Landslide nearly scuttles Tour of Utah prologue

The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah almost had to scrap plans for the team presentation Saturday after two massive mudslides closed the only road to Snowbird Resort where the presentation was located and where Monday's prologue time trial is set to open the race.

Torrential rain in the Salt Lake City area on Thursday caused flash flooding and two debris flows that blocked the Little Cottonwood Canyon Road to the resort. Some local residents and tourists were stuck at Snowbird until crews cleared the road Saturday just before noon, only four hours before the team presentation took place.

About 35 cars were trapped on the road between the two mudslides Thursday evening, but crews were able to clear enough of a path through the slides to allow them to leave by Friday morning.

"[There were] boulders the size of hoods of cars right in the middle of the road," Jake Brown, the roadway operations manager for the Cottonwood canyons, told the Deseret News.

"I've never seen anything like this in my 18-year career," Brown continued. "Guys who have been up here 20 years have never seen it this bad. The whole draw up above us where this equipment is working, just completely emptied out. It's unbelievable how much material was moved by water coming out."

The slurry washing across the road was reminiscent of the Tour de France stages 19 and 20, which were shortened because of similar landslides also caused by thunderstorms. Extreme erosion is common in the mountainous regions favoured by cycling event organisers, but mudslides typically happen in the winter. The Tour of California had to be rerouted in 2011 after the Pacific Coast Highway was buried in an avalanche.

This season, the Giro Rosa's Passo Gavia stage had to be rerouted due to landslide, and the Challenge Mallorca Trofeo Andratx-Lloseta had to be diverted because of a collapsed road. Last year Il Lombardia's route was changed because of a threat of landslides.

Some Tour of Utah midday activities ahead of the race were canceled Saturday before the road to Snowbird was reopened, according to race organisers, but the team presentation went off without a hitch.

Monday's 5.3km opener uses just a small section of Little Cottonwood Road. The course itself was not affected by the slides, but access to the course was cut off until Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Monday's prologue climbs 200 metres on a course that climbs, descends, climbs and then descends again. The stage starts at 12:30 p.m. local time.

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.