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Tour of Utah Stage 5 – Battle of the Bench

The fifth stage of the Tour of Utah ran from the picturesque Antelope Island State Park to the town of Bountiful. Along its route it tackled the tough ascents of the North Ogden Divide and Trappers Loop. In addition, the final kilometers consisted of two loops of Bountiful Bench, a 12-kilometer circuit that tests one's climbing and descending abilities.
Rally Cycling showed its ambitions early in the day with Evan Huffman infiltrating the day’s break. Usually one to seek out climbing points, The Tour of California King of the Mountains took no interest in the four KOMs of the day and stayed focused on the stage victory. With two tough finishing circuits around Bountiful it would not be any easy task. The route would take its toll and leave the breakaway and peloton shattered. Although Huffman didn’t come away with the stage win, he held strong in a chaotic finish and was in position to support Rob Britton in the closing kilometers.

How it Went Down

The fifth day of the Tour of Utah began amongst the serene backdrop of Antelope Island State Park. The peacefulness of the peloton’s surroundings was in stark contrast to the aggressive start. Before the peloton left the park, the day’s breakaway had already pulled itself clear. The speed in which the break went clear wasn’t due to apathy in the peloton, but a testament to the strength and will of the riders in the breakaway – including Evan Huffman. Joining Huffman in the leading group was Logan Owen (Axeon Hagens Berman), Julien Bernard (Trek Segafredo), Simon Pellaud (IAM Cycling), Brayan Stiven Sanchez Vergara (Jamis), Alexander Cataford (Silber), Frederic Brun (Fortuneo–Vital Concept), Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare), Thomas Vaubourzeix (Lupus), Tom Bohli (BMC) and Daniel Eaton (UnitedHealthcare).

The 11 riders worked well together and the gap quickly grew over the five-minute mark. At the top of the first major climb, North Ogden Divide, Eaton took the King of the Mountain (KOM) points ahead of Vergara and Jones. The gap remained steady en route to the second climb of the day of Trappers Loop. At the second KOM of the day was taken by Sanchez followed by Eaton and Cataford. Unlike at the Tour of California, Huffman had no interest in chasing King of the Mountain points and was focused on winning the stage.

On the road down to Bountiful, the peloton began to apply pressure and lead group’s advantage began to disappear. As they closed in on the final two circuits, the gap was down to two minutes. Sensing the peloton on their heels, the pace in the breakaway increased, resulting is several riders being dropped. Huffman made the selection along with Bernard, Jones, Pellaud, and Cataford. Bohi would regain contact with the five leaders at the base of Bountiful Bench. Once on the climb, Bernard broke clear and made a solo bid for stage glory.

On the second climb up Bountiful Bench a chase group emerged from the crumbling peloton. Led by Matthew Busche (UnitedHealthcare) absorbed the Huffman group and then quickly reeled in Bernard. Busche made a move before Eddie Dunbar (Axeon Hagens Berman) countered and took Janier Acevedo (Jamis), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon Hagens Berman) and Atapuma (BMC) off the front with him. The four riders made a strong quartet – too strong for the likes of what remained of the peloton, and they were reeled in. At the start of the final decent the remnants of the field were back together and the stage would be decided in a sprint. Crossing the line first was Kiel Reijnen (Trek Segafredo) ahead of Tao Geoghegan Hart and Alex Howes (Cannondale Drapac) Rob Britton finished in ninth and maintained his sixth place on the general classification.

Behind the Scenes
Bikes on Tour

We met Salt Lake City resident George Croft with a mint condition, vintage Diamondback.

"I bought it 20 or 30 years ago. It was a mountain bike and I put road tires on it. I get about 25 miles a day on it in the morning, 6 or 7 days a week. Its my form of entertainment and exercise. Almost everyone passes on their faster road bikes. But hey, if I got there quicker I wouldn't feel like I got the workout I needed."