A story as old as bike racing itself claimed another victim Friday evening at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah when Team Bridgelane's Hayden McCormick successfully attacked the breakaway on the penultimate lap and then soloed across the finish line with an enthusiastic victory celebration – one lap too soon.
The stage 4 route in Salt Lake City featured eight laps of a 10.8 kilometre urban course that included a punchy climb to the finish. A breakaway of 16 riders was up the road when McCormick bridged to the group with eventual stage winner Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizanè) and Alex Cowan (Worthy Pro Cycling).
McCormick attacked the group during the lap, opened a workable gap as they let him go away, then got confused about the number of laps remaining and posted a salute in front of a loud, cheering crowd with one to go. McCormick eventually realised his mistake, but by that time his impetus was gone and he was quickly swallowed up.
The 25-year-old rider from New Zealand finished the stage 93rd, more than four minutes back. McCormick didn't get the stage win, but he made the podium ceremony at the end of the day when organisers awarded him the jersey for Most Aggressive Rider.
"It’s pretty embarrassing, but you just have to laugh about it," McCormick told Cyclingnews back at the team RV. "For 10 seconds I was the winner in my head, so I’m getting closer. I’ve always wondered how I’d done it. Now I know."
McCormick said a combination of factors led to his confusion on the road.
"I didn’t have feeders on the second-to-last lap, so I assumed it was the last lap, and then also with the way the break was racing," he said. "I also couldn’t hear anything on the radio."
Team director Andrew Christie-Johnston said the crowd noise, the helicopter flying above and the distance between the rider's radio and the team car's transmitter made it impossible to communicate.
Team Bridgelane General Manager Tom Petty explained the situation further.
"There was just a lot of miscommunication, because the race radio said during the race that the feeding would close with one lap to go, but the tech guide had said two laps to go," Petty told Cyclingnews. "So I think when Hayden went through and saw that a lot of the feed guys had left, he thought it was the last lap. I think that kind of confused him. The fans were so loud and the noise coming from them makes it so difficult on circuits.
"All you want to do is have the ground open and swallow you up, obviously," Petty said. "It’s really hard for a guy who I think is very deserving of a much bigger ride, because he’s such a big talent. It’s a shame. But with yesterday’s ride [in the breakaway] and today, I think he’s shown himself, but it’s very hard to take the positive when you're so heartbroken about a result like that."
Team Bridgelane arrived in Utah with big expectations, especially for GC rider Chris Harper, who was coming off an impressive six-minute-margin win at the Tour de Mont Blanc. The 24-year-old has already signed with Jumbo-Visma for 2020 and was expecting to challenge for the overall win. Harper got sick two days before the Utah start, however, and did not start stage 2. The team also lost Joe Cooper to illness, with the 33-year-old Kiwi also abandoning before stage 2.
The 2019 Tour of Utah continues Saturday with a 128km stage that starts and finishes at the Canyons Village in Park City.
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and 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, with his imaginary dog Rusty.