With the Tour of Utah schedule to start on Monday, Aug. 4, the Bissell Development Team has been busily preparing for the grueling seven-stage bicycle race across the state.
Riders Tanner Putt, from Park City, and Ryan Eastman, from Santa Rosa, California, along with a few other Bissell teammates, have been in town training for the Tour of Utah for a while now, getting acclimated to the altitude.
But, with the race about to start, Putt and Eastman are ready to stop training and get started in Cedar City on Monday.
With one of the biggest races in their careers looming on the horizon, Putt and Eastman aren't worrying too much. They just want to get out on the roads and do what they do best.
"I'm not really nervous just excited," Putt said. "I love coming and doing the home race. I did it last year and it was my favorite race of the year just because I know all the roads and ride them all the time. And I know a lot of the people that come out to watch."
"I'm a little bit nervous," Eastman admitted. "I wouldn't say I'm stressed about it or anything like that, though."
The Bissell team has been riding some of the roads that will be used during the later stages of the Tour, but Eastman said that's not the most important part of the Park City training.
"It's nice mostly just to adapt to the altitude," he said. "It's nice to see some of the climbs and stuff, but it's not super important for a rider like me. It's not that the course isn't important, it's just that we do races all the time where we have no idea where the course is going.
"Fully adapting takes about five weeks," Putt said. "But the first four or five days are the hardest. After that, it gets better and better. After 10 days, you don't notice it as much."
Putt is excited for Stage 5 on Friday, Aug. 8. The new stage will travel between Evanston, Wyoming, and Kamas.
"I know that stage pretty well they have a local race that does that same course, just backwards," he said.
The duo is also excited for Sunday's final stage that ends on Park City's Main Street, but Eastman knows the Empire Pass climb is going to be brutal.
"I rode up Empire the other day," he said. "I did a 30-minute interval and finished and I still had to ride another 20 minutes up to the top of the climb that was ridiculous. Not too many races are like that. You don't do too many races throughout the year where people are constantly talking about how hard the climbs are. They'll talk about how hard the race is raced, but this almost seems that the course is what makes it so miserable."
For Eastman, who just turned 22 on Monday, this year's race will serve as an excellent learning experience.
"My expectations are mostly to help my team," he said. "I don't have too much of an idea personally what I want to do at this race I'm just looking forward to learning."
Putt is going to target strong finishes on a couple stages, but he's going to focus on assisting teammates for the rest of the race grabbing water bottles from the support car, setting the pace and letting teammates draft off him.
"On days such as the Kamas stage, I'll go for sprints and breakaways and stuff like that," he said. "The other days, it'll be to help the other riders on the team. For the team goals, it would be nice to have one of the riders up in the GC [general classification, or, top overall riders], maybe in the top 10 that'd be nice for the team. On some stages, maybe a couple top-five finishes."
All in all, though, Putt just hopes the Bissell team learns a lot and avoids big crashes.
"Best case scenario is the whole team makes it to the finish no crashes, everybody's healthy and we come away with a good result," he said.
"It's a dangerous sport," Eastman agreed. "So that would be a victory in itself. I think a lot of people don't realize that."