Roman van Uden (PureBlack Racing) jumped his way into the Tour of Utah's XO Communications Sprint jersey following stage two bunch kick in Provo on Thursday. The New Zealand native is confident that he will further his lead in the special classification by accumulating additional points during the final two stages.
"Yes, I think I can hold the jersey to the end," Van Uden said. "Picking up sprint points was my goal. I love sprinting and so it was a good target, and one of the targets before we got to this race. I will be happy if we can come out of this race with the sprint jersey. Being the biggest race of the season, I knew it was time to step up and put myself on the showcase to some other teams and general public about how good of a rider I am."
The Tour of Utah was the biggest event on the calendar for the New Zealand-registered UCI Continental team. It achieved success this season with victories at National Racing Calendar (NRC) events including Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of Somerville, Tour de Grove, Tour de Toona and Tour de Beauce. In addition, it is known as being one of the most aggressive teams in the domestic peloton.
"We had a good plan to come into this race and be really aggressive," Van Uden said. "This is a good way to start. Saturday will be a pretty tough circuit race and Sunday, the last day, will be absolutely brutal."
Van Uden rode into a significant breakaway during the stage one circuit race in Ogden. He rode into a second decisive breakaway during stage two from Lehi to Provo, where he picked up full points in the first intermediate sprint and tenth place points at the finish line. He accumulated enough points to move into the lead in the sprint competition.
"Yesterday was pretty hard so I was thankful that today was pretty flat," Van Uden said. "It was a race to get an early breakaway going and I was lucky enough to slip into it about 20 kms into the race. We had a good time gap until about 50 kms and hit a headwind and started to get reeled in."
"I picked up the first sprint after 64 kms but some teams started rolling hard at the front and they reeled us in before the next sprint," he said. "I was disappointed not to make it to that second intermediate sprint, where I wanted to get a good lead, but with the chaos in the last 10 kms of the stage, it thinned out the bunch a little and I was able to get some more points to get the jersey."
The team is not only vying for the sprint jersey, but also a strong placing in the overall classification with Glen Chadwick. The race will continue into the stage three 15.9 km time trial at the Miller Motorsport Park followed by the stage four circuit race in Salt Lake City, and the 'queen' stage five that finishes atop the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort on Sunday.