Tour of Utah: Despite spill, Keough captures fourth stage
Jake Keough crossed the finish line on 300 West in full celebration mode, arms outstretched and tongue stuck out as he claimed the Tour of Utah's fourth stage.
And on top of his head, a broken helmet.
Early on the 134.3-mile course from Lehi to downtown Salt Lake City, the UnitedHealthcare sprinter crashed hard into the road, tearing his jersey and breaking his helmet. His support car, however, wasn't carrying a spare at the moment. With the peloton moving ahead, the 24-year-old had little choice but to jump back on his bike and ride on ahead.
"I was bummed out because my teammates were out at the front and I knew I had to get up and still give it a go," Keough said. "That was pretty much my first thought."
Keough's finish capped a late attack by UnitedHealthcare, which now has a pair of stage wins with only two days left in the Tour of Utah. Australian Rory Sutherland claimed a similarly tight victory Tuesday in Ogden to open the Tour with the yellow jersey.
The team planned its strategy around protecting its sprinters: Keough, Hilton Clarke and Robert Forster. That left riders such as Salt Lake native and 2008 Tour of Utah champion Jeff Louder to take charge and battle winds over the middle swaths of the course.
"When there's tailwind like that, you've got to keep the break in check," said Louder, who retained his blue jersey as the top Utah rider. "We couldn't let it go to 15, 20 minutes."
UnitedHealthcare didn't catch the breakaway until the last 800 meters of the race. Five riders had burst out early perhaps too early and stretched out to a near-11 minute lead, but the gap yo-yoed and dwindled as cyclists progressed along the longest route of the Tour of Utah. What was billed as a sprinter's stage turned out to be just that, with Garmin-Sharp and UnitedHealthcare vying for the lead as they turned near EnergySolutions Arena.
With around roughly 250 meters left, it was Garmin-Sharp sprinter Tyler Farrar who jumped out ahead. Somewhere in the next 100 or so meters, Keough pulled ahead for the final stretch. Farrar finished third.
"It was a last-minute catch," Keough said.
The podium placers may have benefited somewhat from the looming mountain stages. Saturday's finish at Snowbird is traditionally billed as the "Queen" stage, while Sunday's Park City loop is a brand new route that features brutally steep climbs. Although Stage 4 was the Tour's longest, its relative flatness led some squads to ease back in preparation for the weekend.
"We knew a lot of teams were riding for [general classification] and for the hard stages the next two days," Keough said. "We knew that everyone kind of wanted a bit of a break."
The stage ended in just 4:53, a minor surprise after estimates of a five- or six-hour duration. Garmin-Sharp's Christian Vande Velde took the overall lead on Wednesday after his team's top time-trial finish, and retained the yellow after Stage 4 with a finish in the peloton.
Stage 4 highlights
R UnitedHealthcare sprinter Jake Keough wins Stage 4, giving his team its second stage win of the Tour of Utah.
• Keough had crashed earlier along the 134-mile course, breaking his helmet and tearing his jersey.
• Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda's Christian Valde Verde holds on to the yellow jersey for the third straight day.