Good morning everyone. It has been a hectic few days since Utah wrapped up, but I finally have a few moments to sit down and write about the sixth and final stage. Calling itself the "toughest stage race in America" is a lot to live up to, but I'd say that Utah did a pretty solid job of doing it! Already a hard race with stages finishing and starting over the climbs around Ogden, and the queen stage climbing over Alpine/Sundance ending on Snowbird, the organizers decided this year they needed to add what many called the "king" stage. After a hard week of racing, there was little doubt there were many tired legs and minds heading into Sunday's stage.
Stage six started with a few neutral laps in Park City where the crowds were huge. Then we rolled out of town for the action to start in earnest. I was skeptical of when/how a break would go given the flat/descending parcours until the first climb of the day up Wolf Creek. Thankfully I was wrong, and a breakaway rolled off on the long descent of Brown's Canyon. BMC set to a tempo immediately because the stage was short, and the break was fairly sizeable around 10 riders. It didn't take tool long for us to hit the first KOM of the day at Wolf Creek. It was a short but steep climb that caused a big break up in the field. The front group on the top was a maximum of 40 riders. By the finish of the plateau above and descent from Wolf Creek, the peleton had regrouped.
It was a short stage; therefore, a short distance between descending Wolf Creek and beginning the much anticipated ascent of Empire Pass. I took in some final food and water to prepare myself for the final test of the week. The team finished off a great week of work to protect and deliver me to the base of the final climb in good position. Immediately BMC set a solid tempo, slimming the front group down. Despite having pre-ridden the climb, I lost my place on it during the race, so it was a little harder for me to remember/know what was coming ahead. I'm not sure it would have made a huge difference because the climb was very hard regardless, especially once the attacks started. The key attack was obviously Levi's, which caused a large acceleration and big explosion of the front group. I did what I could to hang onto the remaining few at the front; however, I came unhitched on one of the last steep pitches. I was devastated knowing that my podium finish was riding away from me, but tried not to panic knowing rhythm was key.
I had fallen back about 50 meters from the front group when Chris caught me. At this point in the climb, I knew it was more rolling, and that I had a chance to come back still as long as I didn't go over my limit. Chris set a great tempo and slowly pulled us back to the front group. I was very lucky to have Chris's experience and strength to help bring me back. From there, we stayed with the front group over the top and onto the final descent. Chris and I just followed the wheels hoping Levi's time gap would come down. By the finish, it had come back to inside one minute, and I had secured a second place finish overall. I had a few nervous moments immediately after the finish because Leopold Koenig had taken a time bonus on the finish line, and I had forgotten how much of a time gap I had on him before the stage, so I was nervous he might overtake me for second. Luckily I was safe though, and I would take the second step on the podium.
I was met by my incredible wife and in-laws post race for a joyous embrace. Then the podium clean-up and preparation began. While cleaning up and waiting, my teammates began to funnel into the tent, and I learned then that we had won the team gc! It was a fitting end to a great week of racing and teamwork by our team. I was more than happy to have two chances to spray champagne and celebrate the week's success. I owe a big thank you to my teammates, staff, friends, and family for all the support and belief they expressed in me throughout the week.
Lisa and I are now in Winter Park, CO for a few days trying to rest, recover, and recharge. Saturday I will be heading down to Durango to meet the team for final preparations before the start of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Monday. We're bringing a strong team to the start of this race, too, so we hope to continue to success of Utah. Follow the race on http://usaprocyclingchallenge.com/ where you can download the live race tracker or look up daily results and photos.