The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah today released the details of the routes that will connect the host cities announced earlier this year, with a brand-new 9km uphill individual time trial headlining the seven-day 2.HC race that will climb more than 11,132 metres over 965.6km.
Although “America's Toughest Stage Race” will cover a lot of familiar terrain in 2017, the addition of the stage 3 individual time trial up Big Cottonwood Canyon will be a major shake-up for a race that hasn't featured an individual time trial since 2011. The 9km route on Wednesday, August 2, starts at 2,225 metres above sea level and gains another 525 metres before the finish at Brighton Ski Resort. With an average gradient of 5.5 percent, this race against the clock will be a true general classification test for the climbers.
Before the riders can ascend up the Big Cottonwood Canyon on day 3, however, they'll have to limit their losses over two tough opening days that will be anything but sedate.
The race opens as it did in 2015, with a 214km route that starts and finishes in Logan, home of Utah State University. A mirror of the 2015 race won by Trek-Segafredo's Kiel Reijnen, who was riding for UnitedHealthcare at the time, stage 1 is the longest of the race. The climb out of Logan Canyon on the out-and-back portion of the course provides the day's major obstacle, but Reijnen won the 2015 race from a small group that sneaked away on the finishing circuits and finished just seconds ahead of the bunch sprint.
Featuring more than 2,103 metres of climbing in just 151.1km, the stage 2 route from Brigham City to Snowbasin Resort is a hilly affair and could provide the first general classification sorting. Three categorised climbs, including Sardine Canyon, North Ogden Divide and the final climb to Snowbasin, will provide plenty of opportunity for escapees to set themselves up for the win. The climb to Snowbasin, which is making its debut in the race, averages 6 percent gradient over just under 10km and will be the 2017 Tour of Utah's first mountaintop finish.
Stage 4 is a new route for the Tour of Utah and will be one the sprinters have been waiting for. The route, which has two intermediate sprints but no KOMs, has a relatively moderate 1,219 metres of climbing over 201.1km. But the day is not without its challenge, which will likely come on Faust Road and its 10 miles of maintained dirt and gravel. The road connects to the old Pony Express Trail and will cross Five Mile Pass, a former thoroughfare in the 1800s for the stagecoach and pioneer families heading west. The peloton won't have time for a history lesson, however, as the race heads with breakneck speed toward a likely sprint finish after three short circuits back in South Jordan.
The finish in Bountiful with its punchy, Ardennes-like circuits has proved so popular its back for a third consecutive year to host stage 5. The stage has a new start on Layton, however, with the opening kilometers taking the peloton onto Hill Air Force Base for a brief time before exiting near the Hill Aerospace Museum. Axeon Hagens Berman's Logan Owen took the win the first time the race used this finish in Bountiful, and Reijnen won the same stage last year.
Once again, the Tour of Utah Queen stage on day 6 will end with the 10km climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon to the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, although the approach will be altered significantly from year's past. The heavier riders will be happy to hear that Guardsman Pass, which was the first piece of a whopping double whammy of successive climbs in tandem with Little Cottonwood, will not be featured this year. Instead, riders will climb up and through American Fork Canyon, starting at Wildwood and going through Sundance and Aspen Grove along the way. At just 99km, this won't be a long day of riding gingerly to the major climbs; this one should be full-on from the starter's gun.
Stage 7 on the final day rehashes a course last used in 2013, when Michael Matthews beat Greg Van Avermaet in a bunch sprint. With the traditional final stage that started and finished in Park City off the table this year because of scheduling conflicts, the Salt Lake City circuit around the Utah State Capitol is a fitting finish for the race.
Eleven laps of the 11km urban circuit definitely won't be a parade ride to the finish. The peloton will face 1,661 metres of climbing over the 115km stage that features an uphill finish along State Street and at the summit of East Capitol Boulevard in the shadow of the capitol building. Time bonuses along the route and at the finish could make this one interesting.
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He 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.
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