The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is shaking up the formula for 2017, adding a time trial for the first time since 2012 and dropping the familiar Park City stage that has shaped the final day over the past four years.
The seven-day 2.HC race will begin July 31 in Logan, a college town in the northern end of the state that hosted the overall race start in 2015, then conclude on August 6 with a circuit race in Salt Lake City. Along the way, the race will visit four new host locations in Brigham City, Big Cottonwood Canyon, South Jordan and Layton City, while Bountiful, Snowbasin Resort, Heber Valley and Snowbird Resort all return to the fold to make up a race that inhabits the northern part of the state around the Great Salt Lake.
Details of each stage are not yet available, but organisers promise that "America's Toughest Stage Race" will feature challenging climbs in the Wasatch Range around Snowbasin Resort. The traditional Queen stage from Heber Valley to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort will likely take riders over the daunting Guardmans Pass and Little Cottonwood Canyon, but the absence of the Park City stage on the final day could mean the riders will miss the opportunity to climb Empire Pass and then descend into town for the finale.
Perhaps the biggest change to the race, however, is the reintroduction of a time trial on stage 3. The location in Big Cottonwood Canyon suggests an uphill race against the clock, which would be in keeping with the organisers' penchant for gaining elevation.
The early years of the race's UCI history featured multiple time trials, with Trek-Livestrong's Taylor Phinney winning the prologue and stage 3 tests in 2010, while Sergio Henao won a 2km uphill time trial in 2011. Garmin-Sharp took team time trial honors at the Miller Motorsports Park in 2012, the last time the Tour of Utah featured a race against the clock. Depending on the route selected for the 2017 time trial, this stage will likely be a major factor in the general classification.
Before riders can focus on the time trial, however, they'll have to get through two stages that could be a rough awakening for their climbing legs. When the race started in Logan in 2015, riders tackled a 212.5km stage that took them up and over Logan Canyon, around Bear Lake, and then up and over the climb again before heading back into town for the finish. Kiel Reijnen, racing for UnitedHealthcare at the time, won the day in a three-up sprint with Phinney and Alex Howes.
The second day of the 2017 race will start in Brigham City and take riders to the finish at Snowbasin Resort, which sits at nearly 2,000 metres. A 2002 Olympic Winter Games mountain venue, Snowbasin has hosted the Tour of Utah four times but will host a stage finish for the first time in 2017.
From north of Salt Lake City at Snowbasin, the race will travel south to Big Cottonwood Canyon for the stage 3 time trial, then further south for the stage 4 circuit race in South Jordan. Davis County will be home for stage 5, with the start in Layton City and the finish in Bountiful, marking the third straight year that the town north of downtown Salt Lake City will host a finish.
The Queen Stage will start in the Heber Valley on Saturday, August 5, before traversing Guardmans Pass, the screaming descent down Big Cottonwood Canyon and the final climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon to the finish at Snowbird.
Stage 7 on the final day will feature a circuit race along the streets of Salt Lake City. The 2015 circuit race in Salt Lake City featured seven laps of a 12.7km urban loop that finished with a stiff climb to the Utah State Capitol. Cannondale-Drapac's Mike Woods, riding for Optum at the time, showed his future potential with an impressive stage win there.
2017 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah
Stage 1: July 31 – Logan
Stage 2: August 1 – Brigham City to Snowbasin
Stage 3: August 2 – Big Cottonwood Canyon (TT)
Stage 4: August 3 – South Jordan
Stage 5: August 4 – Layton City to Bountiful
Stage 6: August 5 – Heber Valley to Snowbird Resort
Stage 7: August 6 – Salt Lake City