Tour of Utah: America’s Toughest Stage Race

Well the mental stage race fog has cleared slightly and now I can try and share a bit of the amazing race that is The Tour Of Utah. This race certainly lived up to it’s billing with a short technical prologue, 3 hard road stages, a flat and super fast TT, and an insane crit held at over 7000 feet.

Having never really raced at anything above 5000 feet I was obviously a bit worried about the effect the thin air would have on my sea level blood. Some of my teammates had the good fortune of leaving straight from cascade classic to stay in Park City, UT for the three weeks prior to the race. While due to some life responsibilities I had to wait until a week before the race to head up to altitude in hopes of acclimatizing slightly prior to the race. Todd Hageman of Cole Sport was awesome in helping us out with a condo to stay in in Park City.

While they say altitude affects everyone differently I was amazed at the drastic differences I was pretty floored how bad I felt riding around the first couple of days. A tempo pace felt like it was darn near threshold and recovering from supra threshold efforts seemingly took forever. I took it very easy with two longer rides hoping I would feel a bit better during the race and would start feeling fresh and rested.

The race started with a short prologue around the Capitol building in SLC. Taylor Phinney blasted around the course to take the day and I had a decidedly terrible ride. While hard to completely say why I am pretty sure I blew it within the first minute where the course started on an uphill and I went out way too hard.  Pacing becomes even more crucial in such an extremely short effort, and I definitely didn’t nail it.

The next day was a road race starting in Ogden and ending on the outskirts of SLC. The route traversed two major climbs with some minor, but still challenging climbs sprinkled in for fun. The first climb wasn’t an insane pace by any means but still did enough damage to shred the field into several large groups which eventually came back together on the descent of the climb.  I latched on to of the last groups to rejoin and made it back into the field but could already I was pretty cooked.  There were a few hard sections leading up to the next climb.  Mainly, the section through the feed zone and over a dam had some shorter climbs that proved to be pretty difficult as the slight accelerations left me grasping to last few riders in the field.   There was one last hard acceleration as people jockeyed for position into the feed zone and I cracked hard.  I road with one other guy for the next 10 miles until the base of the final climb up Big Mountain.  I am not sure if it was the altitude or what, but I was unable to even make myself breathe hard going up the climb.  It was impossible for me to go hard and at the the crest of the climb I was caught by a large gruppetto containing my teammate Kennett and the current race leader Taylor Phinney.   We road pretty fast down the winding descent and rolled in together to the finish well behind the leaders.

I will continue this post in the next few days with some pictures.  Thanks for reading!

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Filed under Phil Elsasser, Race Reports

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