Team Champion System Tour of Utah Report: Stage 5

We're happy to have Assistant Director Burke Swindlehurst from UCI Pro Team Champion System as a guest blogger this week, reporting on his team's experiences in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

Park City to Snowbird: 101.1 miles/162.8km; 10,000 ft. of climbing -- View Stage 5 Route Map

Generally considered the "Queen Stage" of the Tour of Utah (I have a feeling that status may change after tomorrow), today's penultimate 101-mile stage featured three sprints and four KOMs (King of Mountain) -- including the "hors" category and final ascent to the Snowbird Ski resort. With an accumulated 10,000 feet of elevation gain, the main objectives of Team Champion System for the day were two-fold: to put Aussie Cameron Wurf into the early break and to protect our designated mountain goat for the week, Chris Butler, so he could spread his wings on the final climb and hopefully have a crack at the stage podium.

As with previous years the attacks came immediately, and with both a KOM and sprint line in the first 20 miles, all attempts by riders to break loose were squelched until after sprint number 1 in the Kamas Valley.
The team's plan of getting Wurf into the early move abruptly ended when he was involved in a crash on a narrow farm road, and the resulting chaos saw a group of nearly 25 riders sneak off the front. With four Garmin riders represented in the move, teams RadioShack and BMC quickly organized and it was again "grouppo compacto" as the riders entered the city of Heber.

A counter-attack of five riders would eventually move clear to establish a 4-minute lead, and the peloton settled in, seemingly content knowing that there was plenty of terrain ahead to sort things out.
With most of the field in-tact over the the second KOM climb of the Alpine Loop, it looked likely that the fireworks would not begin until the final ascent of Little Cottonwood Canyon, and that turned out to be the case. Three Champion System riders remained in the main group, now consisting of only 50 or so riders. At the base of the final climb, Champion's Wurf and Craig Lewis put in a great effort to make sure Butler was well-positioned as the race made it's final right turn onto the Little Cottonwood road. All that remained was the final 6 miles of consistent 8-percent grades and the still-searing heat that has punctuated this week's racing.

In the end, Chris fought his way to a very respectable 17th place finish on the stage amidst a who's-who of some of the world's top climbers.

Tomorrow's final stage is a new edition to the Tour of Utah, ascending the newly-paved Empire Pass road which features sustained grades in excess of 20 percent and may very well be the most difficult climb contested on American soil seen to date. It should be another great opportunity for Champion System's Chris Butler to test himself against some of the best in the business.

Till then,
-Burke