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Moninger cycles to Tour win

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SNOWBIRD — After losing the race before his home crowd, Jeff Louder threw off his towel and said: "Oh man! I can't even win a bike race."

And although Louder of Salt Lake was disappointed in the finish, thousands of fans still cheered him on as the Tour of Utah made six stops throughout the state this week.

The Tour concluded Saturday with Scott Moninger as the overall winner. The race ended with 54 riders; it had begun with 105. Seventeen riders did not finish the 91-mile Snowbird Road Race, from Deer Valley Resort to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, the final stage of the Tour — a searing end to an exciting week of world-class riding.

The two grueling mountain stages — the fourth stage, which saw 20 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation across Mt. Nebo at an altitude of 9,345 feet, and the final — decided the outcome of the week-long race.

For once, it seemed that Team Navigators would sweep the race. In the fourth stage, the team invested heavily to stave off then race leader Chris Wherry of Toyota United. That helped another fierce climber, Moninger of Health Net. Moninger, Louder's teammate, never looked back from there.

By the start of Saturday's second climb to the Suncrest summit, the breakaway leaders had been brought back by the chasers to 2 minutes, 15 seconds, as Team Navigators and Toyota United were forcing Health Net to set the pace of the chase group. Team Navigators' riders Cesar Grajales and Burke Swindlehurst tried to escape on the climb but were chased and caught by Moninger and Louder. Then Glen Chadwick attacked, and Louder faltered slightly, unable to respond immediately.

Moninger, playing the team role for his leader, covered the attack to preserve the win for the team.

"Sitting on a draft is not always good. Jeff (Louder) wasn't having the best of days," Moninger said. "Chadwick attacked and I had to go."

In the process, Moninger took the overall lead winning the Tour with a total time of 14 hours, 57 minutes and 50 seconds.

"We thought Jeff would go and not Scott," Navigators team director Ed Beamon said. "But we got beaten by a guy who rode great both tactically and physically."

Chadwick and Louder were second and third, respectively.

"I am proud of the team's result," said Louder, who was cheered by countless supporters lining various points of the course. "I could have killed myself to not let my fans down and win. But I couldn't. It's a bitter feeling."

Louder finished 2:24 behind Caldwell and 1:03 behind Moninger and Chadwick on a day which saw more than 12,000 feet of climbing over three major climbs and a number of steep smaller ones.

"It was hard. There were no head winds and we had to keep pushing the saddle," Moninger said. "It was a great competition. Feels good to win."

An early breakaway along the flat roads approaching the first climb to the Alpine Loop summit helped Blake Caldwell of Team TIAA CREF win the stage. Caldwell barely managed to hold on to the lead as the chase came on hard during the final climb of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

"Our team goal was to win the stage," Caldwell said. "I tried to hold the lead as long as possible."

Caldwell finished with a time of 3 hours and 29 seconds. He was 11 seconds ahead of hard-charging KJZZ Composite team rider Neil Shirley and 21 seconds in front of third-place finisher Phil Zajicek of Navigators.

Swindlehurst, another hometown favorite, finished the stage 1 minute and 47 seconds behind the stage winner. Swindlehurst began the day's stage in fourth place, 52 seconds behind Louder, and finished in fourth place on General Classification, 1 minute and 16 seconds behind overall winner Moninger.

Swindlehurst said he was satisfied with his team's effort.

"I am not disappointed at all," he said. "I gave my 100 percent. Chadwick gave everything. The team rode well and the race turned out good. I put everything into the pedal, but got beat."

E-mail: schakraborty@desnews.com