By Jared Eborn
SALT LAKE CITY — Bicycle racing in Utah has come of age.
Though the Beehive State has produced numerous pros over the years — ranging from Marty Jemison to Levi Leipheimer to Jeff Louder and Chase Pinkham — Utah hasn't been home to serious pro races.
The 2011 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah has been a fixture on the National Racing Calendar for a few years. But with its growth to inclusion on the prestigious UCI Calendar, the Tour of Utah has truly arrived.
“This is the heyday of American cycling,” Sean Petty, chief operating officer of USA Cycling, said during a Monday press conference. “It's higher than it's ever been.”
With five Pro Tour teams — including HTC-Highroad, Garmin-Cervelo, Liquigas-Cannondale, BMC Racing and Radio Shack — participating in the 2011 version of the race, the field is by far the deepest and most talented in the history of the event.
Levi Leipheimer, a former Utah resident and one of the top riders in the Radio Shack squad, is back to defend the title he won in 2010 as a solo rider. This time, he brings friends and teammates as he attacks the peloton.
“This makes it that much more difficult,” Leipheimer said of the dramatically deeper field. “It was already a hard race, but now, with Pro Tour teams, this is going to be intense.”
Utah's Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo) will also be racing as will Utahns Jeff Louder (BMC) and Chase Pinkham (Bissell) in a star-studded field.
The action kicks off Tuesday with a short, but steep, uphill prologue at the Utah Olympic Park and continues Wednesday with a nasty 113-mile stage beginning and ending in Ogden.
Photos from today's Tour of Utah Press Conference. 8-8-2011.
All photos by CottonSoxPhotography.