Billed as “America’s Toughest Stage Race,” the Tour of Utah pits riders in a six-day competition that sees 587 miles of Utah’s striking landscapes and climbs 43621 vertical feet during the six stages. Starting in Cedar City and ending in Park City, the Tour of Utah rides through some of Utah’s most iconic landmarks. The finishing weekend held the most difficult stage, riding past almost all of Utah’s ski resorts.
Beginning in the north at Snowbasin, riders pedal south towards Park City, following frontage roads as closely to I-84 and I-80 as possible. As they entered Park City, they had fought a net uphill battle, only to get to Guarsdman Pass. At a 14% grade and not paved very well, the climb up to Guardsman Pass would separate the men from the boys. Once the pass was gained, riders descended Big Cottonwood Canyon to pass by Brighton and Solitude ski areas. They made short work of this long descent, hitting blistering speeds of approximately 70mph as well as swerving through a couple of hair-pin corners. Once out of Big Cottonwood Canyon, the peloton would shift out of the big ring and begin the climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon.
From the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon to the finish line at Snowbird, 3050 vertical feet are gained over 10.7 miles, getting steeper and steeper until a short downhill coast to the finish line to finish up 113 miles of riding.
Watching the finish to the fifth stage from the last few pedal strokes of the climb as well as the finish line brought great excitement. The first ride with a number on his jersey to cross the finish line was not one of the participants of the Tour of Utah, but in fact the winner of The Ultimate Challenge. The Ultimate Challenge is a ride that is organized by the Tour of Utah that follows the same route as the Snowbasin to Snowbird stage, and is open to anybody who signs up. They start a few hours ahead of the professionals riding in the Tour and some of the last riders in the Challenge are passed by the Tour riders. To see strong cyclists ride by initially really gave a frame of reference to the professionals when they blasted by.
The front of the pack raced to the finish line, with Lachlan David Morton (AUS) wearing the yellow jersey but losing his role as Tour leader to Chris Horner (USA) Tommy Danielson (USA) tied up his overall time with Horner, and Yannick Eijssen (GER) trailed thirty-one seconds behind. The crowd at the finish was wild with excitement and people were packed against the fencing. A neck-and-neck race to win the next day had the crowd incensed and ready to head up to Park City to watch the final stage.