Three miles from the finish line at Snowbird Resort, Italian Bardiani-CSF rider Giulio Ciccone made his move, positioning himself ahead of the Tour of Utah’s top four overall leaders.
The gap continued to grow as he hung onto his lead while climbing up the Snowbird Summit, resulting in him finishing first in Saturday’s Stage 6, also known as the Queen Stage.
“Just under [3 miles I] wanted to do a little attack to see how the others would react,” said Ciccone. “Once I saw I had a little gap to regulate and pace myself well, I knew the last [1.2 miles] were a little easier.”
Bardiani-CSF teammate Simone Sterbini finished in second place while 20-year-old Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagen Berman) finished third.
The overall leaderboard remains unchanged — with Rally Cyclist Robert Britton continuing to hold into the yellow jersey since claiming it in Stage 3.
“I was very confident,” said Britton. “The team has done a fantastic job all week, and I had every bit of confidence that that would continue today. … It’s really not so much about me as it is about paying back [my teammates‘] hard work.”
After Ciccone made his breakaway, overall leaders Britton, Gavin Mannion (UnitedHealthcare), Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly) and Powless sat in a deadlock — not concerned by Ciccone and his result, but more worried about where the other contenders would finish, not wanting them to gain any time.
Powless was the first to make a drastic move.
“We were watching each other and played a little game of cat and mouse,” said Britton. “No one ever really gave a full-hearted attack, other than Neilson. He made some good ground and because he’s a little further down in [General Classification], you have to find your time and where you are going to put in more effort.”
Powless made his attack with 0.9 miles remaining, hoping to move up from fourth place overall.
“I figured that they had made a few little digs during the climb and I kept myself really steady and kept myself pretty fresh,” said Powless. “I knew that I needed to do it then or it would be too late to even gain any time at all. I just tried to go when I felt good.”
However, he finished just three seconds ahead of Mannion, who is second overall, and remains in fourth place.
With only one stage remaining, Britton is now in a solid position to ride away as the overall winner of the Tour. However, that makes him the No. 1 target for other riders.
“I think [other riders] are going to try and isolate me as early as possible, but in doing that and going that hard isolates almost everybody including, to a degree, their own team,” said Britton. “I think tomorrow is a bit different in the course, but I think I should be able to lean on guys like [Mannion} and [Tvetcov] a bit more because now their GC positions are fairly solidified. I don’t know what exactly to expect, but I bet it will be aggressive from the get.”
The final stage is set for 1 p.m. and will include 11 laps around downtown Salt Lake City.