Of the 409 miles that will incorporate the 2011 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah race, the very first event could prove to be the ultimate separation factor between contenders and pretenders.
Evan Hyde, a Park City resident who will be in his first year racing with the RealCyclist.com team, was on hand Tuesday morning at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) as representatives from the tour announced the route details of the six-day tour.
Hyde was chosen to take a trial ride up what will be the prologue ride on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Starting at the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center near the parking lot of the UOP, the prologue will have a quick 10-second descent before a 1.25-mile taxing vertical climb.
"This is not a course you can fake," he said. "If you’re not (riding) well, you’re not going to do well in this prologue. You’re going to see right away who’s really strong. You might not see right away who the best climbers are because it’s short, and everybody’s fresh, but it’s kind of a power course.
"You’ll see who’s strong and who’s here to race. It’ll foreshadow the race, for sure."
The five stages of the tour will have rides new and old. Gone is the painstaking Park City criterium of a year ago along with the audacious hill climb up Mount Nebo.
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"The route this year will definitely challenge the best cyclists from around the globe," said Steve Miller in a press release. Miller is the president of the Utah Cycling Partnership, which owns the Tour of Utah. "We expect each course to be packed with spectators, while enjoying the striking parts of the state of Utah and the local communities. Six days of challenging courses and terrain will not only test pro cyclists, but showcase Utah in a national and international spotlight."
Hyde said this year’s course layout doesn’t seem as difficult as in years past.
"But it’s not really the course that makes the ride, it’s the riders that are here," he said. "The race will still be incredibly hard."
This could be the most star-studded field of cyclists ever to partake in the Tour of Utah.
"We could see riders that are going to be only off a couple weeks from the Tour de France," Hyde said.
"I haven’t raced with this many pro tour riders before. The tempo and the climbs are harder. The level is harder. In general, it’s just going to be another hard race."
According to a press release, "The six-day race and rolling festival was elevated this year by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to a 2.1-rated stage race, which makes it one of the top three pro cycling events of its kind for North America. The Tour of Utah promises to uphold its distinction as ‘America’s Toughest Stage RaceTM’ with close to 30,000 feet of climbing over the total route."
Hyde said a hill-climb prologue is distinctive. Typically, prologues consist of short, fairly mellow rides to prepare the cyclists for the grueling week ahead.
"I think it’s awesome because this race is all about climbing," he said. "The prologue they’ve had before was cool, but it didn’t have that climbing motif. This one does. This is straight up for a mile-and-quarter. We’re going to see the climbers emerge.
"Usually, a prologue is on time-trial bikes and it’s all about aerodynamics. It’s short, but usually flat a lot of times in urban settings. This is a unique prologue, but it’s a world-class prologue. This would fit in in any stage race anywhere."
Hyde said cyclists will have to study the course and see what equipment they’d like to use. He expects very light frames and wheels, including aerodynamic helmets to be sported by most of the riders.
"Might as well separate (the field) right away," he said, laughing.
With the tour seven weeks away, Hyde said his training regimen will intensify over the coming weeks. He will participate in the 2011 BMC Cascade Classic Cycling ride in Bend, Ore., in mid-July and will also ride in local races in Park City in preparation for the start of the tour. Hyde said some of his teammates may be making the trek out to Utah a bit early to train with him and study the course.
Stage-by-stage breakdown from press release
Stage One Road Race, presented by Miller Lite, is the longest stage of the week at 116 miles (187 km). This start and finish line on Wednesday is located in downtown Ogden on Historic 25th Street near the Ogden Amphitheater. Pro cyclists will encounter 8,250 feet of climbing, navigating a 38.5-mile course three times. This includes multiple climbs over the challenging North Ogden Pass, traveling past Pineview Reservoir and returning to Ogden through Ogden Canyon. This makes it a great day for spectators to see the peloton pass numerous times. It is the first time Ogden will host a start and finish for the Tour of Utah. A climbing stage with a flat finish, it will begin at 11 a.m. in Ogden and is expected to finish between 3:45-4:30 p.m.
The Stage Two Road Race, presented by Adobe, provides a rolling, 100-mile (161 km) course that offers a new finish line area in Provo. For the second year in a row, the start line of this stage is located at the headquarters of XANGO (a leading global nutrition company) on the north side of Utah Lake, less than 20 miles away from Provo. The peloton will encounter 2,820 feet of rolling hills as they ride around the west side of Utah Lake, passing through Goshen, Mona, Santaquin, and Springville. After passing near Brigham Young University in Provo, cyclists will finish at Vivint headquarters (one of the largest home automation companies in North America) at The Shops at Riverwoods on N. University Avenue in Provo. This is the first time in four years that Provo is an official host city. The start will begin at 11 a.m. and the finish should be between 2:45-3:30 p.m.
Miller Motorsports Park will host the Stage Three Individual Time Trial, presented by UnitedHealthcare, on August 12. It is the fourth consecutive year this "race of truth" will be contested near Tooele, Utah at this state-of-the-art road racing facility completed in 2006 for automobiles, motorcycles and karts. This year’s route is very similar to previous years, with both the start and finish located in front of the facility’s pit row area. At 9.7 miles (14.5 km), the time trial course has 16 turns on the race track, including one out-and-back section and a turnaround area within walking distance of pit row. In this exciting event, cyclists take turns racing against the clock, going at intervals on the course rather than a large peloton, or pack. Because of high temperatures that occur on the race track in the middle of the day, the athletes will begin taking turns in the ITT at 5 p.m. The competition should conclude by 8 p.m.
A new course is expected to draw huge crowds on Saturday, with the Stage Four Circuit Race, presented by University of Utah Health Care, in downtown Salt Lake City. The Prologue has been hosted by Salt Lake City in past years, but this year the capital city has planned a high-intensity 81.4-mile (131-km) race with a total of 7,246 feet of climbing. The circuit is 7.4 miles in length, which will require cyclists to make 11 laps. The course begins on Capitol Hill and continues through City Creek Canyon. It continues along 11th Avenue through the Avenues neighborhood and south on Virginia Street into the Federal Heights neighborhood. The peloton should fly along tree-lined Presidents Circle on the University of Utah campus then sprint along South Temple Street, past the Governor’s Mansion and under Eagle Gate to Capitol Hill for the finish. The circuit race begins at 1 p.m. and is expected to finish at close to 4:30 p.m.
The Tour of Utah returns to Park City on Sunday for the start of the Stage Five Road Race, presented by Zions Bank. This is the showcase "Queen Stage" of the Tour with the epic mountaintop finish at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. It is the fourth consecutive year for this century (161-km) route, which features four significant mountain climbs and a total of 10,900 vertical feet of elevation gain. Going east from Newpark Town Center in Park City, one of the first climbs is along the Jordanelle Reservoir near Kamas. The next major climb is past Midway along the Alpine Loop Scenic way, an 8.7-mile climb that crosses Mt. Timpanogos near Sundance Resort. After a descent down American Fork Canyon (Hwy. 92) through Uinta National Forest, riders head over the Suncrest Drive climb and past Sandy City. The final climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon covers 3,000 vertical feet in six miles, with 8-12 percent gradients, to the finish at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah began as the Thanksgiving Point Stage Race & Cycling Festival, a three-day event over Memorial Day weekend in 2004. The Utah Cycling Partnership, owned by family members from the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, purchased the event in 2007 and re-launched the cycling event in 2008. The race had grown from 9,000 feet of climbing in the first years to nearly 30,000 feet of elevation gain, gaining reputation as "America’s Toughest Stage Race". The Tour of Utah is now sanctioned by both USA Cycling, Inc. and the UCI.