SNOWBIRD, Utah (VN) — Saturday morning, it seemed it wasn’t a question of whether a Garmin-Sharp rider would win the Tour of Utah, but rather which one. With a race-shaping attack, BMC Racing’s Johann Tschopp changed all of that.
BMC took control of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah on Saturday when Tschopp won the stage up to the Snowbird ski area, taking the leader’s jersey from Garmin-Sharp’s Christian Vande Velde in the process, and shattering the Argyle grip atop the general classification. As of Saturday morning, Garmin held four of the top five spots on GC. Now, only Vande Velde remains in the top five.
“I’m not going to say that’s how we planned it,” said BMC assistant sport director Michael Sayers at the finish of stage 5. “Tschopp has been good the past couple weeks, but you never know how guys are going to react to high altitude. It’s been dry and hot all week. He’s really fantastic right now. He’s got unbelievable form.”
The BMC man made his bid for the summit about 6km from the Snowbird finish, leaping from the front of the bunch and derailing the Garmin train in the process.
The Swiss rider now leads the race by 38 seconds over Vande Velde and 43 seconds over RadioShack-Nissan’s Matthew Busche headed into the final day, a tough stage around Park City and over Empire Pass, a sharp climb with multiple sections of 20-plus percent. The climb itself is 10km in length and ascends 3,000 feet before a descent into the ski town of Park City.
“I think it’ll be really vicious,” Sayers said. “I think it’s going to be more like a mountain bike race. … What we’ll do is do is we’ll do our best. That’s all I ask the guys every time they come to a race.”
The leader’s jersey is the first of the 30-year-old Tschopp’s career. He turned professional in 2004 with Phonak Hearing Systems. Of his winning move, he said he knew it was time to take flight.
“It’s a feeling. You just know when you have the legs when it’s time to go,” he said. “I pushed it, and I was able to get the leader’s jersey.”
Tschopp described owning the race lead as a great joy.
“It means a lot to wear the yellow jersey— hopefully it will last,” he said. “[Sunday], it’s a big stage … I hope that I will have the same legs and the same good feeling I had today.”
For Sayers, Saturday was another good day in the director’s role.
“The team has been really, really together this week. I don’t know what it is — I’ve been lucky the last two months. I’ve had guys who have come to race on my races, and they’ve all been motivated and selling out for each other,” he said.
“If we win, after tomorrow, that would be fantastic for the team. And if we don’t, and we just get today, and that’s it, then that would also be fantastic.”