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08-12-2008, 08:16 AM
Tour of Utah: Race bigger after year's hiatus
By Lya Wodraska
The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated: 08/12/2008 07:00:57 AM MDT

Many doubted the Tour of Utah would return to the national cycling calendar when organizers cancelled the 2007 race because of a lack of sponsorship. Not only does it return this week, but it does so with its biggest purse and strongest lineup.

The 17-team lineup includes a loaded team from Rock Racing with Tyler Hamilton, the 2004 Olympic champion who is returning to racing after serving a two-year drug suspension, Oscar Sevilla, who finished seventh at the 2001 Tour de France, and "Fast Freddie" Rodriguez, a three-time US Pro road champion.

Garmin-Chipolte also is sending a strong team with Tom Danielson, the 2005 winner of the Tour de Georgia, and recent Tour de France participants Danny Pate and Will Frischkorn.

Others to watch are Health Net's Rory Sutherland, who leads the National Racing Calendar standings, and Type 1's Moises Aldape, who is a veteran of the international racing scene. The field also includes local pros Jeff Louder and Burke Swindlehurst, who are expected to be among the favorites given their familiarity with the course.

"Stage 2 finishes blocks from my home and that makes me even more motivated," Louder said. "There are not many times in a pro cyclist's career where he can say he has a home-court advantage and can race in front of his friends and family, and this is the one for me. I plan to capitalize on that."

At stake for the field is a $75,000 purse, the largest offered on the NRC, and prized points that go toward deciding who is the top racer and team in the country for the season. Those lures combined with the challenging course made it easy for the race to attract the top domestic teams in the country, said executive director Terry McGinnis.

"It's a pretty killer field," McGinnis said. "I had 36 teams apply for the 17 spots so I could be pretty choosy with who got the slots."

The course starts with a relatively flat stage on Wednesday in Nephi and has two mountain stages sandwiched around Friday's criterium in downtown Salt Lake City. Saturday's 98-mile mountain stage, which starts in Park City and ends at Snowbird, features 14,778 feet of climbing and is considered the hardest.

"It's the only event in the U.S. that has climbing stages that can honestly compare itself to those found in the Grand Tours of Europe," Swindlehurst said. "I had the opportunity to ride the Stage 4 course with Levi Leipheimer a couple of weeks ago and he agreed that the course was of similar quality and difficulty to that found in a mountain stage of the Tour de France."

The race concludes Sunday with a time trial in Tooele at the Miller MotorSports Park.

Stage Details
* Stage 1, Wednesday - starts 10 a.m. in Nephi and ends in Nephi. 101.8 miles, flat to rolling terrain
* Stage 2, Thursday - starts 11 a.m. in Ogden and ends in Salt Lake City. 84.6 miles, four climbs
* Stage 3, Friday - starts 7 p.m. in downtown Salt Lake City. 90-minute criterium on a 1-mile circuit
* Stage 4, Saturday - starts 10 a.m. in Park City and ends at Snowbird. 98.1 miles with five climbs
* Stage 5, Sunday - starts 10 a.m. in Tooele. 12-mile out-and-back time trial
* More details including maps, feed zones and places to watch can be found at www.tourofutah.com

Favorites to watch

* Tom Danielson: Garmin-Chipolte racer who was left off the team's 2008 Tour de France squad after several injuries hurt his training.
* Danny Pate and Will Frischkorn: Danielson's teammates who had good days in the Tour de France. It will be interesting to see if they work for Danielson or Danielson works for them.
* BMC's Jeff Louder and Bissell's Burke Swindlehurst: Local racers who are good climbers and have the advantage of knowing the course well.
* Tyler Hamilton: His star power was at its highest in 2003 when he finished fourth in the Tour de France then won the 2004 Olympic gold medal, but those results were called into question after he tested positive for blood doping and served a two-year suspension. Came out of retirement to join Rock Racing.