Tuesday, August 9, 2016

2016 tour of utah - stage 7

Stage 7 (8/7/16) Park City to Park City, 78 miles with 7,883 feet of elevation.  The final stage of the Tour of Utah may be short but it is mighty: beginning and ending in Park City, the stage route (designed by Levi Leipheimer) makes a loop, climbing up over Empire Pass with its average grade of 10% and maximum grade of over 20%, to descend at a screaming pace through Deer Valley.  And this year the event organizers made it even tougher: the last 500 meters were a nasty climb all the way to the top of Main Street - because only "America's Toughest Stage Race" would inflict such a long, uphill finish on its riders.

H and I made plans to do our Round Valley MTB loop before hitting downtown Park City for the race festivities.  We've done this a couple of times and last year even managed to time it so we could watch the riders heading out of town as we were heading back in.  We had just pulled into the parking lot at 10 a.m., ready to hop on our MTBs, when the skies got really, really dark.  Within moments, bolts of lightning were flashing all along the mountains and it started pouring.  Now, I don't mind getting caught in the rain while biking, but you will have great difficulty convincing me to start out in the rain.  Plus: lightning.

Not sure what it is - but pretty

We stayed put in the truck, watching the storm cell move through (and then watching a second one move through as well).  After about an hour, the sun was coming through again and the asphalt was immediately beginning to dry.  We had some concerns about riding on wet trails, however - don't ride on wet trails! - so H suggested that we take the paved rail trail out like we normally do but then, instead of turning towards Quinn's Trailhead, staying on the rail trail to see what that was about.

This bike path is actually the Historic Pacific Union Rail Trail State Park, running from Park City to Echo Reservoir.  The whole thing is around 28 miles long and turns to gravel after it crosses State Route 40.  We only did ten miles out (and then ten miles back) but that was enough to pique our interest for a full exploration later this year.  The section we did was great, in good shape, following a creek through cow pastures, past a ranch (founded in 1861) and then down the canyon with I-80 above us.  Incredibly, we could scarcely hear the highway, making for a pleasant pedal.  Of course, leaving from Park City is all downhill, so it was a ten mile, 2% grade uphill on the way back.  With a headwind, of course.

Doesn't that look like a nice trail?

After our ride, we changed our clothes, snarfed down sandwiches and a couple of beers and caught a shuttle to Main Street.  This was where we saw the new, uphill finish and deemed it mean to the riders but great for the fans.  We found a spot in the shade (which was great as the sun seemed to be trying to make up for lost time) near a Jumbotron, and waited while the riders made their way up Empire Pass and back down into town.  The crowd lined both sides of the street, banging on the barricades and cheering for first Bob Roll, as the former professional bike racer rode up to the finish, and then for the riders as they came in.

Lachlan Morton won both the stage and the Tour, having made a definitive move at the bottom of the climb up Empire Pass and making himself uncatchable for the climb and the descent.  Young Adrien Costa came in second on the day, with Darwin Atapuma rounding out the podium.  Andrew Talansky seemed to have exhausted himself winning Stage 6 and his teammate Joe Dombrowksi (last year's ToU winner) pulled him up and down the mountain Sunday, and then gave him the fourth place finish.

The positioning of the finish line and the stage (different from prior years) made it impossible for us to clearly see or take photos of the awards presentation.  Hopefully they'll adjust that for next year.  In any case, the Tour of Utah is a super-fun event for fans to watch and a super-grueling race for the riders - thirteen riders abandoned on Stage 7 alone.  Can't wait for next year.

Stage 7 podium:  Lachlan Morton, Adrien Costa, Darwin Atapuma.  General Classification:  Lachlan Morton, Adrien Costa, Andrew Talansky.  Sprinter:  Kiel Reijnen.  King of the Mountain:  Adrien Costa.  Best Young Rider: Adrien Costa.  Most Aggressive Rider:  Rob Britton (USA, Rally Cycling).  Fan Favorite:  Taylor Eisenhart.  Team standings:  BMC, Cannondale-Drapac, Axeon Hagens Berman.

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