Garmin-Sharp in Command at Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah
Garmin-Sharp has made a habit of winning team time trials and the team counts Tour de France and Giro d’Italia stages among their team victories. On Wednesday at the Miller Motorsports Park, Garmin-Sharp made good on their promise and won the team time trial stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. Their time of 22:35 propelled Christian Vande Velde into the race lead.
“It’s great! It’s an event that we’ve always been good at. We put a little more effort into it, because we know we can do well,” said Vande Velde after the stage. “When you have confidence, it takes the pressure off.”
The Dutch Rabobank squad finished second, while Radio Shack-Nissan slotted into third. The upset of the day came from the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team of last year’s winner Levi Leipheimer. They struggled to find a rhythm and in fact, had to regroup twice during their ride. At the end of the day, Leipheimer dropped more than two minutes to new race leader Vande Velde.
The race unfolded under increasing cloud cover on the spaghetti shaped course of the Miller Motorsports Park. The early teams faced solid winds that complicated the business of rounding the course’s many corners. Garmin-Sharp pre-rode the course in heavy winds, and as result, opted for shallow-dish front wheels.
As the day went on, the clouds increased and the wind died down and switched directions. Teams such as Garmin-Sharp, Rabobank, and Radio Shack-Nissan raced in calmer conditions than the teams with earlier start times.
The standings in the teams classification determined the start order, and on Tuesday, both BMC Racing Team and Garmin-Sharp tried to get as many riders to place well on the stage as possible to secure a later start time.
As the stage began, the German Net-App team set the early fast time. For the teams based in the United States, meanwhile, the team time trial is not the typical day at the office, but that did not stop Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies from holding the fastest time for part of the day. Team Bissell, who has former time trial champions in Jeremy Vennell and Chris Baldwin, also had a strong ride to finish fourth.
As the pro tour teams began rolling out, the standings changed quickly. Garmin-Sharp rocketed to the top slot. The team rode the fastest lap time on their first time around the course with a 7:24. Still, they had to wait for Rabobank, Radio Shack-Nissan, and BMC Racing Team to finish.
The team time trial always mixes up the general classification. Overnight leader Rory Sutherland started the day ten seconds ahead of Vande Velde, thanks to the time bonus from Tuesday’s stage victory. Sutherland’s United Healthcare team put in a determined effort to finish fifth, but it was not enough to defend the race lead for Sutherland.
Garmin-Sharp now sits in the catbird seat with climbers Vande Velde and Tom Danielson sitting at the top of the general classification at same time. Chris Horner and Matt Busche of Radio Shack-Nissan are the closest rivals to the Garmin-Sharp riders at just 38 seconds behind.
A horde of riders sit right around a minute behind Vande Velde. Bissell Pro Cycling’s general classification hopeful Chris Baldwin is at 50 seconds off the race lead and is well-positioned ahead of the mountain stages. Brent Bookwalter of BMC Racing Team, who finished third on Tuesday’s stage, is at 54 seconds.
Past winner of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Francisco Mancebo of Competitive Cyclist is at 1:06, while Bontrager-Livestrong’s climbing talent Joe Dombrowski is at 1:08. Last year’s overall winner Levi Leipheimer is 2:04 behind after a rough day at the races for his team.
On Thursday, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah returns to a more regular pattern. The stage runs 137 kilometers from Ogden to Salt Lake City. The course includes three categorized climbs, and the final climb of the day summits just outside 26 kilometers to race.
From the final climb of the day up Big Mountain, it’s a long descent to the finish. The descent begins with a technical switchbacking road down from the summit of Big Mountain. With around 15 kilometers to go, the road opens up for a fast run-in into Salt Lake City. Inside the final kilometer, there’s a sharp right-hand turn, just to keep everyone guessing.