The UCI 2.1-ranked Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is one of the toughest high-altitude and mountainous stage races in the nation and not typically suited to a sprinter. The handful of fast men in attendance, however, are chomping at the bit for the chance to win the only predominantly flat stage, held on Tuesday, August 11 from Lehi to Provo.
"I think I can have a good sprint because there aren't too many fast guys at this race," said Jamis-Sutter Home's sprinter Alejandro Borrajo. "I will have to see how I do in stage one, the sprinters have to survive that. I felt good last week and I hope that I can survive stage one and then have a good sprint in stage two."
The Tour of Utah kicked off with a two-kilometre uphill prologue at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City. The race continued into stage one, a 182.9km circuit race that passes three times over the steep and decisive North Ogden Pass.
"Stage two is the only reason I'm here," said UnitedHealthcare's sprinter Jake Keough. "I think the overall race will be good and we brought a well rounded team because every stage has something different. We have climbers, time trialists, sprinters and opportunity guys. We have two sprinters here with Frosi (Robert Forster) and myself. Hopefully we can get through stage one without using too much energy and have a good stage two."
Stage two's 159.6km road race is the only flat stage of the six-day event and likely the only stage to look forward to for sprinters such as Borrajo, Forster and Keough along with Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth), Hayden Roulston (HTC-Highroad), Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale). Other fast men in the field include Francois Parisien (SpiderTech p/b C10), Tommy Nankervis (RealCyclist.com), Patrick Bevin (Bissell) and Roman Van Uden and Mike Northey (PureBlack Racing).
"I think there are a handful of sprinters here but the field is lacking in full lead-out teams," Candelario said. "But I think the sprint will be competitive. Stage two is definitely a big objective for me. I think that if whatever team is leading the overall classification heading into that stage is having a hard time controlling the race, the teams with sprinters will make sure that it is a field sprint."
UnitedHealthcare's lead-out train has not gone unnoticed this year as they have displayed it on multiple occasions this season to bring its array of sprinters to victory. According to Keough, if the field enters the stage two finale intact, the peloton and event spectators can expect to see his lead-out train in action. "Depending on how the race plays out, if it comes down to it, you can expect the blue train to be there," he said.
Borrajo is one sprinter that is familiar with UnitedHealthcare's lead-out and he will be looking to key off of it in hopes that it might be his own ticket to a stage win.
"I think UnitedHealthcare has a good team to do a lead-out and they have two sprinters so I will look to them for the lead-out," Borrajo said. "There are other sprinters here too, but I feel more comfortable keying off of UnitedHealthcare because I know them better."
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.