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Blake Caldwell in the Tour of Utah leader's jersey during the 2008 edition.
A series of Tour de France contenders will line up to contest the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah held from August 9-14 around Salt Lake City, Utah. The six-day event is in its first season sanctioned as an International Cycling Union (UCI) 2.1 stage race, and will offer the peloton a challenging parcours set through the high-altitude mountains, concluding with the ‘queen’ stage atop the famed Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
"I think it is great that the race is now a UCI 2.1," said Jeff Louder (BMC Racing), a former winner of the event and native of Salt Lake City. "It not only allows me to compete as a member of a ProTeam but it also makes the race a lot more legitimate. I have always felt this race was of a higher caliber than most of the domestic races and now that it has the status and can attract the ProTeams, I think the field will be more in step with the difficulty of the terrain and high level of organization."
In its previous incarnation as a national event, the UCI rules limited the race to Continental and amateur teams, allowing only a few top-tier riders in teams of three. This year, there will be six ProTeams in the race, including several riders who just finished the Tour de France.
Former Tour of Utah winner Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Tejay Van Garderen and Danny Pate (HTC-Highroad), Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) and Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas-Cannondale) will all be present on the start line.
"I think the GC contenders will be the guys that rode the Tour de France and came out in good shape," Louder said. "It will be interesting to see who is motivated and who has recovered well just two weeks after the big show, but I expect all of the American guys that finished the Tour will be up for this as well. There is always the big question as to who rides well at altitude as there are some that adapt better than others and so I expect there will be some surprise performances as well."
Strong contenders from the Professional Continental teams include Giampaolo Cheula (GEOX-TMC), Alexander and brother Vladimir Efimkin (Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis), Pat McCarty (SpiderTech p/b C10) and Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare).
Continental teams and riders that will likely make an impact among the top end of the overall classification and during stages are the current NRC leader Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com), Jeremy Vennell and Chris Baldwin (Bissell), Tyler Wren and Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home), Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) and Glen Chadwick and Scott Lyttle (PureBlack Racing). Newly added to the roster is former Grand Tour contender Oscar Sevilla (Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antiquia).
"I think the race will be a much different beast this year with the level of the field attending and so I think we will need to take it day-by-day and see how everyone is racing," Louder said. "But, I hope to see BMC Racing do very well every day and get a win and a good placing in GC."
Louder outlines mountainous parcours
The race will kick off on August 9 with a brand new uphill, five-kilometre prologue starting at the Utah Olympic Park, outside of Park City, and finishing up the steep and scenic downtown streets. "The prologue is new and is basically straight uphill so I think we will know pretty quickly who is feeling frisky," Louder said.
On August 10, the peloton will contest the stage one, a three-lap circuit race totaling 187km from Ogden to Ogden. Portions of the route will suit the climbers with three ascents over the North Ogden Pass Road. "The first stage may not be decisive but it is very difficult with three times up North Ogden Pass," Louder said.
On August 11, stage two could be a day for the fast-men and end in field sprint. The 151km road race will start in Lehi and conclude in Provo. "It looks like it will be a field sprint but depending on the weather and wind conditions it could be tricky getting everyone in together," Louder said.
On August 12, the time trialists will have their day to shine at the stage three individual event held at the Miller Motorsports Park. Racers will compete a lap of the race course for a total of 14.5km. "The TT at Miller Motorsports Park is a standard of the race and will be the first day of three where the GC riders will really need to be on their game."
On August 13, race organizers will offer the field a brand new stage held in downtown Salt Lake City. The riders will undertake a challenging 132km, 11-lap circuit race that includes a climb up to the Capitol Buildings on each lap. "The downtown Salt Lake City circuit is very exciting to me as it is around my hometown and on many of the roads that I have been riding for years," Louder said. "It will be a hard stage and likely a race of attrition. If a break is going to work, I think this will be the day."
On August 14, the Tour of Utah will conclude with a ‘queen’ stage, a 161km road race that will start in Park City and finish at the top of the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. "Everything can be won or lost on the last climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon and I am very interested to see how this higher caliber field reacts to what I feel is on par with a day in the Alps."