By Ryan Barrett
The 2011 Tour of the Depot will be remembered as much for the adverse weather conditions the riders faced as for the intensity of the competition. As part of the Nature Valley Pro Ride, the first amateur would qualify to compete in the Nature Valley Grand Prix, held in Minnesota in June. This was a big opportunity and would shape the outcome of both the men’s and women’s events. A large late season snowstorm moved in Thursday night and despite everyone’s fingers crossed, continued to dump throughout Saturday’s road race.
The scheduled 89 mile Pro 1-2 men’s road race was cut back to 70 miles as the higher elevation portions of the course need to be avoided. Dave Harward (Canyon Bicycles) managed to take the win, attacking in the last kilometer from a five man breakaway that was whittled down in the last few miles in the brutal conditions. He was followed by Quinn Keough of Exergy, as a pro ineligible for the Nature Valley qualification and Stephan Rothe (Tulsa Tough). Harward also won the mid-race time bonus, giving him a slight pad in the overall standings.
The women’s Pro 1-3 race was similarly shortened. Nicole Evans (Primal-Map My Ride-BH) took matters into her own hands approximately 20 miles into the event, going solo for the remainder of the 49 mile event. She was chased by Stephanie Skoreyko (Kallisto-Wheels of Bloor), who wound up 2nd and Evan’s Primal teammate Tiffany Pezzulo was 3rd.
Due to decreasing temperatures and the chance of ice on the road, the stage two time trial was cancelled. This was met with a mixed bag of surprise and relief. Although it was not what the time trial specialists were hoping for, most riders understood that rider safety had to come first. Or were too cold to care either way.
The stage three circuit race was held under sunny skies and 45 degree temps, which race leader Harward said “felt warm” after the previous days’ conditions. Chase Pinkham (Bissell Pro Cycling) got the action started early and was joined by Mike Sohm (Canyon Bicycles). Sensing the danger from Sohm in the Nature Valley competition Rothe bridged across bringing Sohm’s teammate Tyler Riedesel with him. Noting the competition for the Nature Valley qualification, Pinkham, ineligible as a pro, attacked repeatedly before finally riding away with about a mile to go. Rothe managed took the overall and with it the opportunity to ride the Nature Valley Grand Prix, with teammates Harward and Riedesel in 2nd and 3rd overall respectively.
The women’s circuit race saw Laurel Larsen (Syn-Fit Race Team) begin aggressively, jumping out of the small peloton to an early lead. Sensing the danger, Evans and Pezzulo attacked and crossed the gap, before riding away to a 1-2 finish in both the stage and overall. 3rd place finisher Skoreyko gave up her spot as a qualifier for the Nature Valley event, allowing the aggressive Larsen the opportunity.
Despite challenging conditions, the race was unanimously praised and is quickly becoming an early season Utah classic.