By Jared Eborn
There’s no turning back now.
The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, after making the jump to the UCI calendar a year or two earlier than plans called for, has no intention of losing its spot.
With the recently completed USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado having just wrapped up what is arguably the best three-week span of professional cycling the country has ever seen, Tour of Utah organizers are not content to pat themselves on the back too much, though.
“Before we even had the first stage (this year) we were already thinking about 2012,” Tour of Utah president Steve Miller said. “We’re excited about what the future holds for the race.”
The 2011 version of the race featured six days of racing and, after partnering with Medalist Sports to make the event as professional as possible, the Tour of Utah sees room for improvement – albeit in steps not quite as large as the one it took this year.
With the step up to a UCI 2.1 rating, the Tour of Utah was forced to make certain changes from years past. The mountain-top finish at Mount Nebo, for example, was not possible for a few reasons. Among those reasons: the lack of power and parking to accommodate a UCI-sufficient finish-line area, the caravan and thousands of fans.
Instead, the race – much like the USA Pro Cycling Challenge – needed to focus its start and finish lines in locations capable of large crowds and the massive rolling race caravan.
The future of the Tour of Utah, accordingly, will likely focus on familiar stage routes with occasional variations, Miller said.
With Utah’s unique geographic and population characteristics in mind, the Tour of Utah prefers – for now, at least – to operate with a Hub and Spoke approach. This keeps Salt Lake City at the center of all the action with each stage within an hour or two drive. That approach allows organizers to reduce travel time and costs. It also allows teams to set up a basecamp for daily preparation.
That means the Tour of Utah is less likely to embrace a ‘tour’ approach that takes the race from one end of the state to another.
Still, Miller said the race is considering numerous options to keep the stages from getting too familiar.
“We’re trying to keep the stages fresh,” Miller said. “We’d like to take a stage up to Cache Valley and Logan. Or maybe to Moab and St. George.”
In fact, though nothing was formally announced, St. George visitor and convention bureau personnel were riding in Tour of Utah VIP cars during at least one stage while Logan-based ProForm was a visible sponsor at each finish line podium.
Miller said eventually he would like to see the race grow to as many as eight stages and cover two weekends. But for now, the Tour of Utah is comfortable staying at six days. Any tweaks to the course, Miller said, would be minimal.
“Next year, if we were to go farther distant,” Miller said, explaining there is no rush to add another stage, “we’d have to replace a stage.”
Keeping sponsors – both current and future — rewarded and happy, of course, will factor into any course-change decisions.
Even with 2012 already an active item on the planning agenda, Miller acknowledged the recently completed Tour of Utah was a huge success.
“It was a 10,” he said. “It was absolutely a 10 … It was beyond our wildest dreams and we’re very happy.”