It's Tour of Utah time again! This installment showed a return to southern Utah for the initial stages, with the usual Snowbird and Park City finale. There seemed to be fewer well-known names but the race did manage to attract several national cycling champions and some up-and-comers who are making their presence known, like Greg Daniel, last year's winner Joe Dombrowski, local Tanner Putt, Lachlan Morton, Joey Rosskopf, Ben King, Andrew Talansky and Peter Stetina. Danny Pate and Chris Horner even came back again, true veterans in their late 30s and early 40s, respectively. We were only able to get to the sixth and seventh stages but this is what went down during the rest of the week.
Stage 1 (8/1/16) Zion National Park to Cedar City, 84 miles and 6,679 feet of elevation gain. For the first time ever, the Tour of Utah got into one of the state's five national parks, a feat three years in the planning due to permitting and permissions issues. The first 20k were in the park and were designated as a neutral zone with a speed limit, so the riders were actually gawking at the amazing scenery. Once out of the park, the race started in earnest, with a climb up to nearly 10,000 feet before descending past Cedar Breaks National Monument. Stage podium: Kristofer Dahl (Canada, Silber Pro Cycling); Colin Joyce (USA, Axeon); Rick Zabel (Germany, BMC Racing).
Stage 2 (8/2/16) Escalante to Torrey, 99 miles and 9.435 feet of elevation gain. The course went back along Scenic Highway 12, one of the most gorgeous roads on the planet, a little shorter than the last time the Tour was here in 2013. The riders had two difficult climbs and finished with two 17-mile circuits in Torrey. Stage podium: Robin Carpenter (USA, Holowesko/Citadel/Hincapie); Ruben Companioni (Cuba, Jamis); Travis McCabe (USA, Holowesko/Citadel/Hincapie).
Stage 3 (8/3/16) Richfield to Payson, 119 miles and 6,337 feet of elevation gain. Although technically less climbing than the day before, going up and over Mount Nebo (3,000 vertical feet) proved brutal, blowing apart the peloton and causing several riders to be cut for not making the time cut-off (which I know is in the rules but still seems harsh). There was a big crash just as the climb began, which caused USA national champion Greg Daniel to abandon with a broken collarbone. Stage podium: Lachlan Morton (Aussie, Jelly Belly); Adrien Costa (USA, Axeon); Andrew Talansky (USA, Cannondale). NOTE: Lachlan Morton won this stage back in 2013 - it clearly suits him.
Stage 4 (8/4/16) Lehi to Kearns, 96 miles with 4,504 feet elevation gain. This was a "flat" stage - at least for Utah - and frankly not that exciting to watch as the riders cruised up and down the west side of the Salt Lake Valley along the Mountain View Corridor. The winds were challenging, however, as was the smoky haze from area wildfires, and it was a fun stampede to the finish at the Olympic Speedskating Oval in Kearns. Stage podium: Travis McCabe; Kiel Reijnen (USA, Trek); Lucas Haedo (Argentina, Jamis).
Stage 5 (8/5/16). Antelope Island to Bountiful, 114 miles with 6,948 feet of elevation gain. Like last year, the riders started on Antelope Island, came across the causeway and headed north, with short, tough climbs over the North Ogden Divide and Trappers Loop, and finishing with not one but two climbs up the Bountiful Bench. Stage podium: Kiel Reijnen; Tao Geoghegen Hart (Great Britain, Axeon); Alex Howes (USA, Cannondale).
At this point, the morning of the Queen Stage (Snowbasin to Snowbird), Lachlan Morton still has the yellow jersey. He's only got it by about nine seconds over Andrew Talansky, however, so today may make a huge difference.