Tanner Putt, a young rider raised in Park City, will finish wearing the stars and stripes jersey, a symbol of his U23 nationals victory.
"He has put his heart and soul into this dream of racing professionally," Putt's father, Patrick, said. "We're terribly proud and incredibly grateful."
The 21-year old Parkite is competing for the Best Young Rider jersey, awarded to the rider under 23 years old with the lowest cumulative time, with his teammates on the Bontrager development team.
Belgian Jasper Stuyven and American Gavin Mannion, both Bontrager riders, have fought hard for the light blue jersey. Stuyven has also cracked the top-10 standings in the overall race. The Bontrager squad, composed of riders under 23 years old, attacks relentlessly.
"They've got a new weapon for every day," Putt said.
Few competitors know the tour's finish better than Putt, who grew up training for criteriums — where racers fly through multiple laps on a short circuit course — in Park City. The criterium's sharp corners and mad dashes reward aggressive, quick-thinking cyclists.
"He likes those fast courses," Putt said, adding that his son's greatest strength comes with a lot of anxiety. Watching him, Putt said, is "a mixture of pride and stress."
Putt often works as Bontrager's lead-out man, plowing a way through the peloton for the team's best sprinter. Putt shields his teammate from the wind, so he can slip out and dash to the line. On Wednesday's Stage Two, Putt dropped sixty-eight places while Stuyven took over for Bontrager. The sacrifice leaves Putt reeling.
"Think of him as a blocking fullback or a tight end," Putt's father said. "He'll blow himself up on that last kilometer to open a hole."
The elder Putt works with the announcing crew on the tour. From his vantage point he sees the incredible speed and energy churning through the state, as riders hurtle to 45 or 50 m.p.h. finishes.
"The finish of the race in Cedar City was unbelievably noisy and raucous," He said after watching Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEDGE win by a wheel-length in Wednesday's Stage Two.
After one of his son's teammates crashed that day, Putt recalled the ferocity that drives every day of his son's sport. "We kind of feel like we're in World War Two," he said. "Counting planes as they come back into the airfield."
In the tour's overall standings, Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge Cycling, Greg Van Avermaet from BMC Raing and Christopher Jones of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling topped the early stages. The riders conclude their pursuit of the yellow jersey on Sunday in Park City. They will have conquered 568 miles and 43,000 feet of elevation gain.
The Park City stage circles the Jordanelle Reservior and passes through Kamas, Heber and Midway. The route features two sprint lines and two King of the Mountain (KOM) climbs.
Riders earns points toward the XO Communications purple sprint jersey by dashing through the two sprint lines in five of the six stages, and every finish line. Cycling enthusiasts call the rush to a sprint line, "a race within the race."
Climbers will contest Empire Pass, the tour's toughest ascent and one of the biggest climbs in the nation, in the search for the KOM jersey.
Course Director Todd Hageman urges spectators to line Main Street, where last year 20,000 people packed around the finish. The Empire Pass climb, he added, provides another great place to watch.
"This is definitely a climber course," Hageman said, predicting that only a few riders will form the lead group over Empire. He expects a couple Riders to catch up as the race descends in excess of 60 m.p.h., to the finish midway up Main Street.
For Tanner Putt, the tour marks a milestone in his professional cycling dream.
"Tanner is at a critical point in his career right now," Putt said. Cyclists peak at around 26 or 27 years old. With five years until that point, Putt rests on the verge of developing into a mature cyclist.
"The Tour de France—that's the last step on the dream," Putt said. "If it's a matter of determination and heart, I think he'll get there."
Stage Five begins at Snowbasin Resort at 10:50 a.m. on Saturday. Organizers estimate the top finishers will reach Snowbird by 3:45 p.m.
Stage Six begins on Main Street at 12:15 p.m. Riders are estimated to return to Main Street by 3:15 p.m.
For maps and additional information, visit www.tourofutah.com
"The Race within the Race"
Yellow jersey (Overall Leader)
Awarded to the rider with the lowest total time throughout all stages (not necessarily the stage winner). At the end of Sunday's Stage Six on Main Street, the tour will crown a winner.
Riders to watch: Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) and Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling)
Purple jersey (Sprinter's Classification)
Awarded to the rider who has accumulated the most sprint points by being the first to reach designated spots—finish lines within the race.
Riders to watch: Michael Matthews, Greg Van Avermaet and Tyler Magner (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)
Blue jersey (King of the Mountain)
Awarded to the toughest climber, the rider who reaches the top first on designated KOM Climbs
Riders to watch: Michael Torckler (Bissell Pro Cycling), Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge Cycling) and Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter)
Light blue jersey (Best Young Rider)
Awarded to the rider under 23 years old with the lowest cumulative time.
Riders to watch: Tyler Magner, Jasper Stuyven (Bontrager) and Michel Koch (Cannondale Pro Cycling)
Utah Riders: Tanner Putt (Park City) and Connor O'Leary (Salt Lake City)
Grey jersey (Most Aggressive Rider)
Awarded for the greatest resilience and determination to win the stage. A rider who recovers from a tough fall or mechanical failure, or who charges up the stage's largest hill, earns the grey jersey.