Saturday afternoon I lined up in the Cat. 1-2-3 field in Park City for the Tour of Utah amateur criterium. It was perhaps the hardest race I’ve ever done. And I only lasted 20 minutes.
Cameron H. and his teammates put the hurt on us from the outset—the field was shattered from the gun. On the first complete lap, I rode across a gap to rejoin what I thought was the field, only to realize there was another gap and another still to the front. Each time around, these groups got smaller.
On lap six, I was getting into a rhythm. I had just caught Steve, and we were grinding our way up Main Street’s 10-12% grade with a group of strong guys. I thought maybe we’d chase back on. Then I heard the motorcycle. Cameron was right behind it, and we had been lapped. Sorry guys, your race is over.
For the next 40 minutes we were spectators as Cameron rode away from the field. Revolution was well-represented in the chase, with Elliott and Scott P. in chase 1 and Justin in chase 2. But nobody was catching Cameron, who soloed 52 of 60 minutes for the W.
It was a type of what was to come in the pro race. Just like our race, the attacks came early. It took a little longer for the sorting out to occur, but eventually Jeff Louder made his move and soloed to the win. I saw a lot of really tough, really fast guys suffer. Some of them got pulled. Some of them, like Kai Applequist, who is as tough as 60 grit sandpaper, gutted it out. All of them paid dearly for the effort.
A criterium in a stage race is usually a gimme stage for the GC guys, and a chance for the flatlanders and sprinters to shine. Not so in the Tour of Utah. That stage was a war of attrition—the climb to Mt. Nebo claimed some 20 racers, but the criterium thinned the field by nearly twice that number. At the end, only 86 of the 140 finishing the prologue remained. And that was just because race officials allowed those who had completed at least half of the criterium to continue. Several of these 86 would not start on Sunday, and several more would abandon, including GC leader after stage one, Alex Dowsett.
The rate of attrition has much more to do with the course than the toughness of the racers. The Tour of Utah is billed as “America’s toughest stage race.” Rightfully so. Racers who would make Chuck Norris feel like a ninny were bested by this course. Which makes Levi’s victory, especially since it began on the third day after his record-setting Leadville performance, that much more remarkable. Kudos to everyone who competed. Whether you finished or not, the fact that you threw down to begin with has earned my respect.
Oh, and please come back next year. We had great fun watching.