Kragthorpe: Tour of Utah has come long way in 10 years
Ten years ago, John Osguthorpe could not have seen this coming.
Sure, the Tour of Utah's first winner may have imagined a day when a world-class cycling competition would cover much of his home state, challenging contestants with high mileage and steep climbs and rewarding them with stunning scenery. To have the event actually reach these heights, though?
Oh, no. "Not in my wildest dreams," Osguthorpe said Sunday, having posed for a photo with 2014 champion Tom Danielson to help celebrate the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah's 10th anniversary.
Steve Miller's dreams hardly lack ambition, but they're obviously attainable. The event he administers as president of Miller Sports Properties keeps growing, climbing and expanding to an elite level of the sport. The race outgrew its borders this month, with a stage starting in Evanston, Wyoming.
Well, if the Tour de France can move outside of the country occasionally, the Tour of Utah can edge out of the state.
In 2012, Miller added this concluding stage that featured the climb of Empire Pass. Last summer, the tour reached southern Utah. The latest version included the Wyoming element and a seventh stage, making Danielson's repeat victory even more impressive amid the 753 total miles and 57,863-foot vertical climb. Increased competition also added to the latest challenge for Danielson. He cited "a stronger field and much more aggressive racing" this time.
So what's next? Seven stages is the limit, but Miller is targeting some towns in Utah that the tour has yet to touch, and he's hoping to attract even more big-time cycling teams.
"I don't think we've hit our ceiling yet," Miller said.
That's fine with Osguthorpe, who loves Utah and enjoys being part of a Tour of Utah history that exceeds anyone's imagination as of 2004. This event began modestly, with four stages conducted over three days in May in the Thanksgiving Point Stage Race & Cycling Festival. His victory for the Ogden One team over other American riders meant a lot to him then, and he can thank Miller and other visionary folks for making it seem even more important now.
"It gets cooler every year, because it get bigger every year," Osguthorpe said.
He always pictured a major race that would expose riders to Utah roads such as Boulder Mountain, and now that's part of Stage 2 between Panguitch and Torrey.
Osguthorpe, 36, is a real-estate agent now in his hometown of Salt Lake City. As a former mountain biking teammate of Danielson, he naturally had thoughts Sunday about where his cycling career may have taken him.
"I made different choices that took me out of the sport," he said, "but I think about it a lot."
And he still loves to ride. Osguthorpe witnessed the start of Stage 7, then spent the afternoon riding his mountain bike around Park City. He returned to Main Street for a finish that produced 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans' second stage victory in two days and Danielson's overall triumph.
The question of who had the more enjoyable day is subject to perspective. "There's so much good riding here," Osguthorpe said.
The 2014 winner could only agree. Thousands of fans greeted Danielson, who described his winning moment as "magic."
The scene in Utah County may have been less overwhelming 10 years ago, but Osguthorpe knows that feeling and he enjoyed reliving it.
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