By Jared Eborn –
Unlike many big races, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah seeks to reward its own. By offering a Best Utah Rider jersey, sponsored this year by Miller Lite, the Tour of Utah hopes to keep Utah cyclists interested in the race and competitive throughout.
[Editor’s Note: As the Tour of Utah has climbed the UCI ladder, the Best Utah Rider competition was eliminated, reflecting the race’s increasing international status.]
This year [Editor’s Note: 2011], only five people were eligible for the honor. Favorites Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie, because they no longer maintain Utah residences, were not included in the race for the jersey and that left Salt Lake City natives Jeff Louder (BMC), Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefits) and Chase Pinkham (Bissell) fighting it out with new Utah residents Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Evan Hyde (RealCyclist.com) as they hit the Wasatch Front roads and mountains.
Wren grabbed the jersey first based on a strong opening prologue time of 4:16 that left him in ninth place overall and just 11 seconds off the pace. Louder was just six seconds back.
Wren managed to hold on to the jersey through Stage 1 in Ogden and Pinkham, who crashed earlier but fought back to finish well, maintained his spot just 26 seconds back.
Stage 2 proved to be problematic for Wren, unfortunately, as he was involved in a crash with just a few kilometers left to go. The accident left his rear wheel bent and barely rideable. That cost him valuable time and allowed Louder to claim the Miller Lite Best Utah Rider jersey.
“It’s something I’m proud of,” Louder said. “It’s kind of bittersweet because Tyler had some trouble out there, but that’s bike racing.”
Louder fought off the best efforts of the field during the Stage 3 time trial and held his own during Stage 4 in Salt Lake City.
With a nice payday associated with the jersey, Louder stuck with the overall leaders through most of the decisive Stage 4 and pulled away up Little Cottonwood Canyon to maintain his grip on the jersey with an edge of 2:40 over Wren.
Pinkham suffered through Stages 4 and 5 and finished third among Utah riders at 19:05 back. Mumford finished 33:07 back and Hyde, riding in support of GC hopeful Francisco Mancebo throughout the race, was 40:00 back when he finished the race.