The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah revealed the cities and venues of the 2012 edition. In its second year as a UCI rated stage race, the Tour of Utah has made some changes, eliminating the prologue and adding the team time trial. The Tour of Utah starts Tuesday, August 7th in Ogden and concludes Sunday, August 12th, in Park City.
Last year the Tour of Utah, with its position on the race calendar just after the Tour de France and prior to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, attracted a strong field which included BMC, Garmin-Cervelo (now Garmin-Barracuda), RadioShack, HTC-Highroad, Liquigas-Cannondale, along with America's domestic squads. Defending Tour of Utah champion Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) won the 2011 race, but the animators were the Colombian Gobernacion de Antioquia-Indeportes Antiquia team.
The Utah organizers are expecting 16 domestic and international teams to accept the invitation to compete in what they call "America's toughest stage race."
The prologue is not part of this year's parcours. Instead day one is a full road race stage starting in Ogden in the northern part of Utah. This is the fifth time the city has hosted the race.
Day two the peloton heads to the Miller Motorsports Park. In the past this has been the venue for the individual race against the clock. However, the format has changed to a team time trial – the first in a North American UCI stage race since the 2008 Tour de Georgia. The track contains numerous curves with only a few tight turns. While not especially technical, teams will have to be diligent for the entire distance.
"Part of our goal for the Tour of Utah is to keep it fresh and exciting," said Steve Miller, president of the Tour of Utah. "We inadvertently tweeted (last year) that we were going to do a team time trial – the tweet contained one too many 't'."
However, that typo created quite a positive stir and they "mentally tucked that idea away." After speaking to the race organizers (Medalist Sports), riders, and discussed internally among the Tour of Utah management team they decided to make that mistake a reality.
Stage 3 starts, once again, in Ogden and finishes at the University of Utah Research Park in Salt Lake City. Stage 4 the peloton rolls out of Utah County and ends in downtown Salt Lake City.
Another slight change to the Tour of Utah is the day of the "queen" stage – Park City to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. The past two years this was the final stage with the overall victory still on the line, not to mention the 10,000 feet of climbing for the day. For 2012 it's switched to the penultimate day.
"The reason it was moved to Saturday is because Park City specifically asked to host the final stage. So we came to an agreement with them to do that," explained Miller.
Prior to receiving a UCI ranking the Tour of Utah had a criterium stage – that type of event is no longer allowed – on the final day.
"We can't hold a criterium in a UCI event, so the next best thing is to have Park City host the start/finish."
The other reason for the move is the mass participation ride called the Ultimate Challenge scheduled for Saturday. Cyclists will roll out several hours before the pros and tackle stage 5. In Utah holding a Sunday ride would not guarantee a good turnout as many residents do not ride on that day.
The final day, stage 6, concludes in Park City and organizers are still weighing route options.
Miller explained some of the changes to the Tour of Utah.
"Our m.o. is to do an analysis of the race and take inventory of what we did well and what we didn't do well. The goal is always to retain what we did well and keep them as elements of the race. Anywhere we fall down we correct to make it a better year."
One of those improvements for 2012 will be a daily television broadcast in high-definition in addition to live Internet streaming via the Tour Tracker.
"It will be live or live-to-tape and we're really close to having a deal done to broadcast two-hours of racing a day. There's also a good chance we'll televise it internationally."
This will be a national television distribution.
The other positive change is an increase in the marketing budget for the Tour of Utah.
"You'll see and hear a lot more about the Tour of Utah than you have before," said Miller.
While a list of participating team's isn't available, Miller is excited about the initial reaction from the invited squads.
"We started the invitation progress and we're very encouraged by the commitments that we have already received."
Full individual stage details will be released in the spring. A participating teams list will also be announced later.