Tour of Utah: Piccoli strikes back with second on Powder Mountain
Former race leader pounces a day after being docked 20 seconds
James Piccoli (Elevate-KHS) wasted no time jumping back into the saddle and re-establishing himself as one of the top riders in the 2019 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah during Wednesday's stage 2 that finished on the summit of Powder Mountain.
Piccoli finished second on the stage behind new race leader Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) and moved back up to second overall after tumbling from first to 13th during stage 1 and incurring a controversial 20-second time penalty for motor-pacing behind his team car after a puncture.
"I'm very happy after yesterday's disappointment," the 27-year-old Canadian told Cyclingnews at the top of the final climb on Wednesday. "This morning I had extra motivation – let's put it that way. I got a lot of messages of support for what happened yesterday. That's in the past now, but today I wanted to use it as motivation to sort of light the fire and try to make it to the top of this hill."
Asked if he had been thinking about Tuesday's time penalty during the final climb on Wednesday, Piccoli didn't hold back.
"The whole time," he said. "And even during the stage. A lot of people came up to me, a lot of riders, and expressed their support for what had happened yesterday, which was something that I think the peloton as a whole considered pretty unfair. But that's bike racing, and today was redemption."
Piccoli rode with the leaders up the majority of the final 14km climb, catching and attacking Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) with 4km to go, only to be passed by Hermans in nearly the same spot. Piccoli was not able to get on terms with Hermans, but held on for second, crossing the line 20 seconds behind the winner.
He now trails Hermans in the general classification by 26 seconds.
"I was missing a little bit at the end, so congrats to Ben," Piccoli said. "He rode super-strongly. He attacked me, and I had no answer. He's deserving of the yellow jersey. It was a great ride, but we'll continue to fight this week."
Elevate-KHS has had a mixed bag of luck so far this week in Utah. Piccoli won the prologue at Snowbird on Monday and wore yellow into stage 1 before things went a little sideways. His team protested the 20-second penalty, which Elevate-KHS said was doled out for an action that happens every day in every race all over the world. The judges were unconvinced, however, and the penalty stood.
"I think our little team has garnered a lot of respect this week with the way we've ridden and the class with which we've conducted ourselves in the peloton, both on and off the bike," Piccoli said. "It says a lot about our team, and a lot about the organisation for putting their faith in us. I'd like to thank the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah for the opportunity. We can end today satisfied."
But Elevate-KHS and Piccoli will not stay satisfied for long, as Piccoli has targeted this race all season.
"I think there are still a lot of GC days," Piccoili said. "Thursday [stage 3] can be a GC day. I think it's a lot harder than people realise. I think the race could blow apart. Stage 4 as well. It finishes with a tough climb and you can gain a couple of seconds on the circuit. And of course, stages 5 and 6 are also very tough. To be honest, the gaps are closer than I expected, so the race is still wide open."
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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.