Britton Keeps the Lead
by Lyne Lamoureux
Italian Giulio Ciccone of Bardiani CSF showed his climbing prowess to win Stage 6 presented by University of Utah Health on Saturday at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. Ciccone soloed to victory on the legendary seven-mile climb of Little Cottonwood Canyon to Snowbird Resort, completing the 61-mile “Queen Stage” in 2 hours and 45 seconds.
Ciccone’s teammate, Simone Sterbini (ITA), crossed the line 35 seconds later to claim second place. In a bid to improve his fourth-place position in the general classification (G.C.), Neilson Powless (USA) of Axeon Hagens Berman attacked in the final kilometers to take third on the stage.
“Today was really important because as the days have gone on we have gotten stronger, better as a team, and we felt better,” said Ciccone through an interpreter. “Today, it was really important to show ourselves and win the race. My goal, once I saw that I had a little bit of gap, was to regulate and pace myself well. I knew that the last 2 kilometers were a bit easy, so my goal was to regulate until and (give it) everything to the finish.” Ciccone, winner of a stage of the 2016 Giro d’Italia, was awarded the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Most Aggressive Rider jersey for his dashing attack.
Rally Cycling’s Rob Britton (CAN) survived an onslaught of attacks to finish fifth on the stage and retain his Larry H. Miller Group of Companies overall leader jersey. Stage winner Ciccone jumped 17 spots to sixth place overall. Britton retained his 26-second advantage over Gavin Mannion (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, who is second on G.C., and a 32-second gap over Serghei Tvetcov (ROM) of Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Maxxis, who is third overall.
“I was very confident. The team has done a fantastic job all week and I had a lot of confidence that it would continue today,” Britton said. “It’s really not so much about me, as it is just about paying back all their hard work. It was just follow all the wheels across the line.”
The Tour of Utah’s “Queen Stage” lived up to its reputation as one of cycling’s most exciting days in the saddle, with 7,700 feet of climbing and two Utah Office of Tourism KOM climbs. The stage began for a second time in the Heber Valley at Soldier Hollow, in the shadow of Mount Timpanogos. The hard terrain, altitude, heat and punishing pace decimated both the early 18-rider breakaway and the peloton over the course of 61 miles.
For the first time this week, the breakaway was established fairly early with 18 riders escaping in the first five miles of the stage. The break included Dennis Van Winden (NED) and Tyler Williams (USA) of Israel Cycling Academy, Luca Wackermann (ITA) and Simone Velasco (ITA) of Bardiani CSF, Rui Oliveira (POR) and Jonathan Brown (USA) of Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team, Jacob Rathe (USA) and Angus Morton (AUS) of Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Maxxis, Americans Steve Fisher and Erik Slack of Hangar 15 Bicycles, Miguel Angel Benito Diez (ESP) of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, Christopher Jones (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, Tom Bohli (SUI) of BMC Racing Team, Connor Brown (USA) of Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling and Marc-Antoine Soucy (CAN) of Silber Pro Cycling. The front group also included Ruben Companioni (CUB), John Murphy (USA) and Ty Magner (USA) of Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear.
Rally Cycling was content to let the move proceed with highest-placed rider on G.C. being Van Winden at over 13 minutes behind Britton. Companioni attacked, gaining a gap of 50 seconds as he crested the first Utah Office of Tourism KOM of the day at American Fork Canyon.
Meanwhile in the field, the battle for the overall win started to heat up when the BMC Racing Team set a vicious pace at the front, which reduced the peloton to 30 riders. The fifth and sixth place riders in the G.C., Brent Bookwalter (USA) of BMC Racing Team and Taylor “T.J.” Eisenhart (USA) of Holowesko-Citadel presented by Hincapie Sportswear, made their move on the fast descent off the Category 1 climb at American Fork Canyon. This put pressure on Britton and his Rally Cycling team to retain the overall race lead.
Along with their respective teammates, Bookwalter and Eisenhart set a fast tempo to establish a gap of one minute to the yellow jersey group halfway through the stage. Staying calm, Britton lined up behind his teammates, who reeled in the dangerous move at the bottom of the hors-catégorie climb to Snowbird Resort. Though Bookwalter retained his fifth-place position, his gap to the leader increased to 2 minutes and 6 seconds, while Eisenhart dropped to 11th spot.
“I knew that Brent and T.J. were going to be going full gas to try and get across (to the break). It was actually kind of a good situation for us with our guys once they catch back up, we got some help from Caja Rural which was fantastic. It allowed Sepp (Kuss) and I to save our bullets with two of the strongest guys of the race riding full gas just to get 15 second lead at the base of the climb. It worked out in our favor, I couldn’t ask for a better situation. Those two of guys were huge threats and their aggression kind of worked against them today,” Britton said.
The G.C. contenders were all back together at the bottom of the final climb. The Bardiani CSF team came to the front to increase the pace in order to launch Ciccone for the win. “Bardiani CSF just rode a pretty blistering pace that brought it down to about five guys and that’s all she wrote,” Britton concluded.
After making his way into the breakaway, Rathe successfully defended Utah Office of Tourism KOM jersey. Travis McCabe (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team retained the Utah Sports Commission Sprint jersey. Canadian Pier-André Côté of Silber Pro Cycling was voted the America First Credit Union Fan Favorite for Stage 6 presented by University of Utah Health, in the category of most promising rookie.
Powless retained the WCF Insurance Best Young Rider jersey. “I just tried to stay within myself the whole time, whenever there would be a surge, just go as steady as possible up the climb, until I felt that the moment was right. So I attacked with around 2K (kilometers) to go. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch these two guys, but gave it everything. Happy with the stage,” Powless added.
The Ultimate Challenge presented by University of Utah Health took part earlier on Saturday, on the same course as the pros. More than 550 amateur riders took part in the seventh annual event.
Stage 7 presented by Utah Sports Commission brings back the overall finish to Salt Lake City for the first time since 2009. This 6.8-mile circuit is the same course that was first introduced in 2013 for a Friday stage, but this time the distance has been doubled to a total of 73 miles with 5,450 feet of climbing. There will be a total of 11 total laps, including intermediate sprints on laps three and seven, plus a time bonus at the finish. The course begins and ends on the east side of the Utah State Capitol, with an uphill finish along State Street and at the summit of East Capitol Boulevard. Racing begins at 1 p.m. MT and the overall champion of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah will be crowned at the closing awards ceremony at 4 p.m.
RESULTS AND STANDINGS
Stage 6 presented by University of Utah Health – Top 10
- CICCONE Giulio (ITA) BARDIANI CSF 2.45’38”
- STERBINI Simone (ITA) BARDIANI CSF 2.46’13”
- POWLESS Neilson (USA) AXEON HAGENS BERMAN 2.46’19”
- MANNION Gavin (USA) UNITEDHEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM 2.46’22”
- BRITTON Robert (CAN) RALLY CYCLING 2.46’22”
- TVETCOV Serghei (ROM) JELLY BELLY P/B MAXXIS 2.46’26”
- SENNI Manuel (ITA) BMC RACING TEAM 2.46’52”
- PICCOLI James (CAN) ELEVATE-KHS PRO CYCLING 2.46’57”
- BUTLER Christopher (USA) CAJA RURAL – SEGUROS RGA 2.47’05”
- BOOKWALTER Brent (USA) BMC RACING TEAM 2.47’44”
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION (After Stage 6) – Top 10
- BRITTON Robert (CAN) RALLY CYCLING 20.07’43”
- MANNION Gavin (USA) UNITEDHEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM 20.08’09 +26″
- TVETCOV Serghei (ROM) JELLY BELLY P/B MAXXIS 20.08’15” +32”
- POWLESS Neilson (USA) AXEON HAGENS BERMAN 20.08’18” +35”
- BOOKWALTER Brent (USA) BMC RACING TEAM 20.09’49” +2’06”
- CICCONE Giulio (ITA) BARDIANI CSF 20.09’59” +2’16”
- CLARKE Jonathan (AUS) UNITEDHEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAM 20.10’11” +2’28”
- BUTLER Christopher (USA) CAJA RURAL – SEGUROS RGA 20.10’17” +2’34”
- PICCOLI James (CAN) ELEVATE-KHS PRO CYCLING 20.10’21” +2’38”
- KUSS Sepp (USA) RALLY CYCLING 20.10’38” +2’55”
- Larry H. Miller Group of Companies Overall leader – Rob Britton (CAN), Rally Cycling
- Utah Sports Commission Sprint leader – Travis McCabe (USA), UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
- Utah Office of Tourism King of the Mountain – Jacob Rathe (USA), Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Maxxis
- WCF Insurance Best Young Rider – Neilson Powless (USA), Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team
- Larry H. Miller Dealerships Most Aggressive Rider – Giulio Ciccone (ITA), Bardiani CSF
- America First Credit Union Fan Favorite – Pier-André Côté (CAN), Silber Pro Cycling