Tour of Utah: Lachlan Morton powers away on Mt. Nebo into overall lead
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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Tour of Utah: Lachlan Morton powers away on Mt. Nebo into overall lead

by Kyle Moore at 5:27 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
 
Garmin-Sharp rider holds off Van Avermaet and chase group for 40km downhill into Payson

Tour of UtahLachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp) soloed to an impressive victory in stage three of the Tour of Utah on Thursday, taking the race lead in the process. Morton attacked by himself on the lone climb of the day, the towering Mount Nebo, which crested with around 40 kilometres left to race.

Morton left the peloton and came around all of the breakaway riders who were left up the road and went over the top of the climb by himself, and then held off the main bunch on the descent to the finish in Payson.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) rode well to stay in the reduced main bunch on the climb, getting even more help from team-mate Michael Schär, and sprinted to second place, 33 seconds after Morton had crossed. Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare) was third.

Ben King (Radioshack-Leopard) and Carter Jones (Bissell) were the last two men remaining from a 20-man break that established early in the stage. As the peloton broke up on the steep early slopes of the category-one Mt. Nebo, Morton attacked by himself and began the trek across the gap to King and Jones.

The Australian Garmin-Sharp rider eventually made it over, riding with the duo for a while before dropping both and cresting alone.

But the chasing bunch couldn’t pull him back, as Morton pushed all the way to the line, grabbing the stage and the leader’s jersey.

“I like riding up hills. And that was a big hill,” Morton quipped to the Salt Lake Tribune. “When you have an opportunity like that, especially as a young rider, you’ve just got to take it, and I did. I just put my head down and focused on the finish line.”

“He did the long bomb,” said Euser, a former Garmin rider. “He threw that Hail Mary and it worked. I always love seeing that. Things like this happen, and guys who deserve to get a win get a win.”

In a flat and fast first hour, several small attacks were kept in, before a 20-man group went clear after 12 kilometres were gone. In the first stage expected to shake up the general classification, many teams wanted to be represented in a break that had a good chance of staying away. Orica-GreenEdge wasn’t expected to work for overall leader Michael Matthews, being that he is a sprinter, and previous leader Van Avermaet said that the general classification wouldn’t be a goal of his either.

So with no team too keen to pull the peloton for any length of time, the breakaway became the focus for many. The 20 to get away represented a wide range of squads, including King of Radioshack-Leopard, Jones and Pat McCarty of Bissell, Larry Warbasse (BMC Racing), Wes Sulzberger and Baden Cooke (Orica-GreenEdge), Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp), Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), and the Funvic-Brasilinvest trio of Magno Prado Nazaret, Octavio Bulgarelli, and Alex Diniz.

Also included were Eric Young and Mike Friedman of Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, Lawson Craddock (Bontrager), Paco Mancebo and Jim Stemper (5-Hour Energy), Fred Rodriguez and Luis Enrique Davila (Jelly Belly-Kenda), and the Hincapie Sportswear Devo team duo of Andy Baker and Joey Rosskopf.

As teams assessed the chances of their breakaway riders, the gap grew out to over four minutes after 50 kilometres had been ridden. Young took the sprint points in Manti ahead of Nazaret and Stemper, as Jens Voigt pulled the peloton for Radioshack-Leopard. Nearing the 100km to go mark, the gap to the break was within three minutes, while the average speed was shooting up toward 48 kph.

With so many in their midst and only some working, the escapees began the in-fighting with 80km to go. Clarke and Nazaret tried attacking, as did several others, but all were together again for Young to take max sprint points once more in Fountain Green. The breakaway settled back together for the rest of the kilometres to the climb, when all bets would be off.

The ascent of Mount Nebo started gradually, and the breakaway began to disarm as the road tilted upward. With just two minutes separating escape and peloton, it wasn’t a long road back for many of the dropped escapees. The 20-man group became eleven, until King, Jones, and Craddock moved forward as a trio. Craddock succumbed to the pace as well, leaving King and Jones alone in the lead, just as Morton attacked out of the shrinking main bunch.

The yellow jersey of Matthews drifted backward, as did former Giro d’Italia champ Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp). Finishing off the steepest section of the Nebo climb, the peloton had shrunk to 30 riders, and the road stair-stepped the rest of the way to the summit, at over 2800 metres. Morton, Craddock, and Tiago Machado (Radioshack-Leopard) formed a brief chase group behind the leading duo before Morton jumped ahead again, bridging across to King and Jones.

By this time, the lead group was 1’20” in arrears, down to about 20 men. With five kilometres left to climb, at a gradient of seven percent, Morton continued to drive a pace that dropped King, and then Jones. The Garmin-Sharp rider went over the top by himself, with King and Jones 35 seconds behind, and the main bunch at 1’45” with 40km to go.

The purple points jersey of Van Avermaet was still running second wheel in the main bunch, with just Schär ahead of him, but the Belgian let the Swiss champion pedal a moderate tempo. Morton floated between a minute and 90 seconds ahead of the group as the road undulated before the proper descent began into Payson. The faster downhill sections began with 25km to go. King and Jones were back in the main group, which also contained Van Avermaet, Schär and Jacob Novak of BMC, Machado, George Bennett, Matthew Busche, and Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard); Rohan Dennis, Tom Danielson, and Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp); Ben Day, Lucas Euser, Philip Deignan, and Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare), along with Gregory Obando (Champion System) and 21-year-old Ethiopian champion Tsgabu Grmay (MTN-Qhubeka).

The chasing group cut Morton’s advantage to 1’10”, but with 15km to go, Morton could believe in victory after pulling back out to 1’20”. This gap held inside the last five kilometres, until the Van Avermaet group started lining up for the sprint.

Morton rode hard to the line and got a popular triumph, and Van Avermaet sprinted in ahead of Euser, 33 seconds later.

Tour of Utah stage 3 Brief Results:

1, Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp)
2, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) at 33”
3, Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare) at 34”
4, Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman)
5, Gregory Obando (Champion System)

General Classification after Stage 3:

1, Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp) in 13hr49'07"
2, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) at 22"
3, Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare) at 40"
4, Tiago Machado (Radioshack-Leopard) at 43"
5, Gregory Obando (Champion System) at 44"

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