By Jared Eborn
For the growing number of professional cyclists calling the state of Utah home, the upcoming Tour of Utah isn’t just another bike race – it’s their bike race.
And when it comes to racing, there’s virtually no place they’d rather compete than in their own back yard.
“This is going to be great,” Salt Lake City’s Jeff Louder said during a Tour of Utah sponsored Tour de France watching party. “The race is getting big. It’s going to be harder than ever.”
The Tour of Utah already has a reputation of having perhaps the most difficult course in America. But with a new UCI status and a field littered with Pro Tour and Tour de France caliber riders, the competition will be more intense than ever.
“It was already one of the toughest races in the world,” Evan Hyde, a Park City resident and member of the RealCyclist.com pro team, said. “But now, with teams like Radio Shack, Garmin and BMC sending riders, it’s just going to take everything up another level. Just having those guys around makes it that much more difficult.”
Utah should have a loaded field of riders with local flavor. Not only will Louder, a past overall champion of the race, be riding with his BMC teammates, Hyde and the Utah-based RealCyclist.com squad will be attacking the roads of the Wasatch. Additionally, former Utahns Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie will return to their old stomping grounds with the Radio Shack and Garmin-Cervelo teams.
Bissell Pro Cycling is also racing and rising star Chase Pinkham will certainly want to make a solid showing for himself after a pair of Top 10 finishes at the U.S. Pro Championships and a Top 10 at the recent Cascade Classic in Oregon.
Tyler Wren, a Utahn for the past couple of years, will saddle up for his Jamis/Sutter Home team after winning the Crusher in the Tushar just a few weeks earlier. He could be joined by Cottonwood High grad Reid Mumford and the Kelly Benefit Strategies team.
“I’m really excited about how the race has grown,” Louder said. “Just seeing the quality of teams coming and knowing how hard the race already was makes me more excited to race.”
Louder said he will probably be joined in Utah by BMC teammates Brent Bookwalter and George Hincapie. Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, however, is not making the trip to Utah.
Still, with teams like HTC-High Road and Liquigas sending squads, the Tour of Utah is going to be a stacked deck for UCI-Continental teams such as Bissell, United Healthcare and RealCyclist.com – which features former Tour of Utah champ Francisco Mancebo.