Park City is face, voice of tour
The Tour of Utah is becoming one of the premier bike races in the United States, bringing together the best the nation, and a few that the world, has to offer.
And, at least for the 2006 edition, it featured a Parkite on the mike, calling all but one stage of the six-stage event.
Tour of Utah organizers asked local cyclist and athletic guru Gardie Jackson to act as the announcer for the race, giving him the chance to use his contagious energy to excite the crowd.
"It made announcing easy because of the excitement of the race never seemed to end," Jackson said. "I’ve been training people a lot lately so I didn’t ride in it myself, but announcing was really the next best thing. It was a great experience for me."
Jackson was positioned on the start line every day except for stage four on Thursday, which ran from Provo to Payson and finished at Mount Nebo Monument Trailhead, because the road was too small to support both riders, an announcer’s booth and fans.
"It really was a stage for the riders, not for people to watch," he said. "But make no mistake, it’s one of the hardest courses out there."
Jackson was also there at the third stage a time trial held in Heber City when the lead seemed to change with each of the last five riders.
But, Jackson said, the highlight of the tour was being in Park City for the start of the sixth and final stage, a 91-mile climb up 12,000 feet from lower Deer Valley to Snowbird Resort.
"It was exciting to have that many great pro racing teams there at lower Deer Valley," he said. "It gives the pros a look at how beautiful Park City and Heber are, and how outgoing and bike friendly the people here are. In my opinion, we should finish next year’s race in Park City, or at least get a time trial or a stage in Park City in 2007. They’d be using pictures of it in their catalogs for years."
Although there were no stage wins for Utahns in the race, locals had plenty of success against some of the top racers in the country.
Scott Moninger took first place in the general classification, with an overall time of 14:57.50 seconds. Local favorite Jeff Louder, who started the final stage in the lead, earned a spot on the podium with a third-place finish, 59 seconds behind teammate Moninger. Utahn Burke Swindlehurst finished fourth overall.
"I think it’s critical to have locals finish well," said event spokesperson Steve Roberts. "Jeff Louder finished third and Brook Swindlehurst finished fourth. Those guys were a minute away from winning this race. The great thing about local racers is that they bring out the local press, which gets other people there, and then when people show up they realize what a great event it is."
The race, which started with 91 racers, is regarded as one of the toughest in America because of the terrain and tough climbs. With its reputation, it attracts the best climbers in the world. Yet, even though the field consisted primarily of uphill specialists, 37 riders who started the race didn’t finish, including 17 that dropped on the last stage, mostly because they didn’t meet the time cuts.
"That’s very common in stage racing, and something you don’t really notice in races like the Tour de France," Roberts said. "Most people don’t know it, but if racers don’t complete a stage in the time cut, which is generally set at 105 percent of the fastest time, then they don’t get to finish the race. If you don’t finish the race in time, you’re out.
"But the riders that came out are climbers. These are guys who specialize in climbing. To see a tour that whittled down the field, even when the field was so specialized, speaks to how tough the race was."
Roberts said he and the promoters were happy with the tour, and feel it could soon be on par with the Tour of California and the Tour de Georgia as part of U.S. racing’s Triple Crown.
"Those two races are on the international calendar," he said. "They attract the teams that race in the Tour de France and that’s where we want to be. But the difference is that we started four years ago as a homegrown race. Yet, from a promoter’s standpoint we were very pleased. We were pleased with what types of teams we were able to attract and we were also very pleased with the local organizations — police, highway patrol, UDOT we couldn’t have done without their help."
Roberts, like Jackson, said he hopes Park City will host more of the tour in the future. With the beauty of the area, he said, along with the interest in racing in Summit County, Park City is a great place to race.
"We were very excited about being able to be up in Park City," he said. "During the planning of the event, we actually wanted to have more races up there, but in the end we couldn’t find enough area for courses to challenge the racers."
The overall team standings finished with Team Navigators in first place, followed by TIAA CREF in second and HealthNet-Maxxis in third place. For a full list of both individual and team finishers, as well as for stage results and information, go to http://www.tourofutah.com.
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