Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies delivered Jesse Anthony to a 5th place finish in stage five’s tough uphill sprint in downtown Salt Lake City. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) took his his second victory of the week after the unique evening event, which covered five laps and just 55 kilometers of scenic downtown Salt Lake. The short course was technically a reprieve for the peloton at the high altitude, climbing focused event known as “America’s Toughest Stage Race”, but the shorter distance did not translate into much relief, as the pace was quickly ratcheted to ten. The shorter distance also meant less window for opportunity.
“We knew it would be a field sprint today and given the short distance and difficult uphill finish,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “We felt that Jesse had a great shot at a result. The team was committed to helping Jesse today and getting him into a position to challenge for the win, and they got their job done.”
Marsh Cooper sparked things off for the Orange and Black by placing himself into the breakaway of the day alongside Jens Voigt (RadioShack), Francisco Mancebo (5 Hour Energy/Kenda), Chris Baldwin (Bissell) and Craig Lewis (Champion System). The five riders gained around 20 seconds on the peloton, but the Garmin-Sharp team controlled the pace, keeping the leash on Cooper’s breakaway tight. After things consolidated on the final lap, it was time for the leadout trains to battle it out for positioning on the narrow, winding 500 meter push to the finish line.
The arduous climbing continues Saturday and Sunday, with two long, hard days in the saddle in store.
Saturday’s 183 kilometer Snowbasin to Snowbird stage will be a true test for the pure climbers, and Sunday’s grueling Park City Circuit will be another show for the climbers, and a final battle to determine the overall winner in Utah.