Tour of Utah promises to be a punishing race
Just thinking about the sixth and final stage of this year’s Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah gives Todd Hageman a shot of excitement down his spine.
A Park City resident, and the course director of the Tour of Utah for the second time, Hageman said that Sunday, Aug. 12, will be one of the most electrifying days in Park City since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
"It could very well be the biggest day on Main Street since the Olympics," he said. "I can’t wait for Stage Six. I’ve been working on that for months now, to try and put this thing together, working with a lot of different municipalities — and the stars aligned."
Hageman, a former Tour of Utah competitor, said the sixth and final stage will be the highlight of a race that will undoubtedly be the most difficult to date. It will take some of the world’s most famous cyclists from Lower Main Street, out to Kamas and Woodland on the east side of Summit County, before shooting down to the Heber Valley for what promises to be the highlight of the race.
Empire Pass, also known locally as the backside of Guardsman Pass, was paved in the last year, according to Hageman, and that climb could very well be a determining factor in the outcome of the race.
"It’s brutal," he said. "Paco Mancebo called it the toughest climb he’s ever done. That Empire Pass climb will define this race; it will put a stamp on the Tour of Utah as America’s toughest stage race. It climbs 3,000 feet in 10K."
Hageman said defending Tour of Utah champion Levi Leipheimer and Tour de France veteran and Park City resident Marty Jemison agreed the Empire Pass climb will be the most challenging climb in any North American cycling race.
This will be the first year the Tour of Utah ends in Park City, as the racers will trudge up the grueling Empire Pass, passing Wasatch Mountain State Park, heading past Bonanza Flat and back toward city limits and dropping down onto State Road 224 and winding their way down to Main Street.
This year, the race will add 33 percent more mileage. It will feature five stage races and one team time trial at the Miller Motor Sports Park in Tooele. In total, the cyclists will ride 545 miles and climb more than 37,000 combined feet in six days.
Hageman said this year will also feature 13 King of the Mountain competitions during the five stage races, compared to last year’s five. He said there will also be 11 sprint-line competitions, compared to last year’s eight.
"We’ve just made it a more challenging race," he said. "We bill ourselves as America’s toughest stage race and we certainly are. The great thing about Utah is we have very unique mountains here. They’re perfect for bike racing and we’re able to incorporate these things into our races, and it’s more about using this beautiful geography around here than anything else."
Hageman said with the growing popularity of the race within the worldwide cycling community, this year will be the first time portions of the Tour of Utah will be broadcast live and in high definition. The Fox Sports Network will broadcast the race each day from 2 to 4 p.m. Mountain time, and will also feature a one-hour wrap-up show each evening. In total, the tour will receive 18 hours of nationwide, high-definition coverage.
"The race has got to such a stature that it’s demanded a nationwide live audience," he said. "We’re one of the big three races in the country, along with the Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. We’ve continued to push each other to improve. It’s been very advantageous for us."
At the finish line, there will be two big-screen televisions, one at the Tour of Utah Health & Wellness Expo near the Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery and another at the Town Lift Plaza. Hageman said there will be an area near the top of Main Street with the team buses on hand for riders to interact with fans and sign autographs before the sixth and final race.
Hageman said the race will have seven teams which will have competed in this summer’s Tour de France.
"We really want to convey how big of an event this is for Park City," he said. "The level of competition and stature of the race have probably increased five-fold since last year."
2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah stage breakdowns
The Christian Center of Park City had a makeover last year, and its boutique felt it was time for one, too.