Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) slugged through the stage four criterium while battling a stomach virus that set in before the start of the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah. Despite his illness he started the day as an overall contender in 10th place but slipped down to 41st place before the decisive final stage on Sunday.
“Ouch! First time I've suffered like a dog to make 50% of the crit time cut,” Sutherland tweeted following the race. “Gastro problems no bueno!”
The Tour of Utah’s penultimate stage four 75-minute criterium had Sutherland’s name written all over it. The new course offered and extensive amount of climbing, totalling more than 4000 feet, on a 1.6-kilometre circuit held in the historical downtown area of Park City.
“The first day he got here he wasn’t feeling right and he got progressive worse,” said Thierry Attias, UnitedHealthcare team owner. “He was feeling really bad at the time trial but he soldiered through it for 20th place. This morning when he woke up we weren’t sure if we were going to start him and instead just save him for another event. Since there are so few events left I think he took it upon himself, he wanted to come out and start. He was still feeling bad, we weren’t sure if he was going to put on his skin suit but he did.”
Race officials announced a 50 percent rule whereby riders must finish half the criterium before getting lapped in order to start the fifth and final stage on Sunday. The ‘queen’ stage will take the peloton on a 160 km trek through the Wasatch Mountain Range before ending up a lengthy climb to the top of the Snowbird Ski Resort. Sutherland will decide tomorrow morning if he will race or not, according to the team’s directeur sportif Mike Tamayo.
“I think we will focus on a stage win now,” Attias said. “We are pretty far out on GC. Morgan Schmitt is riding really well for us and we are excited about giving him some opportunity. Marc de Maar is feeling good and he will try to give it his all tomorrow. Max Jenkins is feeling good at this race and has adapted really well to the altitude. We have a few cards to play for tomorrow but we would have to get a good breakaway going for tomorrow to shake up the GC at this point.”
Sutherland was an odds-on favourite to contest for a top spot on the podium at the Tour of Utah. Earlier this year he placed second at the Tour of California’s ‘queen’ stage six atop Big Bear Lake. He finished the eight-day race in seventh place overall under two minutes behind race winner Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia). He went on to capture overall victories at the Nature Valley Grand Prix and the Cascade Cycling Classic.
“The crux of our season was May through July and everything else was a bonus,” Attias said. “We have sponsors here so we would definitely like to do well. Did we target this race specifically? It was one of many, it wasn’t at the top of the list but it was very important for us to do well at this race.