After a one-year hiatus, the Tour of Utah will bring many of the nation's best professional cyclists back to the roads of the Beehive State.
Scaled back and less ambitious than it was planned for in 2007, the Tour of Utah will still be one of the top races in the country. The 2008 event, again sponsored by the Larry H. Miller group of companies, will have a purse of $75,000 with a new car going to the winner.
"We're expecting more than 120 cyclists from the best teams in North America," newly announced race director Terry McGinnis said. "This tour draws national attention, top-tier athletes, and will hopefully be one of only 25 USA Cycling National Race Calendar (NRC) events."
Currently scheduled Aug. 13-17, the five-stage race will include traditional road courses, a downtown criterium and a final-day time trial where racers will try to shave crucial seconds off their overall time in hopes of winning the yellow jersey and the new car.
Local pros Burke Swindlehurst, Jeff Louder and possibly Dave Zabriskie will likely be among the field of racers.
"The 2008 Tour of Utah is going to be a huge draw to Utah," said Swindlehurst, who recently joined the Bissell cycling team after riding for Toyota-United last year. "The Tour's generous purse, experienced organizers, foresighted planning, riders, crowds and events will mean one of the best cycling experiences of the year for the entire country. And it's going to be beautiful."
The 2008 Tour of Utah will kick off with a 101-mile race from Nephi through the Sanpete Valley and back to Nephi. There will also be the race's signature stage — a 99-mile, 14,778 vertical feet of climbing trek from Deer Valley around the mountains and up to Snowbird.
A lack of adequate sponsorship killed the 2007 tour, which was hoping to be longer, richer and on par with the Tours of California and Georgia.
With a revised outlook and more accurate view of sponsorship in the current cycling climate, the Tour of Utah will stay relatively small before trying to regain the UCI status it had for the doomed 2007 race.
"We're trying to crawl before we walk," McGinnis told VeloNews. "I think the previous race organizers tried to take too big of a leap last year. To make sure it gets put on, we'll run a tighter ship. We need to establish ourselves as a solid race. I think the previous management was very ambitious, but it's hard to raise that kind of money, that extra layer, and it's not required for good racing."
Zabriskie, who recently joined Team Slipstream after leaving Team CSC, and Louder, who also jumped ship to BMC Cycling from HealthNet/Maxxis, would be among the leading contenders to win the race next August if they participate.
Louder is one of the top cyclists on the domestic racing circuit with several top finishes in races across the country while Swindlehurst has been right there with him in many events. Zabriskie is fresh off a victory in the U.S. Pro time trial for the second consecutive year but may be focused on European races at the time the Tour of Utah is scheduled.
Aug. 13, Stage 1: Nephi to Nephi: The first day's event will mean 101 miles through rolling, central Utah. Beginning and ending in Nephi, racers will cut through neighboring towns of Fountain Green, Wales, Spring City, Fairview, Moroni and Mount Pleasant, covering a total of 4,851 feet of climbing.
Aug. 14, Stage 2: Salt Lake to Ogden: Four climbs and a flat finish — 9,960 feet of climbing. The road race will run 84 miles from Salt Lake City to Ogden, home of Weber State University.
Aug. 15, Stage 3: Downtown SLC Criterium: In the heart of Salt Lake City, the Downtown SLC Criterium is a 90-minute race around a flat, four-cornered track. Fast and furious, the circuit is one mile in length. After 90 minutes, the winner's probably done nearly 40 miles.
Aug. 16, Stage 4: Deer Valley to Snowbird: A mountaintop finish following four fierce climbs for a total of 14,778 vertical feet. From Deer Valley Resort in Park City, through the outskirts of Salt Lake to Snowbird Ski Resort: a road race of 99 mountainous miles.
Aug. 17, Stage 5: Miller Motorsports Park Individual TT: An 18-mile time trial starting and finishing at the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele. The course begins with a slight uphill, then drops and turns aggressively skyward to the turnaround, where racers will head back toward the finish. Short, with 650 feet of climbing, for a fast, tough time trial.