Tour of Utah: Michael Schär finishes off epic Stage 2 win in Torrey
By Christopher kamrani
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Aug 05 2014 02:58PM
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.