Greg Van Avermaet swipes Tour of Utah stage one before the sprint
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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Greg Van Avermaet swipes Tour of Utah stage one before the sprint

by Kyle Moore at 6:01 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
 
BMC gets another triumph from in-form Belgian

Greg Van AvermaetGreg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) showed his pure sprinting legs recently in the Tour de Wallonie, but the Belgian didn’t wait for the final sprint in stage one of the Tour of Utah on Tuesday. Van Avermaet surprised the sprinters under the one kilometre banner and zoomed over the finish line just before Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) led the sprinters in a moment later.

All were credited with the same time, but Van Avermaet takes the time bonus and the leader’s jersey heading into tomorrow’s stage two.

The 179km day from Brian Head to Cedar City featured ample climbing, as most of the stages in the Tour of Utah will, but a steep descent led into three circuits around Cedar City to finish the stage.

Once the original breakaway of Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare) and Michael Torckler (Bissell) was closed down, and a counter move by Jens Voigt (Radioshack-Leopard) was neutralized, teams had a hard time establishing extended control of the galloping peloton.

Van Avermaet escaped with less than a kilometre to race, and rather than getting a concerted effort to close him down, the front of the peloton was broken up, with about six riders pulling clear, disrupting their ability to close down on the BMC rider.

Finish cameras focused solely on the bunch gallop, nearly forgetting that Van Avermaet hadn’t yet been caught, but they captured him just in time for his finish salute.

“You have to try to take the risk to try and go for a win,” Van Avermaet said afterward according the Salt Lake Tribune.

Matthews rued the missed opportunity to get a sprint victory. “It’s hard when you’re so focused on the first stage and your team works all day and someone slips away in the final,” the Australian added. “That’s racing. You can’t win every race. It came down to the last kilometre and Greg slipped away. Once he was gone, we knew we couldn’t get him back.”

“America’s Toughest Stage Race” got underway with what is widely being considered its easiest stage, and riders were happy to let the stage play out in traditional style. Jones and Torckler didn’t incur much trouble in trying to get away early. The day began immediately with a climb of five kilometres, before a long descent toward the day’s two intermediate sprint points.

The duo got away on the climb and went uncontested from there, building a lead quickly. After 20km were gone, Jones and Torckler were four minutes up the road. They extended the lead to seven minutes after 40 kilometres. Jones took maximum sprint points in Panguitch as the peloton remained relaxed, and the duo topped out at ten minutes ahead with 100km to go, when the peloton got their day underway.

Jones took more sprint points at the Kane County check as the road began to go gradually uphill, and the duo’s gap came down further. It was back under seven minutes with 65km to race.

Mammoth Creek was the first of two categorized climbs, and it was Torckler’s turn to collect prizes, as the Bissell rider grabbed four points.

The result punctuated an amazing comeback for the rider from New Zealand, who suffered fractures to his skull and a broken arm in a hit-and-run accident in California in June of 2012.

Perennial American contenders Jesse Anthony (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman) cleaned up the remaining mountains points from the peloton, and the deficit to the escapees dropped under five minutes with 50km to go.

The Cedar Canyon climb averaged four percent for ten kilometres, and the breakaway hit it with four minutes in hand. Tomas Vaitkus (Orica-GreenEdge) and others were dropped on the climb as rain showers briefly wet the roads. Four kilometres from the top, the peloton had pulled back to within three minutes. Third year pro Mike Sherer (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) had been dropped on the first climb less than five kilometres in to the day, obviously not well, and was the one abandon for the stage.

Torckler took six more points, sewing up the KOM jersey for the day, and then the route dove down 1200 metres in altitude in 15 kilometres. It was more than enough for the peloton, which ate up the rest of the gap to Jones and Torckler. With 12km to go and three circuits around Cedar City left, they were within sight. On the second lap, the duo gave up the ghost and Voigt made his move, pulling several riders with him. But the American peloton had seen that movie before, and didn’t desire to watch it again, so they hauled back the German quickly.

Team 5-Hour Energy, UnitedHealthcare, and Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies each took pulls to hinder more attacks, and it worked, but crucially, the front of the peloton was in disarray when Van Avermaet made his move.

They eventually got things back together for a sprint, and Matthews unleashed a quick one, but by that time, it was too late. Van Avermaet had his stage win, his yellow jersey as overall leader, and his purple jersey as points classification leader to pull over his head on the podium in Cedar City.

Stage two takes riders 210km from Panguitch to Torrey, with 3000 metres of elevation gain.

Tour of Utah Stage 1 Brief Results:

1, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
2, Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)
3, Tyler Magner (Hincapie Sportswear Devo)
4, Eric Young (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies)
5, Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare)

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