The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah presented the teams for the 2012 edition of the race Monday evening in Ogden. The six-day Tour begins on Tuesday with a hot and hilly stage that starts and finishes in Ogden. For the first time this year, the Tour of Utah includes a 21.7 kilometer team time trial at the Miller Motorsports Park. The race concludes this weekend with two difficult climbing stages, including a mountaintop finish at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. Overall, there is nearly 38,000 feet of climbing in the race.
Defending champion Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma-Quick Step returns this year with hopes of winning his third-straight Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. It has not been the easiest season for Leipheimer who broke his leg in the spring just before the May Amgen Tour of California. Francisco Mancebo of Competitive Cycling who won the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah in 2009 is also back to contend for the overall classification. Mancebo called this year’s course, which has more climbs than past editions, “much harder.” “I really hope to win,” he said during the team presentation.
Wednesday’s team time trial may play the monkey wrench in this year’s race. At 21.7 kilometers over a flat course, the top teams could gain a significant advantage early in the race. The format certainly favors Garmin-Sharp, who has made a habit of winning team time trials. In May, the team won the team time trial stage the Giro d’Italia and set up team captain Ryder Hesjedal for overall victory at the Italian grand tour. They could well repeat that feat at this Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah to the advantage of Garmin-Sharp climbers Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde.
This year’s race, the eighth edition, has attracted a stacked start list of top level talent, including U.S. pro champion Timothy Duggan of Liquigas-Cannondale, German powerhouse Jens Voigt, former U.S. national champion Chris Horner, Baby Giro winner Joe Dombrowski of Bontrager-Livestrong, and fast Freddy Rodriguez of Team Exergy.
Tuesday, the race rolls out from Ogden for the opening stage. The out-and-back course includes four Ski Utah KOM’s. Though the climbs may cause some splits in the field, the long, descending run-in will make this one a big ask for the breakaways. With the succession of mountains looming at the end of the week, the sprinters, like Rodriguez, may be extra determined to have their day on Tuesday.
When he was introduced to the enthusiastic crowd at the Ogen amphitheater on Monday, Jens Voigt said that he believed that cycling was becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Voigt is riding the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah for the first time this year. Since he first came to the United States to race at the Amgen Tour of California, he said he has seen enthusiasm for racing rise to a “new level.” The friendly crowd in Ogden, who cheered especially loudly for Voigt and new U.S. pro champion Duggan, suggested that Voigt might be right.
And for the American riders, the chance to race on home roads in front of American fans is a kind of homecoming. “Racing in the U.S. feels like coming home. It’s a really fun time,” said Radio Shack-Nissan’s Ben King.