By Roland Byrd
The Tour del Sol 2014 Was Full of Surprises!
Mild morning temperatures greeted riders from Utah and surrounding states at the beginning stage of this year’s Tour del Sol. The Time Trial (TT) start was moved back 30 minutes to 7:30 am. That small gesture made a huge difference to riders because it allowed the sun to peek over the rise and start warming the course.
The TT course (on St George’s Southern Parkway) was as free from traffic as you can expect from any major public road. The Parkway is still new and undamaged, making it a great surface for the racers’ wheel’s to grip as they rocket toward the finish.
TT riders started in a staggered formation. Every 30 seconds the next rider launched. But the TT start had a surprise for the riders…it sat at the bottom of an on-ramp to State Highway 7. The first .5 mile of the TT course was a steep uphill climb. Then riders cranked into a downhill section that allowed them to build speed for the next climb. (I even paced a rider who was pumping it out near 45 mph in one section of the TT.)
The 20K TT course then follows Highway 7 to Astragalus Dr. exit where a sweeping right turn arches out, cuts back under the highway, and then rewards them with another uphill climb.
The TT finish sat atop a small rise—right after a .5 mile downhill. Riders dove down the hill like brightly colored birds of prey and flew across the finish with their wings tucked tightly to their bodies.
In the Men’s Pro 1,2,3 TT: Cody Haroldsen (Ski Utah|Plan7) annihilated the Time Trial in .23'51″000! His closest competition was Ski Utah|Plan7 teammate Brandon Blackwell, 8” off the mark at .23'59″400. Chris Carr from Denver Fit Loft brought in the third best time at 17” off the pace with a time of .24'08″240.
The Women’s Pro 1,2,3 TT results had Amy Thornquist (DNA Cycling p/b K4) heading the charge with an impressive .26'57″690. Amy’s time was a full minute faster than Melinda McCutcheon (Canyon Bicycles) .28'02″760 and 1’46” faster than DNA Cycling p/b K4 Teammate Megan Hill .28'43″900.
Mild temperatures and a light breeze worked in the racers’ favor at the criterium this year. The breeze came from the south and gently pushed them across the finish.
In most of the crit races, a mass of riders flowed around the course as a nearly indistinguishable unit. Like starlings in flight, the riders seemed to move, even breathe as a single organism as they circled the track. A few riders attempted to break away but were inevitably reeled back in by the following flock.
The exceptions were in the Men’s cat 4/5 and Men’s 35+ 1,2,3.
Like the others, the Men’s 4/5 stayed in a tight pack for the entire race. But during the last lap the leaders broke free of the murmuration and started slamming their pedals to a unique beat. The resulting discord scattered the pack. By the time the 4/5 crit leader, Zachary Harpin (Broken Spoke Bikes) nosed across the finish, the group was spread over nearly 1/4 of the 1.2 mile loop.
In the men's 35+ 1,2,3 two riders broke away from the pack early. Stephen Kocher (Velo Vegas) and James Robbins (Big Orange) were off the initial pace at the TT by .2’37” and .2’46” respectively. They pushed each other relentlessly, like wolves chasing prey, throughout the crit in hopes of bridging the time gap they’d suffered at the TT. But Colt Albright (Team Red Rock) who was only .0’54” of the TT pace, refused to let them. Colt tirelessly led the pack for most of the charge, including the final lap, as they fought to keep Stephen and James in check. The pack never caught the breakaways. But the lead that had crept upward of 60+ seconds was shaved back to .0’29” in the end. Even with the 0’10” bonus for finishing the crit first, the combined time from his first two events left Stephen Kocher hungry.
The women's pro crit started just before 8pm. Sunlight quickly vanished, leaving the memory of brightness, but nothing to light their way. Despite industrial lights on the track corners and lighting at the official’s trailer, conditions quickly deteriorated on the straightaways—turning the women's pro race into a survival course instead of an assault on the tarmac.
It was little surprise when race officials conferred with the pro men and then called their crit due to darkness.
But that's the way of the stage race. Sometimes things work in the riders favor, sometimes not.
You might think having the night off from the crit helped the pro men, allowed them to hit the Road Race fully rested.
But that didn’t make the RR easy. Mother Nature had other plans. By the time the pro men hit the bottom of the toughest hill on the course—near mile 12 between Gunlock and Veyo, it started to lightly rain and a wicked headwind kicked up—occasionally masking the road with billowing dust clouds and dotting it with tumbleweeds. The mile+ climb into the wind and weather took its toll separating the leaders from the rest of the pack. A few riders even had to zigzag their way up the steep incline to keep any forward motion. Those who couldn't master the hill any other way walked their bikes to the top. But no-one surrendered.
In the end, with more riders than last year and ever changing conditions, the Tour del Sol 2014 was quite an adventure!
The overall men and women’s pro 1-2-3 podium standings are as follows:
Men Pro 1-2-3
RATCLIFF Alister 3 LiVe Well pb Bountiful Bicycle 4:03:29 1
HAROLDSEN Cody 10 Ski Utah | PLAN7 4:05:26 2
PETERSON Mitchell 27 Canyon Bicycles- Shimano 4:06:10 3
Women Pro 1-2-3
THORNQUIST Amy 101 DNA Cycling p/b Plan7 4:02:10 1
MCCUTCHEON Melinda 110 Canyon Bicycles 4:02:55 2
MACFARLANE Melinda 109 Harristone/SunValleyMortgage 4:04:15 3
See results in our results section.