Tour of Utah: Michael Schär finishes off epic Stage 2 win in Torrey
Cycling • Exhausted Schär wills himself to victory in Stage 2.
Published: August 5, 2014 06:57PM
Updated: August 5, 2014 10:09PM
image
Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Five breakaway riders emerge from the tunnels in Red Canyon during the Tour of Utah second stage Tuesday August 5, 2014. The second stage of the race ran along scenic SR 12 from Panguitch to Torrey covering 130 miles. The race takes a northerly serpentine path through Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Dixie National Forest. Racers ecountered 10,162 feet of climbing on this longest stage of the week, passing the towns of Tropic, Escalante and Boulder and downhill into Torrey.

Torrey • Michael Schär sat a few hundred yards beyond the finish line. His hands rested on the pavement, in the shade of a row of large Cottonwood trees that hover over Main Street in this south central Utah town.

The 27-year-old Swiss cyclist was too tired to lift his arms.

It was seconds after Schär gritted his way through the last few miles to cross the finish line and win the Tour of Utah’s second stage on a balmy Tuesday afternoon, and a wave of black and white jerseys soon mobbed him in congratulations.

The BMC Racing Team leader had to force himself to the finish line. He had been part of the breakaway for essentially the entirety of the 130.7-mile stage, one that stretched from Panguitch across several scenic highways and byways to here, on the doorstep of Capitol Reef National Park. For nearly all of those miles, Schär had the lead or a taste of it.

The last few miles, he said, felt like slow motion. Schär battled through severe cramping on the descent after enduring over 10,100 feet of elevation gain. He called it the most difficult day of his racing career.

“It’s more about the mind and not about the body,” Schär said afterward. “You really have to suffer through that.”

In the end, Schär beat the chasing peloton by about 2 seconds, finishing ahead of Team SmartStop’s Jure Kocjan — who claimed the yellow jersey — and Serghei Tvetcov of Team Jelly Belly.

But Schär’s suffering was the story of Stage 2. The day started with a mechanical malfunction in the morning when his shoes busted and his brand-new backup pair weren’t yet broken in.

It wasn’t a huge issue during his strong climb, but it became one during the descent, when he was forced to tuck down to gain speed. Millimeters make a difference in race shoes, he said, and it led to descent that he won’t soon forget.

With 15 kilometers to go, Schär acknowledged he couldn’t differentiate distances while pedaling. “I was too tired to see 15 and 10,” he said. “I couldn’t make a difference anymore.”

Tuesday’s second stage looked like it would play out in more predictable fashion, where the leaders eventually become engulfed by the peloton in the final half-hour.

But when rival Joey Rosskompf dropped his direct pursuit with less than two miles remaining, Schär knew his path was clear.

He just wasn’t sure his body could cooperate.

“There were some points in this downhill where I thought, ‘OK, now I can stop on the side of the road,’ ” he joked.

Kocjan, the 29-year-old Slovenian, made his own move on the descent going from the back of the pack to near the front in the final stretch to earn another second-place finish and the yellow jersey going into Wednesday’s third stage — from Lehi to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele.

“This is incredible,” he said. “We are a small team, a low-budget team, and we have here seven pro continental and world tour teams.”

While Team SmartStop is the talk of the first two stages as the Tour heads north, Tuesday’s race will be remembered for Schär’s exhausting ride.

Tuesday was the toughest day of his career. Just ask him, he’ll tell you.

Tour of Utah Stage 2

O Panguitch to Torrey • 130.7 miles

1. Michael Schär (Switzerland), BMC Racing Team, 5 hours, 3 minutes

2. Jure Kocjan (Slovenia), Team SmartStop, +:02 seconds

3. Serghei Tvetcov (Romania), Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis, +:02

4. Kiel Reijnen (U.S.), UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling, +:02

5. Toms Skujins (Latvia), Hincapie Sportswear Devo Team, +:02

6. Cadel Evans (Australia), BMC Racing Team, +:02

7. Tanner Putt (U.S., Park City), Bissell Devo Team, +:02

8. Luca Wackerman (Italy), Team Lampre-Merida +:02

9. Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands), Belkin-Pro Cycling Team, +:02

10. Brent Bookwaler (U.S.), BMC, +:02

Standings

After two stages:

1. BMC Racing Team

2. Team Lampre-Merida

3. Hincapie Sportswear Devo Team

4. Bissell Devo Team

5. Cannondale

6. UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling Team

7. Jamis-Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home

8. Trek Factory Racing

9. Team SmartStop

10. Drapac Professional Cycling

Stage 3 preview

O Wednesday, 11 a.m.

• Lehi to Miller Motorsports Park

Distance • 118.3 miles

Elevation gain • 3,953 feet