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Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) and race leader Sergio Henao (Gobernacion De Antioquia) on the attack.
Henao, Sevilla, Leipheimer and Brajkovic look for additional seconds
The Tour of Utah’s overall classification is separated by a mere 21 seconds between the top five overall contenders, led by Sergio Henao (Gobernacion de Antioquia), heading into the stage three time trial. The high-quality peloton boasts a series of time trial specialists that are hoping to move closer to the yellow jersey while others vie for a stage win.
The stage three time trial is held on the race way at the Miller Motorsports Park. It is a 15.6 kilometer circuit with some tight turns on a smooth and flat tarmac. The parcours is well suited to US National Champion Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo) who said he was feeling good the day before the event.
The top riders in the overall classification include Henao, followed by his teammate Oscar Sevilla at seven seconds, Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) at 13 seconds, Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) at 18 seconds and Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) 21 seconds in arrears.
Henao’s directeur sportif, Santiago Botero, is not confident that he is capable of maintaining his overall lead in the time trial and pointed to Leipheimer as the race favourite.
“We will try to keep the yellow jersey,” Botero said. “But it will not be easy. Everyone knows that Levi is strong in the time trial. Our riders are not, Sergio and Oscar, they are normal in the time trial.”
Leipheimer placed second in the time trial last year to stage winner Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing). He went on to win the overall title following the queen stage five that finished on Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
However, he admitted that he is not 100 percent confident that he or Brajkovic will be capable of overtaking Henao’s race lead during the time trial.
“I don’t know the leader very well and I have heard that he can time trial, so I’m not counting on taking the race lead. Janez is also a good time trialist and the ideal scenario would be that we jump up to first and second, in whichever order. But, hopefully it is a long enough time trial to take some time back in the overall.
“The course has some turns and it is technical,” he said. “I lost the race there to Taylor Phinney last year. But, once you get out on the track you can open it up and go for it. But you feel the altitude and that is the main factor."
Time trial specialists look for a stage win
Jeff Louder (BMC Racing) has placed well in the time trial where he moved into the overall leader’s jersey in 2008. He maintained that lead through the final stage to win the overall title that year.
“It’s a good time trial course, unique being on the motor course,” Louder said. “It is not a wide open course like a lot of time trials are, but it is fast and smooth, which makes it all about aerodynamics and that is not really my strong suit.
“I had a great time trial in 2008 to win the race and I know I have the ability to do well on a course like that, but at the same time aerodynamically and pure time trialing is not my biggest strength.”
Tom Zirbel (Jamis-Sutter Home) won the time trial at the Tour of Utah during the 2008 and 2009 editions. He returned to the professional peloton this spring after completing a one year suspension and was hoping to put forth a strong performance at the Amgen Tour of California time trial, however, a mechanical took him out of contention.
He went on to place second at the US Pro National Time Trial Championships, behind winner Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo), second in the time trial at the Cascade Cycling Classic to winner Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) and second at the Tour of Elk Grove time trial to winner Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare).
“The goal coming in to this race was to get a stage win in the time trial,” Zirbel said. “I knew that I couldn’t get over the climbs with the top guys so I might as well go for a stage win, rather than for a top 20 in GC.
“This course definitely suits me better than California and I didn’t know what to expect at that race. I have higher expectations this week and I expect more from myself. I expect to be up there and vying for the stage three win.”
Scott Zwizanski (UnitedHealthcare) is one of the favourite to secure a podium position in the time trial. He placed third at the UCI 2.1 Tour de San Luis in the early season and went on to place a respectable seventh in the time trial at the Giro Trentino.
He returned to racing at the UCI 2.2 Tour de Beauce, after recovering from a crash that resulted in a broken hand, and placed third in the time trial.
“I did this time trial in 2006,” Zwizanski said. “I’m focusing on the time trial here for a good result there and I’m going to give it my all. It should be a good time trial for me because it is very flat. The flat course will be good for me because I can use my aerodynamics.”
Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) placed third in last year’s time trial behind Taylor Phinney and Levi Leipheimer. He is also hoping to put forth a podium performance during the stage three event. “I liked the course,” Vennell said. “I was close last year and hopefully knowing the course will help me. Any one at this level of racing can do a good time trial if they really want to.”
Other strong contenders include Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) and Dale Parker (RadioShack).