By Jared Eborn
After years of sticking close to its Salt Lake City headquarters, the Larry Miller Tour of Utah is branching out. And in doing so, America's Toughest Stage Race will expose some of the world's best cyclists to even more of the world's most stunning scenery.
The 2013 Tour of Utah, which will be held August 6-11, is breaking away from what has been a successful – and sometimes predictable – formula of stages that has helped the race grow from a tough national level race to a truly international highlight to a North American racing schedule.
Starting high in southern Utah’s redrock mountains, The 2013 Tour of Utah will truly be a tour of the state as racers will travel from Brian Head through rural forests, canyons and valley before returning to the Wasatch Front for the final three stages of intense racing.
“We've always had our eye on expanding the Tour to the southern part of the state, and with great fan, sponsor and community support, we've been able to do that,” said Steve Miller, President of the Tour of Utah.
Though exact routes have yet to be announced, host venues have been named for stage starts and finishes, leading to some speculation about the routes each stage will cover.
Whatever the routes may be, it is certain they will leave Tour de France veterans, neo-pros and everyone between breathless as they climb canyons, descend mountain passes and sprint for glory. One change that may be most notable – and potentially game-changing – is the lack of time trial. No prologue, no team time trial and no visit to the lightning fast tarmac of Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele.
Instead, the race will mix new with old and launch a North American series of UCI races in Utah, Colorado and Canada.
Here’s a look at each stage with possible routes.
Stage 1: Brian Head to Cedar City
As the crow flies, the distance from Brian Head, elevation 9,800 feet, is only about 33 miles. But bike races rarely take the easiest or shortest path to get from Point A to Point B. Expect a trip through the Dixie National Forest with a climb or two mixed in before a descent to Parowan and then south to Cedar City where the peloton will try to regroup for a sprint finish in front of a crowd of fans.
Stage 2: Panguitch to Torrey
If you’ve ever been to Bryce Canyon, you’ve likely marveled at Red Canyon’s scenery. Perhaps the most logical racing route from the quaint farming community of Panguitch is through Red Canyon, past Bryce Canyon and through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument along Utah Highway 12 through Garfield County and past Capitol Reef National Park where another sprint finish in Torrey – one of Utah’s hidden cycling treasures – awaits. High elevation and one long steady climb will be featured on this possible 130-mile route.
Stage 3: Richfield to Payson
On paper, there’s not much remarkable about the Stage 3 route. Starting in the Sevier Valley and likely following (or at least paralleling) U.S. Highway 89 north through Gunnison, Manti and Ephraim, Stage 3 could be a relatively tame 120-mile journey to the Wasatch Front. But why be tame when there’s Mount Nebo sitting there with its epic climb from Nephi to Payson waiting to crush a few souls. You can expect some KOM points to be won on Nebo and then a frantic descent where the climbers will try to hold off the peloton for some sprint points in Payson.
Stage 4: Salt Lake City
In 2011, the Tour of Utah paid a visit to Salt Lake City for an epic grueling circuit through the city’s Capitol Hill and Avenues neighborhoods. It appears we’ll be back on the tree-lined streets of Salt Lake again. With a short but brutal climb each lap, there will likely be numerous attacks, small breakaway groups and crowd-pleasing action. The route may be modified a bit, but after rave reviews from cyclists following the 2011 race, it’s no surprise to see a return to Utah’s capitol city for a surprisingly nasty bit of suffering.
Stage 5: Snowbasin Resort to Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort
It just wouldn’t be the Tour of Utah without a visit to the Ogden Valley. Though the race probably won’t pass through Ogden itself, this year the Stage 5 start at Snowbasin will be truly epic. The Queen Stage of the Tour of Utah will start high, throw in an early climb, travel through the Morgan Valley, through Coalville and then cover much of the same path as in past year. A jaunt through the Heber Valley and over the Alpine Loop are musts and the climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon is – once again – going to separate the men from the boys and set the stage for the final day.
Stage 6: Park City to Park City
There may be a handful of different corners taken, but what we can expect is probably a repeat of the sufferfest from 2012 up the Empire Pass Road where Levi Leipheimer soloed to victory in front of a gigantic crowd in Park City. Leipheimer probably won’t be around to repeat his triumph but there will be no shortage of challenges and challengers for the title of Tour of Utah champion.