most prominent climbing specialists in the United States of America including ProTour talent Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack). According to the three-time Tour of California winner, he will ride sans teammates making his chances of winning the overall title nearly an impossible task.
The six-stage race boasts more than 30,000 feet of climbing over 480 kilometres through the Rocky Mountain's Wasatch Range and is scheduled to take place from August 17-22 in and around Salt Lake City, Utah.
“I'm on my own,” Leipheimer told Cyclingnews. “Being that I'm alone, I'm realistic about the GC, I don't think it's possible to win but I'd like to win a stage. The courses are tough, really tough, so I'm looking forward to it.”
Leipheimer has graced the domestic US racing scene on several occasions over the years by competing in the Tour of the Gila, the Cascade Cycling Classic and Nevada City Classic. This year he won his second consecutive Tour of the Gila two weeks prior to his targeted event at the Tour of California where he placed third. This will be his first appearance at the Tour of Utah and he pointed to several reasons for making the decision to once again take part in a domestic-level stage race.
“There's a few reasons why I decided to race the Tour of Utah,” Leipheimer said. “I lived in Salt Lake City for a few years when I graduated from High School and then attended the University of Utah so I made a lot of friends in the Utah Cycling Community including the late race director Terry McGinnis. We used to ride almost every day together, we raced for the same team and we became good friends.”
The Tour of Utah mourned the loss of McGinnis, its former executive
director, who passed away after a two-year battle with colon cancer in October last year. McGinnis was instrumental in bringing back the event after it was cancelled in 2007. He went on to direct the event towards massive successes in both 2008 and 2009.
“He resurrected the Tour of Utah and built it into what it is today,”
Leipheimer said. “Unfortunately he lost a long battle with cancer last year leaving behind his wife and two kids. He had asked me every year to participate in the race but I never had the chance due to scheduling conflicts and injuries. However, this year I have the opportunity to participate and ride the roads we used to train on together.”
Leipheimer will utilize the events high altitude and mountainous terrain to prepare for Canada’s two inaugural ProTour races held on September 10 in Quebec City and September 12 in Montreal. The ProTour events will be followed by the USA Cycling Pro Road and Time Trial Championships held in Greenville, South Carolina from September 18-19.
“We have the ProTour races in Canada and US Pro in Sept so the Tour of Utah is a great way to stay in shape for those,” Leipheimer said. “Racing is the best training, but I really wanted to go back to Utah and ride with some old friends like Burke Swindlehurst.”
The event has attracted a series of Salt Lake City natives such as Burke Swindlehurst (1320 KFAN Elite Composite Team) and former event winner Jeff Louder (BMC Racing). Other strong overall contenders include defending champion Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles), George Hincapie (BMC Racing), Rory Sutherland and Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis), Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home p/b Colavita), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Cesar Grajales (On The Rivet), Paul Mach (Bissell), Andrew Talansky (California Giant) and Darren Lill (Fly V Australia).
President of the Tour of Utah, Steve Miller, noted his ambitions of bringing the event up to the UCI ranks within the next three to five years. The number of UCI sanctioned races in the US recently increased with the addition of the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico and the Quiznos Pro Challenge in Colorado in 2011.
“I think it's important for races like Utah, Colorado and Gila to get on the international calendar and provide the US teams with the opportunity to race against some of the best teams and riders from around the world,” Leipheimer said. “It not only helps the domestic riders raise their game but more importantly it brings notoriety to the sport. The Tour of California was born and inspired from races like the Coors Classic, Tour DuPont and the Tour of Georgia.”
“Now the Tour of California has certainly helped bring about the Quiznos Pro Challenge,” he added. “AEG and Medalist have done a great job of putting on a professional race and bringing it to millions of people all over the world, and now places like Colorado and Utah see the benefit. The Tour of Utah has fantastic scenery and challenging courses to showcase their state to people worldwide while growing cycling in the US.”