Overall race leader Sepp Kuss broke away from a pack of riders on the six-mile climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon to win Stage 5 of the Tour of Utah on Saturday.
Kuss, riding for Team Lotto, finished the 96.2-mile ride from Canyons Village in Park City to Snowbird Resort in 4 hours, 2 minutes. The 23-year old American continued to wear the overall leader’s yellow jersey, which he captured with his emphatic victory in Payson on Stage 2.
Ben Hermans of Israel Cycling Academy pushed Kuss with a solo chase on the final climb, crossing the line 39 seconds back in second place. The battle for third place was taken by American Peter Stetina of Trek-Segafredo, who outmaneuvered a select group that included defending champion Rob Britton of Rally Cycling and 2015 Tour of Utah winner Joe Dombrowski of Cannondale. Stetina crossed the line 1 minute and 18 seconds behind the winner.
“In the beginning, I was maybe smiling a little bit because there’s no better feeling than just standing up on the pedals. Attacking is just really fun,” Kuss said. “Then when I got a gap and saw Ben Hermans was behind me and he’s a really strong rider, I thought ‘oh no, that’s not who I want chasing me right now,’ because he’s a real engine. After that I was really hurting.”
After the blistering 15-mile descent of Big Cottonwood Canyon, lone escapee Kilian Frankiny of BMC Racing Team had a 15-second lead with six miles to go.
As expected, the “Queen’s Stage” — featuring 9,975 feet of elevation gain — brought major changes to the overall standings. Hermans surged from 11th place to second place, 1:21 behind Kuss. G.C. Dombrowski and Hugh Carthy moved up to third and fourth place, respectively, a little more than two minutes back.
Neilson Powless of Team LottoNL-Jumbo, Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing Team, Kyle Murphy of Rally Cycling and Gavin Mannion of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team all dropped out of the Top 10 with one stage to go.
After a one-year hiatus, Stage 6 on Sunday brings back the overall finish to Park City. The route will pass through Kamas and Midway before the final attacks on the unrelenting asphalt of Empire Pass, encountering road pitches of 10 to 20 percent.