Belgian rider Greg van Avermaet of BMC snuck away in the final kilometer of Stage One of the 2013 Tour of Utah to steal the stage win from the sprinters, earning himself the race leader’s yellow jersey.
After catching a two-rider break five miles from the finish, the peloton was trying to from up for a sprint finish when van Avermaet decided not to wait around. He attacked inside the final half-mile, gained a small gap in the final quarter-mile, and sustained his pace all the way to the finish line.
“I saw the finish yesterday and it wasn’t such a great finish for me because it was downhill,” Van Avermaet said on the BMC website. “I thought guys like Matthews [Michael Matthews, Orica-GreenEdge] could beat me. So I tried to do it differently and went in the last kilometer. It was already hard and I attacked. I came into the last corner with a gap and then I was just pedaling to finish and hoping they wouldn’t come over. I’m happy that I won.”
Stage One was a tough way to warm up for the six-day Tour of Utah. The 112-mile stage started at the town of Brian Head, at an elevation of 9600 feet and immediately climbed to over ten thousand feet to the Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Riders had to get their bodies working in the thin air while climbing to cedar breaks, mammoth Creek, and finally to Bristlecone at 9626 feet, before descending to finish with three laps around Cedar City.
Two riders escaped almost from the start: Chris Jones of United Healthcare, riding on his 34th birthday, and Michael Tockler of Bissell got a gasp of over eight minutes but the sprinters’ teams had decided that this was one of the few stages where their fast men would have a chance, so the break didn’t have a chance.
Jones and Tockler made it over all the climbs, down the final long descent, and onto the streets of Cedar City before the peloton swallowed them up.
Various teams took turns at the head of the peloton, but the pace was too high for any team to keep control for long. Entering the final mile, Cannondale and BMC started moving up. Van Avermaet found himself on the front and realized that he didn’t have a sprinter as strong some other teams, he had only one chance at get the win for himself and the team. He saw the chance and took at and it paid off.
Stage Two will be longer and harder: 131 miles from Panguitch to Torrey with two Cat Four climbs, a Cat Three, and a Cat One and a quick descent leading to a one-kilometer uphill finish. The day could still end with a sprint, but it will be a tough one.