By Jared Eborn
It’s only fitting that in its 10th year the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is bigger, better and tougher than ever.
Long considered America’s Toughest Stage Race, the Tour of Utah has outdone itself in 2014.
With an added seventh stage, the Tour of Utah now boasts 753.8 miles of action with a lung-busting 57,863 feet of vertical gain over seven days.
The 16-team field will feature Pro Tour teams filled with riders who have Tour de France and other Grand Tour experience as well as many of the top domestic and continental professional teams. The action begins on August 4 in Cedar City and will put the hurt on the peloton right from the start.
The 2014 version of the Tour of Utah boasts several benchmarks. It sets a record for most miles in an American stage race with 753. It reaches its highest point in the race’s history with a pass of Bald Mountain Summit in the Uinta Mountains at 10,790 feet. It remains the only UCI stage race in America to cross into a National Park when it clips Bryce Canyon National Park on Stage 2. The race leaves Utah for the first time ever when Stage 5 begins in Evanston, Wyoming before ascending the Bald Mountain pass.
Here’s a look at each stage:
Stage One, August 4 – Cedar City to Cedar City
113.5 Miles, 8,873 feet of climbing.
Beginning in downtown Cedar City, the 2014 Tour of Utah climbs to Cedar Breaks National Monument and loops around the high country before a blazing fast descent to circuit finish back in Cedar City. With the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Yellow Jersey on the line, climbers and sprinters will be pushing themselves to the limits on the climbs and lining themselves up for what is certain to be a frenetic finish in front of thousands of fans.
Stage Two, August 5 – Panguitch to Torrey
130.7 Miles, 10,162 feet of climbing
The longest stage in the Tour of Utah is understandably one of the most challenging. Though the climbs are long and sweeping, they will test the endurance of the peloton. A trio of KOM points in Red Canyon, the Grand Staircase and atop the Hogsback summit will be complimented by a pair of intermediate spint points in Cannonville and Escalante. A finish line in the shadows of Capitol Reef National Park in small town Torrey provides one of the most naturally scenic courses in America.
Stage Three, August 6 – Lehi to Tooele
118.3 Miles, 3,953 feet of climbing
After two tough climbing stages to open things up, the Tour of Utah throws a bone to the sprinters. A relatively easy day in the saddle begins at IM Flash headquarters in Lehi and loops south past Utah Lake with a KOM point in Eureka and a sprint in Saratoga Springs. That leads to a long sweep north into Tooele County where one of Utah’s biggest days of cycling wraps up with a heart-thumping circuit on the Miller Motorsports Park track. A breakaway is possible, but the course is perfectly designed to provide the crowd at the finish line a thrilling bunch sprint.
Stage Four, August 7 – Ogden to Powder Mountain
104.7 Miles, 8,893 feet of climbing
This one is going to hurt – and it will create some significant separation in the peloton. Expect a change in the overall leaderboard as the GC contenders put their mark on the race with a pair KOM points on the North Ogden Pass and an unrelenting ascent to Powder Mountain high above the Ogden Valley. Three passes through Eden will be anything but paradise for the sprinters as they chase points and hope to keep themselves close to the pack as they muscle up the 20-percent grades leading to Powder Mountain.
Stage Five, August 8 – Evanston, Wyoming to Kamas
101.4 Miles, 5,706 feet of climbing
Sure, the profile says there are less than 6,000 feet of climbing, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t going to be another test for the goats as they ascend the picturesque Bald Mountain Pass in the Uinta Mountains at nearly 11,000 feet. After that, it’s time for the sprinters again. Expect a few attacks up the mountain and a furious chase down the long sweeping descent to Kamas where sprinters will assemble and, after a tricky two-mile stretch of dirt road near Oakley, throw it down in what may be the last chance to show off the pure horsepower that exists in bunch sprints.
Stage Six, August 9 – Salt Lake City to Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort
107.2 Miles, 12,643 feet of climbing
The Queen Stage, where legs burn, lungs fry and lunatics gather in Little Cottonwood Canyon to cheer on the best cyclists the state of Utah has ever seen. Four KOM points – Little Mountain, Big Mountain, Guardsman Pass and Little Cottonwood Canyon will not only shake up the Ski Utah King of the Mountain jersey chase, but just might put a new overall leader atop the podium. Arguably the most difficult day of racing in America, Stage Six separates the contenders from the pretenders as it finishes amid the granite walls of Little Cottonwood. Bring your hot dogs, pickles, donuts and whatever else you can think of to hand up to the suffering cyclists on the home stretch – it’s a party like none other.
Stage Seven, August 10 – Park City to Park City
78 Miles, 7,633 feet of climbing
The shortest stage of the 2014 Tour of Utah is hardly a victory parade. Rather, the punishing climb up Wolf Creek Ranches and the epic ascent of the Empire Pass assure there is plenty of drama and racing left to be enjoyed. Last year Garmin-Sharp’s Tom Danielson captured the Tour of Utah overall victory as he surged away from Chris Horner up Empire Pass. While it’s impossible to tell what will happen in 2014, one thing that is certain is there will be the biggest finish line crowd of the year in Park City and tens of thousands of cycling enthusiasts gather to celebrate the 2014 Tour of Utah champion.