The Tour of Utah can be a daunting proposition for a sprinter. The opportunities for bunch kicks are limited and the race features multiple climbs near 3,000 metres of elevation, but Rally Cycling's Eric Young has made the most of his time in the Beehive State.
The 27-year-old sprinter has claimed stage wins in both 2014 and 2015, and he's looking for the opening two days of this year's race to add at least another. Young has targeted stages 1 and 2 – and possibly 4 – as his best opportunities, but even then he's smart enough to qualify his confidence.
"Stages 1 and 2 both have some pretty big climbs in there, so it will be challenging to make it as one big group to that finish, but we'll see how it goes," he told Cyclingnews Sunday in Cedar City.
Young also knows he's got plenty of ambitious competition to contend with as well. He noted many of the top domestic fastmen as his rivals, including Holowesko-Citadel's Travis McCabe and the Team Jamis duo of Sebastian Haedo and Eric Marcotte.
"Ryan Roth from Silber has been riding well all year," Young added. "And then pretty much every WorldTour team has somebody fast: [Rick] Zabel (BMC) and [Heinrich] Haussler (IAM Cycling). And if they're not the fastest guys they are strong, so they're fresher at the end of these races than a lot of guys.
"I think there will definitely be some exciting sprint finishes and there's definitely some fast guys here."
While many of Young's usual leadout train riders have been competing at the Tour of Guadeloupe. But he's got Pierrick Naud in Utah, as well as talented and experience all-rounders Tom Zirbel and Danny Pate, who he says can do anything.
"And honestly, with the finishing circuits here there are usually pretty bog roads, so you don't have to be the crit-tastic type guys," he said. "If you've got the legs and the organisation, you can be there."
With two stage wins over two years, Young has obviously found a way to make the Tour of Utah work for him. But this year he's added a secondary goal to his effort. In three tries he has never finished the race. This year he's hoping to change that and ride across the final finish line in Park City.
"Over the last couple of years I haven't been able to both win a stage and finish, so that would be cool," he said. "I'd like to do that. But that's obviously seven days away, and my goals are set on the first two days right now. We'll see how those go and then get through stage 3, fight it out for stage 4 and then just kind of push the survival-mode button and try to help the guys as much as I can, which isn't much.
"It'll be fun. It'll be a challenging race, and the Tour of Utah is always super beautiful scenery, awesome roads and really good competition."
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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.
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