Last year Kiel Reijnen opened the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah with a stage 1 win ahead of friends and rivals Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing). Reijnen was on track to repeat his feat Monday in Cedar City when a minor mishap in the finishing straight broke his front wheel and knocked him out of contention.
Throughout the day, Trek-Segafredo held its cards close to its chest and let teams like Rally Cycling, who was working for sprinter Eric Young, and Cannondale-Drapac, who was protecting 2015 overall winner Joe Dombrowski's GC ambitions, do most of the work in reeling back a four-rider breakaway that stayed away into the final throes of the stage.
Reijnen's team added some power to the chase near the top of the final climb, then contributed to pulling back the final two escapees. When the peloton caught the last two breakaway riders on the penultimate finishing circuit in town, Eugenio Alafaci gave Reijnen the perfect leadout as the sprint wound up.
"I slotted in with 250 meters to go, like fourth or fifth wheel, and from the left side a guy came across and his derailleur went into my front wheel and broke some spokes," Reijnen said. "It's lucky we didn't crash, but really disappointing because it was a good day for a result. The legs were good, the guys were perfect, and I was in the right position."
Instead of riding across the line with his arms lifted skyward in victory, Reijnen ended his day walking across the line with his front wheel in one hand the rest of his bike in the other.
"It's definitely a disappointing day when we had the legs to win the stage," he said. "The stage was not that easy today, but my legs felt really good. The guys went all-in for me for the stage; they were perfect. I followed a small attack on the little kicker on the circuit, and it didn't stick, but I still felt really good, so we lined up for the sprint."
Director Alain Gallopin lamented that the work the team had put in to guarantee a bunch sprint went for naught.
"In the big climb we waited until the top to pull, and some sprinters were dropped," he said. "Then we pulled full gas to the end to bring back the two leaders. The team was perfect, and Eugenio made a perfect lead-out and brought Kiel to the final 300 meters. Then Kiel broke his front wheel, and we were lucky that he did not crash. It was a big opportunity for us today, and we could have had the jersey, too, but anyway it is like this. You need to be lucky, also."
Reijnen and his team will likely have another chance for a bunch kick on Tuesday, when the race travels 159km from Escalante to Torrey. The day's major climb over Boulder Mountain crests 92km from the finish, giving the fast men and their teams plenty of time to set up another sprint.
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