Tour of Utah

Stage 6 - Tour of Utah

Today was most likely the final time that I pull on my BMC jersey in the United States and that brought on extra meaning.

This is a race that I’ve been a part of since the beginning of my career. The Tour of Utah has treated me well, and I was heading into the final stage with the opportunity to lead the team after Tejay had an off day on Saturday. It felt absolutely amazing to go for it, battle, persevere and feel that finish line fire. Racing Utah with the BMC Racing Team has had some deep meaning in my progression as a rider. It felt like a fitting close to my time at this race with this team to conclude with a podium.

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Sunday’s start was fast and saw several attempts for a break to form. Joey was repping us in the first couple, but with a reduced squad and knowing we needed extra power in the final parts of the stage, we decided to holstered our manpower when the move finally went.

Lotto kept a stiff pace, and I was excited because that meant we would likely have the chance to play for the stage win. The climb up Empire was as brutal as ever. With a fresh coat of pavement, it was little quicker, which I think we all appreciated!

The team did a super job leading me into the final climb in great position, and the pace was stiff right from the start.

In these moments, I focus on one minute at a time because it’s hard to fathom continuing like that for the next 45 minutes! Once Lotto was out of guys, Jack Haig set out with a hard attack and only Sepp marked him. This caused our group to fragment. I battled and rode the climb the best I could, making sure to keep them in sight, but I really struggled to close those final meters.

As I would catch riders, they immediately would sit on me knowing it was my race to chase. I tried to stay focused and not get distracted. Towards the top, I saw my chance to make a big effort and make contact with the group, and I went for it. I was really suffering over the top of the climb and doubted my plan to attack on the descent, but I mustered some strength and went for it over the final meters of the climb.

I quickly realized the descent was wet, but still extremely fast. I caught the few guys who had been distance by Sepp and put my head down sprinting over the final uphill rise before the plunge into Park City. Jack latched on to my wheel, and we slid into the final corners together. I could see Sepp in the distance and could tell we were charging hard. I buried myself on the final 800-meter climb to the line, which felt more like 8 kilometers. I missed Sepp by 8 seconds.

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I hope to be back in 2019! For now, it was a rush to the airport and onto a plane back to Spain. Fingers crossed now---hoping to get confirmation that I’ll be starting the Vuelta sometime this next week.

📷: Jonathan Jono Devich / Epic Images

Stage 5 - Tour of Utah

Today’s stage was the classic finish atop Snowbird with a few changes to the earlier parts of the stage, which actually meant less climbin, but that definitely didn’t it make much easier.

The first hour saw some very aggressive racing. With our reduced squad of five guys, we rode a good race with Joey in a strong break that put Lotto under pressure and forced them to ride. Once Joey came back, Killian got away in a nice counter and proved the strongest in the breakaway as he was the last one caught and earned himself most aggressive honors. 

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Back in the bunch, I was surprised that EF waited so long to attack and whittle down Lotto, with such a deep team of climbers and three guys positioned to threaten the GC. I expected them to start the hostilities earlier than the base of Snowbird. When they did finally go, the pace was super stiff.

I always struggle on the lower slopes of this climb, baking in the hundred-degree heat with a stiff tailwind. Today was no different.  The air quality in Salt Lake was atrocious, and I could feel some asthma symptoms beginning to lock up my lungs. I metered myself back a notch and had some super teamwork pacing from Joey.

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Around midway up the climb, I began to recover and set out alone to try and catch the chase group, which was hovering 30 seconds ahead, but being alone and on some of the flatter sections towards the top, I wasn’t able to close it down.

Despite being isolated with no teammates, Sepp Kuss rode away to a stage win. He was on another level and executed a rare jersey defense up the final climb.

I did nudge my way up a few spots in the GC and feel good about my effort, fighting and not giving up.

This race suits the pure climbers more than myself, but I’m pleased to be heading into the final stage still up there and will battle tomorrow as we grind up that nasty Empire climb and bomb into Park City for the finish.

📷: Jonathan Devich

 

Stage 4 - Tour of Utah

We knew going into Stage 4 of the Tour of Utah to expect a hard circuit around Salt Lake City complete with a solid climb every lap.

It definitely lived up to all those expectations.

To give you a little glimpse, we did 70 miles (~113 kilometers) in under three hours.

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Joey was caught on the final turn, so I had a go at it in the end and slotted in for another top 10 finish.

Now back to the mountains!

📷: Jonathan Devich

 

Stage 3 - Tour of Utah

Whoa, Stage 3 of the Tour of Utah was a hot one! It took forever for the break to form and I was left covering moves because we started a guy down after Tom didn’t start.

To make matters tougher, our young stagiaire Freddy crashed while the earlier attacks were going, so BMC Racing Team is now down to five.

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So today we were happy for Lotto to do the controlling after such a dominant performance yesterday. (Hopefully, it tired them out a bit!)

I did my best to stay up front and have another go in the sprint but it was a full-size group, and the relatively easy circuit didn’t play to my strengths. Finished just outside of top 10 in 12th.

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Tomorrow is the always tough Salt Lake City circuit race, but they’ve moved the finish line to the bottom of the hill instead of up at the top, which I’m sure will deliver some more action before heading back into the mountains for the weekend.

📷: Jonathan Devich

 

Stage 2 - Tour of Utah

Stage 2 of the Tour of Utah was shorter with a flat, fast start and one massive climb and descent over Mount Nebo. We knew going into the race that it would mix things up and it did just that.

We worked well together as a team to control the early moves. I can already see our young guys learning what to do, and we were always in good position before we finally agreed to let a group go up the road.

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After that, it was a long but relatively high-speed trip down a highway frontage road that traversed the desert and also some nasty smoky air from the nearby wildfires.

We went into the climb in great position, and the pace at the bottom became very stiff with immediate attacks. Knowing the altitude would continue to play a role, we stayed together with Joey setting a strong tempo through the initial steep pitches.

A few kilometers later, the group was getting whittled down after some more serious GC attacks with one of them being eventual stage winner Sepp Kuss.

Joey kept them on a good leash grinding away in the headwind but Tejay saw a moment to try to bridge and went for it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite get up to them and the process put Joey and I into some difficulty. Hindsight is 20/20, and I think Tejay is still feeling out his form coming off the TDF.

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I battled back to Tejay’s group and immediately began chasing with everything I had knowing it would be a long 45 kilometers and knew no one would help Tejay and I even if it meant losing their own chances to win the stage and lose time in the overall.

It’s been a while since I mounted such a long and intense chase, but I was inspired to give everything I had to limit our losses if we couldn’t bring back an exceptional Kuss.

Looking back, EF was very strong, and I feel if we had worked together instead of racing against each other that we would have had a shot at the stage win. But every team has to ride their own race and stick to their own plan. Although losing the jersey stings, I’m encouraged that I was able to put in a strong performance and feature in the heat of the action. Historically, the race lead changes hands on the climb to Snowbird, and I think we are still within striking distance.

📷 Jonathan Devich/Epic Images

 

Stage 1 - Tour of Utah

It’s a bummer to barely miss out on third place and the time bonus, but I’m happy to be in the mix and feel that finish line fire again.

While today was slated to end with a sprinter’s battle, Stage 1 of the Tour of Utah was a mountainous, high altitude day out.

The fast and flat start saw tons of attacks and an unfortunate flat tire for our leader, Tejay. We sent a couple guys back to help him, and this was around the moment four riders finally went away. We let the gap goout and began the work of keeping them on a leash that was hopefully short enough for the sprinter’s teams to help later.

Whether it was a lack of confidence in their sprinters or just putting the pressure on us after yesterday’s domination, that help never really came. Trek finally contributed one rider but it was largely on us, and we used a fair amount of energy keeping those strong four in check.

At a point, we decided it would be ok to let them go and take the stage and possibly the jersey if no other teams were interested in doing the work. Around this time, the front four fell apart and slowly came back without us having to lift the pace.

The finishing circuits were dicey with big roads and no teams willing or able to take control. It was up to Joey and me to take care of Tejay. Joey did a great job keeping us in position and covering a couple of attacks. The last lap was every man for himself, and I pushed myself to stay in the mix and go for the sprint, which was a long slightly uphill drag.

In the end, we kept Tejay in the jersey for another day. Tomorrow will be another notch of difficulty with the massive climb up Mount Nebo in the second half of the stage and historically proving decisive to the GC.

📷 GettyImages

 

Prologue - Tour of Utah

What a start to this year’s Tour of Utah! Typically this would count as a stage win but today’s podium sweep by BMC Racing Team's Tejay, Joey, and Tom makes it so much more special.

From my end, it is a little bittersweet because I’d hoped to be up there in the mix with them. Historically, I’ve never put together what you’d call an impressive road bike time trial, but I still went into today confident and ready to do a good one.

Instead, I got to remember that hard lesson about relying on technology. Just as I went out of the gate, I noticed I had no power reading to pace myself of off.

Maybe it was radio interference from the video motos? Who knows. I refocused and went old school by just pushing and giving everything I had.

The day ended with an interesting mix of riders in the top 20 with most of the GC contenders up there, which I expected because the prologue was such a short road bike effort. So fairly minimal time gaps going into Stage 1 but still big enough gaps that it will influence how the coming days are raced.

Tejay looks like he’s come out of the Tour in great shape and I look forward to helping him defend yellow as we head into the road stages.