Cedar City • Steve Johnson waited for his turn. He saw the four other members of the panel speak about the colossal growth of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, of how it has a profound impact on the cycling community in Utah, of how it has provided the world with a top-flight stage race in America.
Johnson, the president and CEO of USA Cycling, said the $14 million of direct economic impact the Tour provides for the Beehive State is a major plus, but he made his own statement regarding the impact the race has made in Utah.
“Nobody rides a bike because it’s good for them,” said Johnson, pausing for effect, “they ride a bike because it’s cool.”
Those involved with the organizing and infrastructure of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah met in the Great Hall inside the R. Haze Hunter Conference Center on the campus of Southern Utah University on Monday afternoon to shed their final thoughts on the 586-mile race as it prepares for its eighth-annual start Tuesday at Brian Head Resort.
Among those on the podium with Johnson were Steve Miller, president of Miller Sports Properties, Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Office of Economic Development for Gov. Gary Herbert, Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of Utah Sports Commission, and Vicki Varela, tourism chief for the state of Utah.
Each member took his or her turn praising Miller’s efforts in creating a race that will be available in 163 million homes and 50 countries worldwide on television this year.
“The state’s in good hands,” Robbins said, reminiscing to 2005 when the Utah Sports Commission donated $1,000 to the Tour of Utah. “There’s a significant return on investment that this event brings to the community.”
Said Varela: “There’s going to be a lot of breathlessness. Not only is it the toughest stage race in America, but 163 million people worldwide are going to be breathless when they see the spectacular vistas of this state.”
Rider Chris Horner of Radioshack Leopard Trek said this year’s race will feature six stages in which those in contention will have to try their hardest in order to stay within striking distance in the overall general classification.
“Literally from Stage 2 to the finish, we’re going to be fighting for the GC,” he said.
Rider Freddie Rodriguez of Team Jelly Belly, current USPRO Road Race champion, has his sights set on Tuesday’s descent from Brian Head Resort through a windy Cedar Canyon, adding racers will reach speeds of 60 mph.
“We intend to take risks on corners,” he said, cracking a smile.
Tour of Utah schedule
Tuesday • Brian Head to Cedar City
Wednesday • Panguitch to Torrey
Thursday • Richfield to Payson
Friday • Salt Lake City circuit
Saturday • Snowbasin to Snowbird
Sunday • Park City to Park City