The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah will return for its 12th year with another route that lives up to the seven-day 2.HC race's reputation as America's Toughest Stage Race. The 2016 peloton will take on 1,133km that include 16,139 meters of climbing, including a return to Mount Nebo, the highest point in Utah's Wasatch Range, topping out at 3,635 meters of elevation.
The 2016 race will begin amid Southern Utah's otherworldly red rock formations in Zion National Park, one of two national parks featured in this year's route. The race will also visit another national park, two national monuments, four national parks and two state parks for what will arguably the most scenic route in the race's history.
The racing will culminate with two traditional stages over the final two days: the Queen stage to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort on the penultimate day, and the final stage that starts and finishes in Park City. Organisers have added a small twist on the final day, with the stage starting and finishing on Upper Main Street.
Stage 7 features 2,402 meters of climbing, including the ascent up and over Empire Pass, a nearly 10km climb with grades averaging 10 percent and reaching 20 percent at points. At the bottom of the technical descent into Park City, organisers have added a small finishing circuit that will provide a final grinding climb to the top of main street.
"Now in the 12th year of racing, the Tour of Utah has established itself as one of the most awe-inspiring, rolling postcards in North America for a professional cycling event," said Tour of Utah Executive Director Jenn Andrs. "From the iconic red rock scenery and lush national forests, Utah's spectacular and diverse scenery will shine on the world's largest stage with the sport's best riders, many of them coming from the Tour de France. The opportunity to bring high-caliber racing to our fans and partners here in the United States is tremendous."
Stage 1 – Zion Canyon Village to Cedar City, 135km
The opening stage promises to be a showstopper. Starting at the southern-most point in the race's history, stage 1 begins in the shadows of The Watchman, one of the most prominent peaks in Zion National Park. A neutral start will take the riders to the east gate of the park, where racing will begin as the peloton exits. The route takes riders into the Dixie National Forest, which tops out at 2,926 meters near the Cedar Breaks National Monument. After two KOMs and one sprint, the riders will fly down a 20-minute descent into Cedar City, where three 4km circuits will lead to the finish on the Campus of Southern Utah University.
Stage 2 – Escalante to Torrey, 159.3km
The second day will take riders down Scenic Byway 12 as they leave Escalante, a small, picturesque town near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The peloton will gain 2,875 meters of climbing as it heads toward Torrey, including KOMs on the Hogback and Boulder Mountain. A descent into Torrey leads to two 27km circuits that will take the peloton near the Capitol Reef National Park before the finish.
Stage 3 – Richfield to Payson, 191.5km
At 191.5km, stage 3 will be the longest day of the week as the race transitions from the red rocks of southern Utah to the forests of the Wasatch Mountains. The climb of Mount Nebo, the only KOM of the day, begins about 80km into the route and tops out more than 20km later before riders descend 35km to the finish in Payson.
Stage 4 – Lehi to Kearns, 154.4km
The saw-tooth profile of stage 4 offers another tough day that looks tailor-made for a breakaway. Riders will do two laps of the Mountain View Corridor freeway for two sprint lines before dropping down into Kearns for two 6.4km finishing circuits adjacent to the Utah Olympic Oval that was used for the speedskating events at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Stage 5 – Antelope island to Bountiful, 183.4km
This stage is a repeat of the 2015 stage won by Axeon's Logan Owen. Starting amid the buffalo heards on an island in the Great Salt Lake, the peloton is in for a day of short, steep climbs. The race will climb the North Ogden Divide before it circles the Pineview Reservoir, then climbs Trappers Loop before heading for the two lumpy 14.5km circuits in Bountiful.
Stage 6 – Snowbasin Resort to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, 183.4km
The traditional Queen stage returns, featuring a start at Snowbasin Resort as it did in 2013. The peloton is in for a long day in the saddle as the riders descend into Morgan Valley and Brown's Canyon. The fireworks begin in earnest outside of Park City as the race goes up and over the daunting Guardsman Pass followed by a 22.5km descent down Big Cottonwood Canyon. The race concludes with the climb back up Little Cottonwood Canyon, a 10km ascent that leads to the finish at Snowbird after 3,403 meters of climbing for the day.
Stage 7 – Park City to Park City – 125.5km
Park City hosts the tour for the eighth time on the final day, with another stage for the climbers. A new start/finish will add even more challenge to the route, which features the category 2 climb through the gated community of Wolf Creek Ranch and the final ascent of the race up and over Empire Pass, which has been heralded as one of the toughest climbs in US racing. A white-knuckle descent into Park City won't be the last hurrah, however, as the new finish on Upper Main Street means more climbing once riders get back into town.