Tour of Utah: Familiar names will be main contenders
Cedar City • "The Rolling Stones of professional cycling," as they were called, took their spots on the stage Sunday afternoon as clouds hovered over a familiar site. On Monday morning, Stage 1 of the 2014 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah once again rolls out of Cedar City, the launching-off point for the seven-stage, 753-mile race.
Inside The Heritage Center Theatre, five of cycling's most sought-after names, guys who have won the Tour de France, the Vuelta Espana, the Giro d'Italia, the Tour of Utah and who have pushed their limits for decades, each took their turn with the microphone.
Cadel Evans, Jens Voigt, Ivan Basso, Chris Horner and Tom Danielson rattled off reasons they chose to either return to partake in what is dubbed America's toughest stage race, or get their initial taste of the seven-day trek that will feature over 57,000 feet of vertical climbing. Each star, whose career path has wound through different yet successful avenues, will be a contender to win stages this week as well as the yellow jersey Sunday in Park City.
They're in form. Sure, some are recovering from the Tour de France and illness and crashes and various injuries that comes along with a professional cycling season stretched around the globe. They also aren't young. Of the five stars, Danielson (last year's Tour of Utah winner) and Basso are 36. Evans, the 2011 Tour de France winner, is 37. Voigt and Horner are 42.
"I love racing the bike," said Horner, who used a stage win in last year's Tour of Utah to springboard to a Vuelta win in Spain. "Just like everyone else here, we're all well into our 30s and 40s here on the panel and are racing bikes. It basically keeps you going."
Voigt's banner career that featured 17 Tour de France outings will come to an end soon after this Tour ends. He was asked if he'd like one more win under his belt before stepping off the seat, and the jovial German said he's asked his sponsor Trek for a last-minute $120 million sponsorship.
"That way I can give each man $1 million so I can win the race," he joked.
On the same note, Evans, in his first Tour of Utah, was pressed as to whether this would be his final calendar year. The Aussie said globetrotting isn't as conducive as it once was with a young family.
"Am I going to be racing next year? Yet to be decided," Evans posed.
The field is stacked this year, stronger than it's ever been, as Tour of Utah President Steve Miller said earlier Sunday in Cedar City.
Six teams that just wrapped up the Tour de France will take to the streets and highways around Utah starting Monday, and this is the first time the race will showcase three Grand Tour champions.
"Overall, we have 25 riders from the three most recent Grand Tours in France, Italy and Spain," Miller said.
Which will make Danielson's repeat bid a tad more difficult. The Tour added a seventh stage, bumping up the stress level on the riders with more climbing and weather conditions to handle.
"It's really on the world scene right now," Danielson said. "All of us up here like hard race courses, for sure. I think the whole peloton does."
Basso's first competition in Utah won't change the Italian's routine too much. He said spaghetti remains his breakfast mainstay, as it does every race morning. The Tour de France stage winner and Giro d'Italia champion went as far as extending an invite to anyone who was interested in partaking in pasta for the first meal of the day.
The 36-year-old continued, describing the vibe of racing in the U.S. It's different, but not in negative way.
"It's not important all the time to win," Basso said, "but if people see you suffering and you're trying to win, then it's OK â¦ it's a really nice mentality. I think the people appreciate my focus on the bike."
2014 Tour of Utah stages
Stage 1 • Monday: Cedar City: 113.5 miles, 8,873 elevation gain
Stage 2 • Tuesday: Panguitch to Torrey: 130.7 miles, 10,162 elevation gain
Stage 3 • Wednesday: Lehi to Miller Motorsports Park: 118.3 miles, 3,953 elevation gain
Stage 4 • Thursday: Ogden to Powder Mountain: 104.7 miles, 8,893 elevation gain
Stage 5 • Friday: Evanston, Wyo., to Kamas: 101.4 miles, 5,706 elevation gain
Stage 6 • Saturday: Salt Lake City to Snowbird: 107.2 miles, 12,643 elevation gain
Stage 7 • Sunday: Park City: 78 miles, 7,633 elevation gain
Tour of Utah
P Stage 1, Cedar City
Monday, 10:35 a.m.
TV • ROOT, 2 p.m.