Sunday, August 12, 2012

2012 tour of utah - stage 5

This year, the queen stage was the Park City to Snowbird road race, 101 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. That's right: 10,000 feet of climbing.  The route went from Park City, through Heber, up to Sundance and over the Alpine Loop, down through American Fork Canyon, up and over Traverse Ridge  between Alpine and Draper, and ending with the brutal climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon to finish at Snowbird.  I would venture to say that this stage is exactly why the Tour of Utah is subtitled "America's Toughest Stage Race."

Johann Tschopp - Stage 5 winner

The cyclists hit the road at 11 a.m. so we had some time to kill in the morning.  H went fishing up Big Cottonwood Canyon, while B and I took a walk.  We left the house around 12:30 p.m. to head up the canyon.  The canyon was closing at 2 p.m. for the race but there were already tons of cyclists laboring up the hill; the ToU organizers open the course to amateurs who want to try their legs on the Park City-Snowbird stage for the Ultimate Challenge ride.  These folks had started around 7 a.m. and were trying to get up the canyon before the pros came charging in.  That's a helluva ride and the growing crowds applauded for the amateurs almost as loudly as they would for the Tour riders.

Levi, gutting it out

We parked up on the Alta by-pass road and walked down through the Snowbird resort, toting our cooler.  We managed to score spots across from the jumbotron near the finish line that was showing real-time race footage and ate our sandwiches and drank our PBRs while watching the race.  When the lead group of riders turned up Little Cottonwood Canyon, we walked up the hill a little ways to where we stood last year, right where we could see the riders coming up the last pitch before turning down into the resort for the finish.

Christian Vandevelde (in yellow)
and Chris Horner

We knew the riders were approaching because (1) the helicopter appeared overhead and (2) the crowd (which I thought was quite a bit smaller than last year) started really cheering and ringing their cowbells.  We'd heard that Christian Vandevelde had been struggling on the canyon ascent and, sure enough, he lost the yellow jersey when Johann Tschopp, who had only been one minute behind, won Stage 5, coming in 1:38 ahead of Vandevelde.  Levi Leipheimer, last year's ToU winner, came in fifth, only one minute back; we saw him afterwards and he looked frustrated as his team had been absolutely no help to him whatsoever.

Tommy Danielson, finished 16th

They gave out the jerseys on the podium even before the peloton finished up, but the crowd would applaud over whatever the announcers were saying as the last riders rolled in.  Jeff Louder got the best Utah rider jersey, and American Joseph Dombrowski (Bontrager Livestrong) claimed the best young rider.  Vandevelde is only 38 seconds behind Tschopp, however, so it's still possible that he could win this thing with tomorrow's race.

Stage 5 podium

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