Leipheimer solos to Tour of Utah stage six, Tschopp hangs on to the overall
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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Leipheimer solos to Tour of Utah stage six, Tschopp hangs on to the overall

by Kyle Moore at 10:40 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
American attacks with dual victory in mind but Swiss rider holds him off for final overall win

Levi LeipheimerLevi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) rode away alone on Empire Pass, the final monster climb of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, claiming victory on the final stage. The two-time winner of the race was looking for 2’07” on overall leader Johann Tschopp (BMC Racing) but gained 49 seconds, which secured the overall victory for the Swiss rider. After strong, consistent weeks, Matthew Busche (Radioshack-Nissan) finished the overall in second place, and Leopold Koenig (NetApp) was third.

Leipheimer attacked on Empire Pass, a 10km climb averaging more than ten percent in gradient, with pitches near twenty percent. With a two-minute buffer, Tschopp and BMC Racing let Leipheimer go, and at one point the American had gained back 1’20” of his deficit. But Tschopp put in the required work, and got admirable help from his team-mates, to keep the American in check.

A final descent off Empire Pass into the finish in Park City allowed Tschopp to further close down the gap that Leipheimer had opened, earning an impressive stage race win for the former Bbox Bouygues Telecom rider.

“Our strategy was to stay together the longest time possible, the whole team together as long as possible, to limit the damage,” Tschopp explained afterward. “Levi had two minutes [down on GC], so that gave us a security margin. We told each other that if he attacked, we would let him go but still limit the gap to the finish. There was [a gap of] one minute and twenty seconds and I couldn't let him get more time so as to not lose the jersey. I thank my whole team for this magnificent day.”

Leipheimer had experience on the Empire Pass climb, even hoping that it would be included in this year’s race, and he said that he had envisioned himself in the situation in which he ended up on Sunday.

“To be off the front and pushing yourself so hard, you know it’s not pretty,” Leipheimer admitted. “I felt ugly on the bike but I won the stage and I’ve ridden that same course about 20 times, and every time I’ve come over the top of that hill and on that downhill I imagine myself in that scenario that I was today, you know off the front coming out of the corners hard and taking the risks on the downhill and racing to that finish line. It’s why I do this. I’m pretty happy about [this win].

“I'm not saying this was easy, but after a lot of training on this climb and staying in this area, it showed with my result. It was marvelous to attack and arrive solo after the descent. After the Tour de France I stayed focused. I didn't gain weight, I recovered and I continued to ride and train. Now I will really look forward to Colorado. These two races — Utah and Colorado — are important to me and I am the defending champ of both of them. When you start with the number one on your back, you have to always try your best for the good of your team, yourself, and the race.”

The final stage of the Tour of Utah offered up 123km with two categorized climbs along the way – decisive ascents noted for their steepness. Riders headed out of Park City for a loop back in, and Jens Voigt (Radioshack-Nissan) kicked off a number of early attacks that did not stick. After 15 kilometres, Rabobank rider Jetse Bol pulled along a group that would make it last, though without Bol. He, Will Clarke (Champion System) and Alex Vanias (Bissell) were dropped out of the move as it was getting established, but 11 men were still away.

Tim Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Michael Matthews (Rabobank), Mike Creed (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Jorge Camilo Castiblanco (EPM-UNE), Rafael Infantino (EPM-UNE), Carter Jones (Bissell), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Gavin Mannion (Bontrager-Livestrong), Jesse Anthony (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Thomas Rabou (Competitive Cyclist), and Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) got the day started in earnest, with Matthews finishing off his sprinter’s jersey with the only intermediate points on offer. A group of three tried to bridge to the leaders, but after toiling for a while to no avail, they retreated. With 40 kilometres gone by, the 11 men had 2’40” over the peloton.

With a three-minute gap going up the climb of Wolf Creek Ranch, Castiblanco moved ahead alone and went up ahead, surviving to the top to take the most points. Matthews broke away and crossed second, eventually bridging to Castiblanco on the descent. Jacques-Maynes crossed third, securing his final mountains classification title. Off the descent, the group of 11 was back together again. The peloton split under the pressure of the climb, and the gap momentarily dropped to 2’30”, but their pace eased after the descent, allowing many to catch on again.

The short stage passed quickly with long descents off the climbs and high speeds in the valleys. With 30km to race, the peloton had cut their deficit to two minutes. As Empire Pass approached, Castiblanco increased his pace again, though this time it would not last. In the break, Mannion and Matthews were the first to struggle, and the peloton split as well, down to 35 riders on the lower slopes of the ascent.

With an acceleration by Duggan, the breakaway shattered. Castiblanco was caught and dropped, and only Sutherland and Creed could follow the Liquigas-Cannondale rider. Rabou and Anthony were also gone, leaving only Duggan and Sutherland ahead of the peloton. As the main bunch dispatched former breakaway men, it too continued to shrink, eventually being whittled to 12, with just the two survivors up the road.

Halfway up the climb, Sutherland began to ride away from Duggan. Castiblanco was caught by the peloton, which now had Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp) working for an improving Tom Danielson. Leipheimer then made his move, leaving the 14-man group behind and setting off toward the remaining escapees. Tschopp, Koenig, and Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) let the American go, and Leipheimer was soon around Duggan.

With 20km to race to Park City, Leipheimer had Sutherland in sight. The Aussie briefly tried to sit in with the defending champion, but suffered too much and fell back. After just a few kilometres on the attack, Leipheimer had 30 seconds on Tschopp’s yellow jersey group, which also contained Dombrowski, Koenig, Danielson, Ian Boswell (Bontrager-Livestrong), Lucas Euser (Spidertech-C10), and Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank). With Tschopp riding smart tempo on the front, several others were able to reattach, including Chris Horner (Radioshack-Nissan).

As the yellow jersey group caught Sutherland, Euser put in a dig, which Dombrowski responded to, forcing Tschopp to again defend his GC position. Undeterred, Euser went again and this time got away alone, and Tschopp resumed his tempo with Leipheimer now a minute up the road, and with one kilometre left to climb. With Tschopp pulling his group, team-mate Mathias Frank zoomed in from behind to take another turn. Over the top of Empire Pass, Leipheimer’s advantage reportedly topped out at a minute and a half, but Frank and Tschopp went to work on the downhill.

They eventually pulled Euser back, bringing the gap to Leipheimer under a minute. The American veteran celebrated a well-earned victory over the line, savouring the win, perhaps cognizant and accepting of the fact that he had not gained two minutes on Tschopp.

Kruijswijk sprinted in for second ahead of Koenig and Tschopp finished safely with his group. The understated Swiss rider cracked a smile and a water bottle upon finishing, giving his thanks to exhausted team-mates Frank and Brent Bookwalter.

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

1 Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in 3h06’54”
2 Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) at 49 secs
3 Leopold Koenig (NetApp)
4 Johann Tschopp (BMC Racing)
5 Thomas Danielson (Garmin – Sharp)
6 Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (Bontrager Livestrong)
7 Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Nissan)
8 Ian Boswell (Bontrager Livestrong)
9 Lucas Euser (Spidertech-C10)
10 Christopher Horner (RadioShack-Nissan)

Final General Classification:

1 Johann Tschopp (BMC Racing) in 21h26’32”
2 Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Nissan) at 43 secs
3 Leopold Koenig (NetApp) at 49 secs
4 Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (Bontrager Livestrong) at 58 secs
5 Ian Boswell (Bontrager Livestrong) at 1’03”
6 Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at 1’08”
7 Christopher Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) at 1’19”
8 Lucas Euser (Spidertech-C10 at 1’21”
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) at 1’29”
10 Mathias Frank (BMC Racing) at 1’31”

Points Classification:
Michael Matthews (Rabobank)

King of the Mountains:
Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell)

Best Young Rider:
Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong)

Best Utah Rider:
Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare)


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