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Tour of Utah to deliver big-time cycling experience

Chris Horner, right, chases Ben Hermans to the finish line during stage four of the Tour of Utah at Powder Mountain, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.
Chris Horner, right, chases Ben Hermans to the finish line during stage four of the Tour of Utah at Powder Mountain, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.
Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

LOGAN — For the past two years, Bend, Oregon, resident Chris Horner has seen plenty of the yellow jersey of two-time defending Tour of Utah champion Tom Danielson. In each of the past two tours, Horner has finished runner-up.

At 43, and at the back end of his professional cycling career, Horner enters the 2015 Tour of Utah, which begins Monday in Logan, looking to win one of North America’s most coveted bike races.

“I’ve been training well and working hard to hopefully be back in the fight for the overall again this year,” Horner said.

Horner is coming off a five-day race in Oregon, and he hopes his legs are ready to go for the mountains of Utah.

“I think the course is ideal for me and for team Airgas Safeway,” Horner said. "It saves the hardest days for the end, so it will keep the race close to the very end. I think that suits my strength.”

If Horner is to dethrone Danielson, he’ll have to stay close on the difficult mountain stages. Danielson blew up the 2014 tour on the final ascent into Powder Mountain and no one seriously challenged him for the overall yellow jersey the rest of the way.

The 2015 Tour of Utah begins Monday as cyclists from 16 professional teams will bring 120 athletes representing 20 countries to the Beehive State, each with a design to conquer the rugged Wasatch Mountains. Monday’s stage offers spectators a chance to view cyclists on a 132-mile cruise around Bear Lake, featuring 6,553 feet of vertical climbing.

In 2014, the Tour of Utah unveiled its first-ever woman’s stage. The 2015 tour will feature a two-day woman’s professional race, sanctioned by USA Cycling, as participants compete Monday and Tuesday.

Stage two takes cyclists from Tremonton to Ogden and stage three begins at Antelope Island State Park and finishes with two nine-mile circuits that might feel a little personal to anyone who’s ever attempted to climb 400 North in Bountiful.

Todd Handy, the Davis County local organizing committee’s director of media and public relations for stage three of the Tour of Utah and a cycling enthusiast, has first-hand experience at the brutality of that climb.

“Local cyclists ride that regularly and only dream of being able to climb it as quickly as these professionals do,” Handy said. “That will be a great place to watch the riders, and since they’re doing two circuits, that, and any other place along the circuit, will afford two times the viewing pleasure of these amazing athletes.”

Handy is thrilled to have Davis County hosting a stage for the first time, and he encourages everyone in Utah to come out and see a world-class event.

“Several of the teams who will be competing in the Tour of Utah are fresh from the Tour de France, so we’re seeing the highest level of cycling right here in our back yard,” Handy said.

Stage four of the tour takes riders from Soldier Hollow to the Heber Valley.

Stages five and six center around Salt Lake City and then Salt Lake City to Snowbird.

The 2015 Tour of Utah culminates with a stage seven finish in Park City following a 78-mile ride that takes on 7,806 feet of climbing.

All told, cyclists that finish the tour will have covered 712 miles and climbed over 51,000 feet in elevation.