Moreno Hofland (Belkin) again proved to be the fastest finisher at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
On a flat, windy stage from Lehi to Miller Motorsports Park, Belkin kept its cool, letting SmartStop do much of the work to put the breakaway in check.
As the peloton entered the final circuits on the speedway, UnitedHealthcare took the initiative with nearly its entire team on the front to wind up the sprint. However, the American team spent its matches too soon. Belkin easily delivered Hofland around the final sweeping lefthand bend to his second stage victory.
“Our plan was to save the guys for the final and it worked out pretty good,” Hofland said. “With two laps to go UHC went to the front and we grabbed their wheel pretty easy. My position was perfect with my teammates in front of me with one and a half kilometers to go. Robert Wagner pulled until 250 meters and I stayed to the left side because the wind was coming from the right. I hold it to the line pretty easy…not easy…but okay.”
The early breakaway
Nearly from the gun, Danny Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare) initiated the day’s escape. He was joined by Darren Lapthorne (Drapac), Jacob Rathe (Jelly Belly), Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Sportswear Development), and Daniel Eaton (Bissell Development Team).
Having earned time bonuses in the stage 1 breakaway, Carpenter was within 14 seconds of the GC lead. He won the first bonus sprint in Saratoga Springs, chipping away at the overall lead held by Jure Kocjan (SmartStop). Eaton placed second, and Rathe was third.
Wary of the threat posed by Carpenter, SmartStop patrolled the front of the peloton, keeping the gap close to two minutes.
Carpenter was also first over the KOM at Eureka, reclaiming the king of the mountains jersey he won on the first day and lost to his teammate, Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Sportswear Development) on stage 2. Wren and Summerhill were second and third, respectively on the Category 4 climb.
After the KOM, Carpenter gave up on the breakaway and drifted back to the peloton.
“After yesterday’s stage, you kinda knew the break was going to roll away pretty easily today,” Carpenter said. “Once it didn’t get much above two minutes, I took account of everyone in the break, and knew I was the highest ranked rider in the group and decided it was more important to save my energy coming into these really hard mountain stages.”
With 16.5 miles remaining and a two-minute gap over the peloton, Summerhill attacked out of the break to take the day’s final intermediate sprint. Rathe and Eaton were second and third at the line in Toole.
From that point on, the field applied the pressure, bringing back the escape’s advantage. By the time the leaders reached the raceway for the final laps, the peloton was within sight, only 40 seconds behind.
As the catch became imminent, Rathe struck out on his own with five miles to go, but the peloton was eager for a field sprint, with UnitedHealthcare leading the charge.
Though the blue and white jerseys were all over the front of the race in the final few miles, UnitedHealthcare was swamped in the final kilometer by a hard-charging Belkin team that expertly set up Hofland for his second stage win. Andrea Palini (Lampre-Merida) finished second, and Eric Young (Optum) was third.
Kocjan keeps the GC lead after finishing safely in the group.
“The guys were awesome today,” Kocjan said. “They went on the front of the peloton from the start – they work hard. The crosswinds made the stage much more difficult than it looked. We just wanted to stay in the front. I didn’t want to risk it…just sit on the front and control the pace.”
Thursday’s 104.7-mile stage will include the tour’s first summit finish, a six-mile, 3,000-foot ascent of Powder Mountain.
“The stage tomorrow is very difficult where the pure climbers will probably show their legs,” Kocjan said. “We’ll see… they say the yellow jersey takes off 10 pounds, so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”