Tour of Utah: Johann Tschopp nets queen stage win
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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tour of Utah: Johann Tschopp nets queen stage win

by Kyle Moore at 2:05 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
Swiss rider takes overall lead with one stage left after Vande Velde falters

Johann TschoppJohann Tschopp (BMC Racing) took a memorable win in the queen stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah on Saturday, riding away on the final climb to Snowbird Ski Station and holding off a diminished group of favourites. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) faltered midway up the climb and finished ninth on the stage, 1’38” behind Tschopp.

The Swiss rider is now in the leader’s jersey, 38 seconds ahead of Vande Velde.

Emerging Czech rider Leopold Köenig (NetApp) was second on the stage after he and several young Americans were able to hang on to veteran Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) after he put the Garmin-Sharp favourites in trouble with a host of accelerations on the final climb. Bontrager-Livestrong pair Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell was third and fourth respectively. Leipheimer came across fifth.

Matthew Busche (Radioshack-Nissan) used a strong finish to move into third place overall. Köenig is fourth and Dombrowski fifth with one stage to go.

To take the overall lead, Tschopp made an early move when the Snowbird climb was at its steepest, near the lower slopes. A BMC Racing team-mate had just been pulled in from an early breakaway, and at the time of his attack, only Tom Jelte Slagter (Rabobank) and Tim Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) were still in front of him on the road. Tschopp had gotten a big gap before there was any response from the remaining peloton. Neither Garmin-Sharp riders Vande Velde or Tom Danielson had great days, so Leipheimer found himself locked in battle with a host of younger riders.

He was the primary aggressor on the summit finish after Tschopp had made his bid, but his aggression could not keep the BMC rider close enough.

“I prepared very well for this race," Tschopp said. "I found that this race suits me because of all the mountains. They remind me of the mountains at home.

“It's a feeling,” Tschopp explained about the timing of his attack. “You just know when you have the legs and it's time to go. It's a personal victory. It means a lot to wear the yellow jersey. Hopefully, it will last through tomorrow.”

Stage five would be the decisive stage of the race, with four categorized climbs culminating with the summit finish at the Snowbird Ski Station. The category four Jordanelle climb kicked up after just ten kilometres, and the bunch hit it all together. A large group tried to get away early but was unsuccessful. Ronan Van Zandbeek (Argos-Shimano) added to a hard luck week with a crash at the base of the climb, momentarily holding up the back half of the peloton. Van Zandbeek would later abandon.

Several of the men hoping to add to their mountains point tally sprinted for the top of the Jordanelle, and it was Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) who got the most. On the descent, a bunch of nearly 30 threatened to get away, but Garmin-Sharp came to the front to ensure that it did not. With everyone together approaching the first intermediate sprint, Michael Matthews (Rabobank) padded his lead in that classification by outsprinting Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare).

After nearly 40km of racing, a trio finally made it stick, as Chris Barton (Bissell), Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare), and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale) were allowed to ride away. Ben King (Radioshack-Nissan) and Jesse Anthony (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) soon joined them to make five primary protagonists.

Others were not satisfied with being stuck in the peloton, including Craig Lewis (Champion System) and Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale), but Garmin-Sharp insisted on an easing of the pace. At the 60km mark, the quintet had over a minute in hand.

The first of two big climbs, the Alpine Loop, hit halfway through the 162km stage. The main bunch eased back further through the feed zone, and the escape took their lead out to 4’20”. On the category one climb, Barton was dropped for good, while behind, Francisco Mancebo (Competitive Cyclist) put in an attack that went unmarked. The Spaniard took off in his trademark big gear in pursuit of the break. Nearing the summit of Alpine Loop, Mancebo was halfway across. Agnoli took maximum points at the top, while Jacques-Maynes, Duggan, and Caleb Fairly (Spidertech-C10) fought for minor placings.

Ahead, Anthony was struggling with the descent off Alpine Loop, and Mancebo soon caught him. When the road leveled out, they rejoined their group at the front, reforming a squad of five with Baldwin back in the peloton. With 50km to race, their lead was 2’35”.

Interestingly, another group of five had snuck off the peloton on the Alpine Loop descent. Fairly, Jacques-Maynes, Duggan, Slagter, and Michael Schär (BMC Racing) had halved their deficit to the break inside the 40km mark and made quick work of the remaining gap, merging with the leaders to form a ten-man breakaway near the top of the third climb of the day, the category-two Sun Crest climb. With no one ahead this time, Duggan accelerated for the mountain points but Jacques-Maynes came around to grab the most available.

The ten-man group became nine when Fairly crashed hard on the descent. The little former HTC-Highroad rider was up and moving again, though bruised and bleeding. Garmin-Sharp was pulling the peloton with more urgency, bringing the gap down to two minutes with 20km to race. With 10 kilometres of solid climbing to come on the Snowbird ascent, Anthony was the first to make his move approaching the climb. Mancebo briefly accelerated after him, but the rest of the escape soon had both reeled in.

Anthony was quickly dispatched as the climb got steeper, and then Slagter dropped the first bomb. On the lower slopes of the Snowbird, the Dutchman’s acceleration dropped Mancebo, and then split off Schär and King. Duggan rode smoothly with him for a while until even the American champion started struggling.

Behind, the overall race favourites were slugging it out, and the peloton shrunk rapidly when Leipheimer stepped on the gas. Schär and King were pulled back, followed by Duggan, and with his team-mate behind him, Tschopp pulled the counter move. The Swiss rider was soon by Slagter and by himself at the front of affairs. With half the final climb gone and 4km to go, attention turned to the peloton again.

Peter Stetina and Danielson were leading a select ten-man group with everyone in sight save for Tschopp. Vande Velde was struggling, but with Danielson even on time, the American squad had multiple cards to play. Boswell attacked and formed a three-man chasing group with Slagter and Duggan. Leipheimer then attacked and dropped Vande Velde for good, but the American veteran’s acceleration also shed Danielson and Stetina. With every Garmin rider out the back, the remaining riders – Leipheimer, Dombrowski and Köenig - worked together to stay ahead.

In the first chase, Boswell had dropped Slagter and Duggan, and the Leipheimer group was soon past them as well, eventually absorbing Boswell. This left Leipheimer, Boswell, Dombrowski, and Köenig working as a quartet to chase down Tschopp, who was still riding consistently ahead.

Another dig by Leipheimer dropped Boswell but made little progress on Tschopp. With less that 2km left, Dombrowski made his first move, and the Baby Giro winner was able to distance Leipheimer. Köenig held on and the impressive NetApp rider eventually came around, but not before Tschopp had zipped up and celebrated his big win.

Sunday’s final stage takes riders 123km, beginning and ending in Park City, with two big climbs including the final Empire Pass, cresting approximately 15km from the finish.

2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Stage Five Brief Results:

1, Johann Tschopp (BMC Racing) in 4h18’20”
2, Leopold Köenig (NetApp) at 0’43”
3, Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) at 0’47”
4, Ian Boswell (Bontrager-Livestrong) at 0’52”
5, Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at 1’00”
6, Lucas Euser (Spidertech-C10) at 1’02”
7, Matthew Busche (Radioshack-Nissan) at 1’02”
8, Mathias Frank (BMC Racing) at 1’23”
9, Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) at 1’38”
10, Chris Horner (Radioshack-Nissan) at 1’38”

General Classification after Stage Five:

1 Johann Tschopp (BMC Racing) in 18h18’49”
2 Christian Vandevelde (Garmin-Sharp) at 0’38”
3 Matthew Busche (Radioshack-Nissan) at 0’43”
4 Leopold Koenig (Team Netapp) at 0’53”
5 Joseph Dombrowski (Bontrager Livestrong) at 0’58”
6 Ian Boswell (Bontrager Livestrong) at 1’03”
7 Christopher Horner (Radioshack-Nissan) at 1’19”
8 Lucas Euser (Spidertech-C10) at 1’21”
9 Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp) at 1’22”
10 Mathias Frank (BMC Racing) at 1’24”


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