Fitting the criterium: Park City’s plusses outweigh negatives for Tour of Utah | ParkRecord.com

Fitting the criterium: Park City’s plusses outweigh negatives for Tour of Utah

Matthew Piper, OF THE RECORD STAFF

If you were hoping to run some quick errands on Main Street this Saturday, you’re out of luck.

For the first time in the seven years it has officially been known as the Tour of Utah, the five-day stage race will host its criterium stage in downtown Park City, with some of the world’s top cyclists churning up Main Street within feet of spectators.

"What most anybody thinks of as traditional Main Street will be closed that day," said Tour of Utah President Steve Miller. "We’re flattered that they’re allowing us to close it down. It’s fairly unique, from what I understand."

Unlike the other four stages of the race, which are point-to-point rides through Utah’s mountainous terrain, the criterium involves a circuit course through Old Town with a set time of 90 minutes. The winner of a criterium is the first rider to cross the finish line after the allotted time is up without having been lapped.

So what about Main Street made it an ideal spot for a criterium? Miller wouldn’t go so far as to say it was ideal, but there are a lot of positives.

"I don’t know that Park City or Main Street is perfect for a criterium," Miller said. "It’s unique in that it’s at altitude, and it’s world-renowned as a town that hosted the Winter Olympics. From our perspective, it’s a great location with cooler evenings that showcases the beauty of our state."

Recommended Stories For You

In past years, the criterium has been held as the final stage of the tour, but this year it will be the fourth of five stages. Miller said holding the race at 7,000 feet, rather than in the valley, will make it a challenge for Saturday’s cyclists to recover for the start of the Sunday’s stage five from downtown Park City to Snowbird Ski Resort (before which cyclists will take three ceremonial laps up Main Street).

"These guys’ lungs are going to burn, their legs are going to burn," he said. "It’s going to make for some great action. Hopefully, it’s not so hard that it carries over and affects the racers’ performance the next day."

The pro race will begin at 4:30 p.m. and last until about 6 p.m., while auxiliary events will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. along Main Street. After organizers decided to give riders an extra hour of rest, stage five will start at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Parking could be a trick, Miller said, but "that’s what you get with an old mining town."

The self-titled "America’s Toughest Stage Race" is a six-day, five-stage race that takes cyclists over 325 miles and nearly 30,000 feet of climbing. Nineteen professional teams and almost 150 cyclists will be competing for a prize purse of $45,000.

Among the racers will be Levi Leipheimer, a Team Radio Shack teammate of Lance Armstrong who graduated from Salt Lake City’s Rowland Hall and might be the best U.S. cyclist today. Leipheimer will ride unsupported throughout the tour, meaning he won’t benefit from team tactics.

That will make it tough for him to fend off the five racers from BMC Racing, which features Tour de France veteran George Hincapie and 2008 Tour of Utah winner Jeff Louder.

Park City’s Team Cole Sport Racing is one of only 17 teams invited to this year’s race, and one of just seven amateur teams. The team is composed of Olympic nordic combined gold medalist Billy Demong, manager Todd Hageman, young prodigy Tanner Putt, multiple state time-trial champion Gardie Jackson, U.S. National Team mountain biker Mitchell Peterson, and cycling business luminary Sam Krieg, among others. While Cole Sport won’t give BMC any problems, the team could surprise the hometown fans with strong finishes in its backyard.

Miller said he hopes to hold more criteriums in Park City in the future, and his organization will do all that it can to please the city and the Chamber.

"We don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg," he said. "We’d like to see it become a tradition.""

Winners of a drawing will receive a chance to win a 90-minute ride with legendary cyclists Bob Roll and Eric Heiden in Park City at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

Enter at OC Tanner’s Park City location or fill out an entry form at http://www.tourofutah.com by Friday at 2 p.m. Twenty winners will be selected. For more information about the Tour of Utah, please visit http://www.tourofutah.com.