The UCI 2.1 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah’s uphill prologue generated the potential for some exciting racing as the peloton heads deeper into the high-altitude Wasatch Mountain Range around Salt Lake City. Sergio Henao (Gobernacion de Antioquia) leads the way in the overall classification and he is expecting tough competition from the assembled group of international and high-quality riders and teams during the next five stages.
“Wearing the yellow jersey into the first stage, we have to be patient because there are strong teams here,” Henao said. “There are a lot of stages in the mountains. We have to play day-by-day and we have to go by a plan each day. I think it was a big surprise for me, and for other teams, that I won the prologue.”
Henao won the two-kilometre prologue in a time of 4:05 minutes, besting Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) by two seconds and teammate Oscar Sevilla by five seconds. There are a series of climbers who recently participated in the Tour de France who are trailing Henao’s overall lead including Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) in fourth, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) in fifth, Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) in sixth and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo).
“There are a lot of good teams here like RadioShack, Garmin, HTC and others,” Henao said. “We are a modest team and in competition with other really good teams. We are here to do a great show for the people and to make a great accomplishment and fight until the last minute every day.”
Leipheimer, who is the defending champion, expressed slight disappointment in his performance during the prologue but noted the mix of riders at the top of the early general classification. The mix of riders includes ProTeams, Professional Continental and Continental teams, where the time gaps between riders are a mere seconds.
“I expected to be better,” Leipheimer said. “My warm up was, I should have done a bit better warm up. When I tried to step on it at the top my legs just weren’t firing. It’s been two weeks since I’ve done an effort like that. The guys who did the Tour have a really deep fitness but sometimes you give up all that endurance and recovery for explosiveness like today.”
“Altitude and the Colombians, you know?” he added. “I had heard that Gobernacion had someone that was really strong. Mancebo and Sevilla are world class riders so you can’t be too surprised. But, we have the time trial coming so I would assume that we can get them back there, but then again, they can always get to us back again on the last stage to Snowbird. I think it is going to be a great race. These results are exciting. I think it is very good racing and Utah has definitely come of age.”
The race will continue with the stage one circuit race around Ogden on August 10. The 187 km race will climb over Ogden Pass, a steep three kilometer ascent, three times where the race is expected to shatter. Other decisive stages include stage three time trial held at the Miller Motorsport Park, stage four circuit race held on the steep pitches in downtown Salt Lake City, and the ‘queen’ stage five finale that begins in Park City and ends atop the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
“I have good morale for this race after our team won the first stage,” Sevilla said. “There is a lot of racing left to go. But, I have a lot of confidence in my team for this race, especially after Henao’s win. It will be a difficult race to control with Garmin, RadioShack and other teams that are very strong. Our team is good, with three strong riders and we need to stick together to control guys like Mancebo. We have a good base because we are from Colombia and this is a mountainous race. If we stick together we think we can do well.”