Lachlan Morton wins Tour of Utah
The story of the 2016 Tour of Utah can be summed up in four words: Lachlan Morton earned it.
The Team Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis rider earned the yellow jersey by winning Stage 4 on Thursday and Stage 7 on Sunday, crossing the finish line on Park City’s Main Street well ahead of second-place finisher Adrien Costa of Team Axeon Hagens Berman.
He earned his victory celebration and subsequent hug with his father after Sunday’s race by battling his way back to the top of the sport after giving it all up in 2014.
But, most of all, Morton earned a win on Sunday by gutting out a near-impossible climb up Empire Pass and flying down to the Main Street finish at break-neck speeds.
“The last 5K of that climb, I’ve never gone that deep before,” he said. “I thought I was actually going to die.”
The final crest of the hill was the worst part, Morton said. There’s no way to build up speed and riders have to hang on and use any energy they still have left in the tank after a grueling seven-day schedule.
“It’s super steep and the crowd can basically just walk next to you,” he laughed.
All the trials and tribulations were worth it at the end of the day, though, as Morton earned the yellow jersey by 1 minute, 9 seconds over the 18-year-old Costa, who earned Best Young Rider and King of the Mountain jerseys for his outstanding efforts this week.
Following the race, Morton was thankful for all those who have helped him get his career back on track. He thanked his Jelly Belly teammates for helping him all week.
“My team was incredible,” he said. “Right there until the end of that [Empire] climb, my teammates were helping me out, putting me in the position I needed to be in.”
Kiel Reijnen of the Trek-Segafredo team earned the Sprint Leader jersey for the week, finishing 38th in the overall standings. He said Sunday’s rainy conditions made things scarier and more difficult for the riders.
“The weather was definitely not on our side,” he said. “I had my fingers crossed that it would stay dry for that descent on Wolf Creek. It’s really fast and has a few technical turns.”
How’d that wish for dry weather work out for Reijnen and the other riders?
“That was the wettest point in the race, for sure,” he laughed. “I won’t cross my fingers anymore.”
Park City rider Tanner Putt, a member of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, finished the week in 71st place, 1:21:30 behind Morton. He moved up three spots in the general classification with his performance on Sunday in his hometown.
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.