Ben Hermans wins the Tour of Utah
Over 450 miles of racing across seven days ended when Joe Dombrowski of EF Education First crossed the finish line at 255 Main Street on Sunday afternoon, wrapping up the sixth and final stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
While Dombrowski’s victory in Stage 6 was impressive considering his ascent up Empire Pass, his first place finish on Sunday was only good enough to jump him to third overall in the General Classification category.
“I wanted to win the stage today,” Dombrowski said. “I know Empire really well. … I’ve done this climb a number of times in training and obviously have done this climb quite a few times in the race so I felt comfortable with what was coming.”
Belgian Ben Hermans of Israel Cycling Academy took home first place overall with a total time of 18 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds.
“From the first time that I did this race in 2014, I had a good feeling with this race and I kept getting better results in the G.C.,” Hermans said. “I really enjoy it here, partly because it’s amazing to ride for these crowds. … And to be there on the podium in the yellow jersey is really, really nice.”
The victory was particularly sweet for Hermans after he was runner-up last year, 2:09 behind Sepp Kuss. He also took home fourth place overall in 2014, continuing his steady progression up the leaderboard over the past couple of years.
Hermans staked his claim to the yellow jersey early on in the competition when he won Stages 2 and 3, taking the overall lead following the third stage and never letting it go the rest of the way.
Finishing in second was Canadian James Piccoli, riding for Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling. He finished 50 seconds behind Hermans, struggling in the ascent up Empire Pass in Stage 6 that he never became much of a threat to winning the coveted yellow jersey.
Dombrowski was the third overall finisher, jumping fellow American Kyle Murphy and Danish Niklas Eg on the final day of the competition to make the podium. Dombrowski finished 1:32 behind Hermans while Eg and Murphy, who entered Sunday in third and fourth respectively, fell to fifth and sixth respectively when it was all said and done.
“Eventually I decided to ease off on the climb and hopefully some guys would come back,” Dombrowski said of his strategy on Sunday. “And then, maybe it would present another opportunity to go just at the very top (of the climb), because if you have a gap on the descent, normally you can keep it to the line.”
According to many competitors, the surprise rider of the Tour was fourth place finisher João Almeida, riding for Hagens Berman Axeon. Almeida, 21, finished second in Stage 6, his best result of the Tour. Because of his success throughout the weeklong event, Almeida won the Best Young Rider award.
The Sprinter award went toTravis McCabe of Worthy Pro Cycling for the third time in the event’s history, while the King of the Mountain award for climbing performance went to winner Hayden McCormick of Team BridgeLane. Meanwhile, the Most Aggressive Rider award went to Piccoli while Tony Baca of 303 Project came away the Fan Favorite award winner.
EF Education First, winning in a time of 56:35:03, dominated the team competition. It won Stages 1, 5 and 6 when members Lawson Craddock, Lachlan Morton and Dombrowski took home those victories respectively.
Israel Cycling Academy finished runner-up, 2:45 behind the victors on the strength of Hermans’ two individual stage victories. Trek-Segafredo, Rally UHC Cycling, Hagen Berman Axeon and Worthy Pro Cycling rounded out the top six.
“We really wanted to come out, showcase Worthy Brewing, showcase how strong of a domestic team we have, and also just get the results,” McCabe said. “Keegan (Swirbul) finishing third today, me taking the sprint jersey, Serghei (Tvetcov) finishing third in the prologue and second in the Salt Lake City stage, I think we’ve showed the depth that we have on a smaller team.”
The Tour of Utah, widely considered the toughest stage race in America by cyclists, lived up to its name after 472.7 miles of racing and 37,882 feet of elevation climbing throughout. Combining those numbers with the altitude and the heat that the region experienced last week made this Tour event one of the toughest in recent memory.
“I think now it’s for sure the toughest race,” Hermans said. “It’s even the toughest race including Europe I think. It’s hard to climb at this altitude.”
“I think the heat, the altitude, the short stages, everything adds up to making it one of the toughest races in the U.S.,” McCabe added. “It’s full gas every day. … There’s no respite, there are no days that are easy. I love Utah, it’s one of my favorite races all year long.”
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It’s been a rough season for Park City, but a taste of the postseason could pay huge dividends in the future.