The Tour of Utah starts on Monday, and I think it tends to confuse us Europeans. While it's more fun than the fantastically named USA Pro Cycling Challenge, run by someone who owns a sandwich company. (RIP, USA Pro Cycling Challenge. You were fun to make fun of), I've always felt confused by the Tour of Utah. One of the things that confuses me is the units of measurement. Feet, that's a brilliant way of measuring the height of mountains. There's many a time I've wondered just how many extremities I could stack up to measure the height of something. But what you get is very high numbers that mean nothing to Europeans, and probably no more than kilometres would to American cycling fans. (American cycling fans, this is where you tell me if your feet are useful to you).
But to cycling fans who, like me, struggle with these races and their admittedly very good viewing hours, here is how I'll describe each stage. I'll put it into the context of a race where the roads are narrower, the entire startlist aren't Rio rejects, and the profiles are measured in a unit we can all agree on. Yes, this is what I like to call Putting the Tour of Utah in Europe!
Stage one is an interesting and somewhat pointless affair of eighty-three miles (Aaargh!) or one hundred and thirty-four kilometres. By the way, it's sponsored by the Worker's Compensation Fund, which tells me that there have been a lack of unfortunate workers in the Utah area recently.
Basically, big mountain in the middle, with two KOMs. It looks like a breakaway stage to me, but I can't even get used to the scale when it's in metres at this altitude. It's hard to remember that the flat finish is at the same height as a few Tour de France summit finishes. This stage to me reeks of the Tour de Suisse. It's got high altitude, a weird profile, and it's the first stage of a race I can never really get into.
Stage two, well, it's basically the same story. Is there a story to Boulder Mountain? If there were, this would probably be a good time to roll it out, because I've got nothing once again. Did I mention that all these startlists are full of Rio rejects?
It looks like another breakaway day, because who's going to chase? I mean, Kiel Reijnen is probably the best sprinter in the race! Now I know why these American races need Peter Sagan. If I had to choose a European race to put this one in, it would be Paris-Nice. That race likes to stick perfectly good mountains in pointless situations, not looking at any Chalet Reynards in particular.
Stage 3...is more like it. There's a tough climb of Mt. Nebo, where Levi Leipheimer once won! It's not perfect, the climb itself is steep at the bottom, but closer to the top the gradients get gentler, so I don't think we can expect there to be huge selections made if there's a conservative race. Expect attacks from the Axeon squad here though, they're packed with young talent such as Tao Geoghegan Hart, Adrien Costa, Eddie Dunbar and Neilson Powless.
Where in Europe does this go? This stage could only be more like the Tour de Romandie if it went past the UCI headquarters.
Stage three is my favourite one of the race, it really looks like fun! There's not a single categorised climb all day, but from the start in Im Flash (do you think that the race organiser has something to tell us?), there isn't a kilometre of flat.
I don't know exactly how hard those hills are, but whatever, it'll be a heavy day. And again, these races need Peter Sagan. Oh, does this one say Catalunya to you?
Stage Five is from the Antelope Island State Park (I didn't know Antelope Island was a state, good on you America) to Bountiful. I wonder what it's bountiful in, maybe antelopes. Anyway, it's another stage with a pile of climbing, with two large climbs in the middle of the stage before two climbs up to Bountiful Bench. The biggest climb of the day is the North Ogden Divide, which was crossed when Tom Danielson sealed up the race in 2014!
What is it with these climb names? Anyway, this is another nice stage, suited for late attacks. I haven't got a good match for this one. Maybe the Tour of the Basque Country.
Stage six is the biggest mountain day of the race, with a crossing of the tough Guardsman's Pass, before a summit finish at Snowbird.
This is definitely where the race will be won, and the stage you have to watch for the GC battle. This is another from the Tour de Suisse, a race quite like this, overall.
This here is the best thing about this race. It does a lap starting and finishing in the same city, but it's not a boring old sprint, instead the climb and descent of Empire Pass will close out the race. The city is Park City, where Levi Leipheimer and Francisco Mancebo once won.
This stage is from...the Dauphiné!
So who'll win the race? Well, defending champion Joe Dombrowski is the favourite, basically because he's the defending champion. He's got Talansky to help him out. I don't quite feel comfortable with picking Cannondale to win anything however, so I have to look somewhere else. That somewhere else is Colombia, for my pick Darwin Atapuma. Chris Horner will lurk around the front, and there'll be a good show of young riders' skills, notably from Neilson Powless, my outside pick.