Snowbird • Chris Horner and Tom Danielson have been friends for more than a decade and were teammates in 2003 on the Saturn Cycling Team.
So when the two American riders broke away from the peloton on the final ascent of Little Cottonwood Canyon during Saturday’s Stage 5 of the Tour of Utah, they did battle in a friendly but competitive way.
“I turned to ask him if he would let me win the stage,” said Danielson with a laugh.
Horner politely declined, staying on the back wheel of Danielson until there was just a few hundred meters of downhill racing to the finish line.
When the line was in sight, Horner whipped around the right side of Danielson and sped across the line, arms raised just a bit too soon as Danielson nearly caught him from behind. But it didn’t matter, as Horner of team RadioShack Leopard Trek captured the stage win and the yellow jersey as overall leader going into Sunday’s final day of racing.
The 113-mile stage began at Snowbasin and featured two brutal climbs up Guardsman’s Pass, elevation 9,693 feet, and Little Cottonwood Canyon, ending at Snowbird Resort, elevation 8,029 feet. BMC Racing Team’s Yannick Eijssen finished third.
Horner, who will turn 42 later this year, missed the Tour de France in June after knee surgery in late May.
“The knee’s 100 percent,” Horner said. “There’s no pain — there’s no pain on the bike, there’s no pain after the bike.”
He said that being at a race is even better for his recovery than training at home.
“When you’re at home training, you’re training and then of course you have home duties,” Horner said. “You still got to mess around with the kids and you’re not necessarily on the couch. But you come to the bike race and you race your bike fast and hard and then you’re off the bike, and you’re off your feet, and you’re getting a massage, and you’re finally sleeping 10 hours again instead of six or seven maybe when you’re with the kids. And so it’s just felt fantastic this whole week and normal again.”
Horner added that he’s hoping for the win tomorrow and looking forward to the Tour of Spain, one of the three Grand Tour events.
Second-place finisher Danielson, a 35-year-old Team Garmin-Sharp rider, raced most of the day trying to help teammate Lachlan Morton retain the yellow jersey.
“Even though I knew I felt really good at this race, I owed it to him and the team owed it to him to give him a shot,” Danielson said of Morton. “I really believed in him, so on Guardsman’s Pass I put it all out there for him.”
But on the descent from Guardsman’s Pass, it became evident that Morton didn’t have the energy to make a break from the peloton on the climb toward Snowbird.
“He told me he wasn’t feeling as strong as he thought or wanted to,” Danielson said. “He said, ‘If I’m not there on Snowbird, do your own thing.’ … I was like, ‘Well, I’ll just make a hard pace for Lachlan,’ and then I looked back and there was five guys there and not Lachlan, and I thought, ‘Uh-oh, I guess I’m going to have to do the race now.’ ”
The finish moved Danielson ahead of Morton as the top rider for Team Garmin-Sharp. Danielson moved from 11th position overall to second behind Horner, who will wear the yellow jersey during Sunday’s final stage in Park City because he won Saturday’s stage. The two are tied atop the overall leaderboard.
American Lucas Euser riding for UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team remains in third place, 33 seconds behind the leaders. Morton, the overall leader the last two days of racing, dropped all the way to 13th, more than three minutes behind Horner and Danielson.
Stage 6 preview
Distance • 78 miles, from Park City to Park City
Elevation gain • 7,633 feet
Start time • 12:15 p.m.
O Stage 5 • Snowbasin to Snowbird (113 miles)
Yellow jersey (overall leader) • Chris Horner, RadioShack Leopard Trek
Purple jersey (sprinter’s classification) • Greg Van Avermaet, BMC Racing Team
Blue jersey (king of the mountain) • Lachlan Morton, Team Garmin-Sharp
Gray jersey (most aggressive rider) • Yannick Eijssen, BMC Racing Team
Top 10 finishers
1. Chris Horner, Radioshack Leopard Trek
2. Tom Danielson, Team Garmin-Sharp
3. Yannick Eijssen, BMC Racing Team
4. George Bennett, RadioShack Leopard Trek
5. Lucas Euser, Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling Team
6. Matthew Busche, RadioShack Leopard Trek
7. Philip Deignan, Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling Team
8. Janier Alexis Acevedo Calle, Jamis-Hagens Berman
9. Francisco Mancebo Perez, 5-Hour Energy Kenda Racing
10. Michael Schaer, BMC Racing Team