The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah will return to the famous red rock country in the southern end of the state again in 2016 with a start in Zion Canyon Village, the southernmost start in the race's 12-year history.
Organizers announced the 13 host cities for the 2016 race on Thursday. The Queen stage to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is back, although the stage will start at Snowbasin rather than Salt Lake City as it did in 2015. The traditional final stage that starts and finishes in Park City will also feature in the 2016 race.
Debuting in the 2015 race, the stage from Antelope Island State Park to Bountiful will return next year. Other returning host cities are Cedar City, Torrey, Richfield and Payson.
Three cities are hosting stages for the first time, including Escalante, Kearns and Zion Canyon Village, which sits 163 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. The 12-acre business district is located outside the south entrance to Zion National Park.
Escalante is adjacent to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, positioned between Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park. Kearns is home to the Utah Olympic Oval, which hosted the long track speed skating events for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
"Each year the Tour of Utah changes the race route, following a tradition of other UCI stage races in the world," said Jenn Andrs, the race's executive director.
"With 2016 being the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in the United States, we are privileged to highlight these world-famous parks at the start of race week."
Cannondale-Garmin's Joe Dombrowski, the 2015 overall winner who attended Thursday's announcement, said the climbs featured in "America's toughest stage race" make for a difficult week.
"The announcement today about starting in southern Utah will spark some buzz about the event among the athletes I am sure," he said. "I know I hope to be back in Utah in August to defend my title for the team."
Details regarding each stage route [race mileage, elevation gain, start/finish times] and spectator festivities will be announced in the spring. Plans will also be confirmed for a third year of women's racing in the Tour of Utah Women's Edition in the coming months.
2016 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah host cities:
Stage 1, August 1 – Zion Canyon Village to Cedar City
Stage 2, August 2 – Escalante to Torrey
Stage 3, August 3 – Richfield to Payson
Stage 4, August 4 – IM Flash to Kearns
Stage 5, August 5 – Antelope Island State Park to Bountiful
Stage 6, August 6 – Snowbasin Resort to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort
Stage 7, August 7 – Park City to Park City