Gaimon, Woods Lead Team at America’s Toughest Stage Race

This weekend will be a good time to rest the legs and lungs for the eight riders chosen to contest the 2015 Tour of Utah (August 3-9), which works harder than ever to earn its moniker as “America’s Toughest Stage Race”. Mixing creative new routes in with classic finishes in Salt Lake City, Snowbird Resort and Park City, the climbing in this year’s route is virtually endless, with a stunning 51,442 feet of elevation gain across seven days of racing. The route never dips below 4000 feet, and reaches dizzying heights in stages four, six and seven at over 9,000 feet above sea level. The omission of a time trial means hard, fast road racing is on the menu for every inch of the 712 mile route. It is most certainly the toughest mountain terrain the team will face all year, and this year’s roster will center around the team’s talented climbing duo, Phil Gaimon and Mike Woods.

Eric Young and the rest of the Orange & Black leadout will hunt for opportunities in the flatter finishes. Young won a stage and finished third in another in 2014.

The race is undoubtedly designed for pure, high altitude climbers, but there will be plenty of opportunity for all-rounders and sprinters in the flatter early stages. The Orange & Black team was chosen both as a support mechanism for Gaimon and Woods’ general classification aspirations and to contest stage wins – it features two Tour of Utah stage winners in Jesse Anthony and Eric Young, and veteran all-rounders and leadout men in Tom Soladay, Scott Zwizanski, and Brad Huff.

2015 Tour of Utah Roster
Jesse Anthony
Phil Gaimon
Brad Huff
Pierrick Naud
Tom Soladay
Mike Woods
Eric Young
Scott Zwizanski

Stage One | Logan Circuit
The race begins in a new host city, Logan with a massive circuit visiting Logan Canyon, Bear Lake (featuring the race’s first visit to Idaho), and Garden City. The stage isn’t designed to ease riders into the race’s high altitudes and relentless ascents – 6500 feet of vertical gain and roads peaking out at 7799 ft. in Logan Canyon scream, “Welcome to Utah!”

Stage Two | Tremonton to Ogden
Another new route with a familiar finish in Ogden. Stage two covers the wide, rural roads of Box Elder County and Utah’s famous Fruit Highway, whose roadside produce stands are sure to have mouths watering and minds wandering as the peloton heads toward the 10% grade roads of Ogden Canyon, and a rapid descent into city limits for a finish on historic 25th Street. The stage covers 100 miles, with 4,630 feet of vertical gain. Look for a breakaway or a select bunch sprint in stage two.

The Tour of Utah covers some of our country's wildest and most diverse terrain.

The Tour of Utah covers some of our country’s wildest and most diverse terrain.

Stage Three | Antelope Island to Bountiful
Another creative, challenging route to melt legs before the “real” climbs later in the week. Stage three begins on the Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island, home to massive herds of American Bison. The peloton is in for a surprise in Bountiful, with two 9-mile circuits showcasing a punishing climb to the mountain bench up 400 North. It’s really steep – a Google search of the road pulls up videos of cars sliding uncontrollably down the grade during one of the region’s rare but monstrous winter snowstorms.

Stage Four | Soldier Hollow in Heber Valley
A hard circuit and the first true test for the climbers. The peloton begins climbing immediately from the start line, with a KOM summit 20 miles in at Daniels Summit. The real challenge comes on Wolf Creek Pass, a 10-mile push cresting at 9300 feet. With 127 miles, 8,173 feet of elevation gain, and heavy crosswinds likely, suffering abounds in stage four.

Stage Five | Salt Lake City Circuit
Stage five revisits a staple of the Tour of Utah, with a twist – the addition of Wall Street and Zane Avenue to the Salt Lake City circuit, with grades reaching 20%, means no relief for the race’s only day out of the mountains. With 4,921 feet of elevation gain in just 55 miles, expect a blistering pace in downtown Salt Lake, and an opportunity for the all-rounders to flex their legs.

Long, high altitude climbs are a daily occurrence. Add in a liberal dose of heat, and prepare to suffer.

Stage Six | Salt Lake City to Snowbird
The Tour of Utah’s queen stage makes a serious case for the hardest day of bike racing on American soil. It is relentless and nearly 100% uphill, with four KOM category climbs. If the long, grinding journey through Little Cottonwood Canyon (topping out at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, with over 40 straight uphill miles) isn’t enough to permanently scorch lungs, the final eight mile push to Snowbird Resort, the race’s only HC categorized climb, should do the trick. 12,959 feet of climbing over 110 high altitude miles equals loads of suffering for all.

Stage Seven | Park City Circuit
After leaving Park City, the peloton traverses the jagged, rolling terrain through Summit as Wasatch Counties to a KOM summit at Wolf Creek Ranches. The following descent is a good time to breath deeply, because the legendary Empire Pass is on deck. It offers up 6 miles of sheer pain, with grades wavering between 10 and 20 percent, but never dipping below. On the other side, a harrowing high speed descent into Park City is all that stands between the peloton and the overall winner of the Tour of Utah.

Performance Director Jonas Carney shares his thoughts on this year’s race:

What stands out about the new route?
“There are a few new stages this year that we have never seen. It’s always nice to change things up as it makes the race unpredictable, and that helps a smaller team like us. This first few days we’ll see some hills we haven’t seen before and perhaps some crosswinds, so it will be important to stay on our toes. The last few days are stages we have done before and we know what will happen – the climbs are just massive. ”

Why did you select the roster you did?
“Woods and Gaimon were natural picks as they are the two strongest climbers on the team and capable of a GC result in Utah. The remainder of the roster is there to support Phil and Mike, race opportunistically, and contest the field sprints. It’s such a hard race for sprinters, even just to finish. But as Eric Young showed last year, it’s worth the gamble if you can go for a stage win.”

What are your goals for the race this year? 
“We have a couple of goals. First we need to get Phil and Mike thorough the first five days safely, and set them up for the base of the big climb in stage six. The second goal will be a stage win. It’s not obvious which stages will be a sprint – some could be a select sprint, and some could favor a breakaway, depending on how the race unfolds and what the winds look like.”

Photos © Casey B. Gibson

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