Louder, fans, Louder
August 24, 2010
Spectators packed Main Street as if it were late January, and while the likes of Levi Leipheimer, Taylor Phinney and Francisco "Paco" Mancebo received the loudest pre-race ovations, one thing was for certain.
Stage Four of the Tour of Utah belonged to Jeff Louder.
The Salt Lake City native took the lead about 10 minutes into the race, blew it wide open and continued to turn it on all the way to the finish line.
But, Louder’s domination of the day did not come without a heavy heart.
Terry McGinnis, arguably one of the biggest cycling ambassadors in the state of Utah, died last October after a long bout with cancer. McGinnis’ efforts were second-to-none in expanding the sport in the state, and Louder let his fervent emotions known.
"That was a worthy effort, and it worked out," Louder said. "But I really had my thoughts all day with Terry McGinnis. He’s one of my best friends, he trained with me for years. Once I was out there, I felt like I had a chance and felt like I had him with me."
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Before the race began, Tour leader and Tour de France veteran Leipheimer announced to the crowd that the Tour of Utah exists because of McGinnis.
And McGinnis would have been proud of the turnout, too.
With one of the biggest turnouts in Tour history, Park City Main Street was buzzing with adoring fans and onlookers as 119 professional cyclists took to the sharp corners of Heber Avenue and Swede Way.
The one-mile long criterium course is a basic circuit that started and ended on Main Street. Traditionally, the number of remaining laps for riders are determined as race progresses.
"It’s obviously really challenging, and I’ve got to thank the fans today. It was insane," Louder said. "That was the biggest crowd I’ve ever won in front of, for sure, and it was just amazing how many people were cheering for me. Without the crowd, I don’t know how I would’ve done. It was huge."
As race leader Leipheimer and others atop the board played the course rather safe, roars from the crowd for Louder continued to grow in decibels and the last few laps were near ear-piercing.
"The fans softened the hill for me," he said.
Leipheimer’s respect for the course permeated his post-race thoughts.
"There’s always a chance that someone can jump away (from the pack)," he said. "When you’re up 6,000 feet, you really feel the effort. It was pretty tough. A pretty tough course."
Finishing second was Australian native Jai Crawford, who couldn’t help but be pleased with the outcome of a sublime summer day.
"I think we put on a great show for the crowd," Crawford said.
Mancebo went on to finish third on the day, while Leipheimer finished ninth overall, enough to retain the yellow jersey. He finished off his day by giving a fitting wave to all those who came out in full support.
But the story of the day was Jeff Louder and his 1 hour, 14 minute and 45 second masterpiece.
The Utah native gave his sponsor, BMC, its first stage win in the United States and Louder was all smiles.
"Being able to do it in Park City, my whole family’s here," he said. "It can’t get any better than winning in front of your home crowd."