Departing from tradition, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is heading south for its early stages, showcasing new parts of the state. Word on the street is there are lots of pretty rocks along the route.
That's right, I am writing about a race that will not begin until August 6, and I don't think I am crazy. Why not? I could point out this is the same lag time we have when talking about the route for the upcoming Tour de France or Tour de Suisse and nobody would thinks it is crazy for that. While the Tour of Utah is not on the same playing field as the biggest stage races in Europe, it has been growing over the past year and is now a UCI 2.1 ranked event, which makes it one of the highest ranked races in the United States and increasingly a target of World Tour teams searching for valuable UCI points to boost their rankings. But no, the real reason I am writing is because the route changes look exciting, at least from a scenery point of view.
In years past, the Tour of Utah has remained based in the Salt Lake area; stage starts and finishes were a short drive from the city, allowing teams to stay in the same hotels all week. Though certainly to the benefit of riders and staff, this practice limited stage options, showcasing only one portion of the state. After all, how many times can you look at the same mountain range before it gets old?
So, this year the Tour of Utah has announced there will be seven new host cities, most of which are in the southwestern portion of the state. Stage one traverses through scenic red rock country from Brian Head Resort to Cedar City. The second day skirts the edge of Bryce Canyon National Park as it runs from Panguitch to Torrey. Stage three brings riders from Richfield to Payson, which is just south of Salt Lake City. Afterwards, the second half of the race stays the same as last year. There is a circuit race in Salt Lake City for the fourth stage, followed by the traditional summit finish atop Snowbird Ski Resort on stage four, though this year will see a new start location for the stage. If you remember, this climb is where Joe Dombroski sent one of his warning shots across the bow of the professional cycling world by taking third on the stage. The final stage will again climb over the 17km long Empire Pass before descending to finish in Park City.
Also new for 2013 is the abandonment of any sort of time trial. Last year there was a team time trial on the racetrack at Miller Motorsports Park. In 2011, there was both a prologue in Utah Olympic Park and an individual time trial on the Miller racetrack. Instead, there will be five road stages and one circuit race, which might make the title "America's Toughest Stage Race" ever more appropriate.