It’s been a tough year, so to get back to this top step is very special, and a lot of people were involved with that. – Lachlan Morton
PARK CITY — Entering the day trailing Cannondale Drapac’s Andrew Talansky by 22 seconds, Team Jelly Belly rider Lachlan Morton figured he had just one option, attack. At the base of Empire Pass, Morton jumped out of his saddle, hit the accelerator, passed four riders ahead of him like they were standing still, and just kept going.
By the time he reached the summit, Talansky was two minutes back, and after a quick descent into Park City, and a short climb up Park City’s Main Street, Morton had erased the 22-second deficit and turned it into a winning margin of 1:09 to put a spectacular cap on the 2016 Tour of Utah.
“It’s been a tough year so to get back to this top step is very special, and a lot of people were involved with that,” Morton said. “It’s easy for people to come out and congratulate you and pat you on the back when you do something good, but I was thinking about my support group and the people that had been there for me during the tough moments on the final 5K of that climb.”
At the start of Stage 7, Cannondale-Drapac had visions of producing a fourth consecutive champion. But Talansky spent part of the day playing catchup with BMC rider Joey Roskopf and just didn’t have the legs for the final climb, despite an assist from 2015 tour champion Joe Dombrowski.
“I said to somebody this morning that having the defending champion in this race working for you is pretty special,” Talansky said. “Honestly, today wasn’t my day, but it’s very, very motivating to have a world-class rider like Joe be with you, or working for you.”
Talansky finished the day trailing Morton by 1:39, dropping to third in the overall standings.
Several times during this year’s tour, competing teams questioned whether Jelly Belly, a domestic team riding in the United States, had the strength to keep Morton in contention, especially over the final two mountain stages.
Morton said his team answered the bell and any question posed with a big effort all week, but especially when it counted.
“This week my team was incredible,” Morton said. I think people didn’t expect our team to be as strong as they were, but I had two teammates with me today when I needed them.”
The 2016 Tour of Utah may prove to be the launching pad for 18-year-old Axeon Hagens Berman rider Adrien Costa. The Bend, Oregon, native made his first appearance a memorable one, finishing 31 seconds behind Morton on the stage and 1:09 behind to finish second overall.
With such an impressive debut, Costa will likely be fielding calls from pro teams, but he says he’s going to appreciate the moment and join his current team next season.
“It’s easy to get ahead of yourself, get a result like this or something in Europe and a pro team is knocking on your door,” Costa said. "But like Lachlan said earlier, it’s important to enjoy the results as they come, and I am excited to be back with this super fun group of guys next season.”
Costa won the Best Young Rider and King of the Mountain jerseys to add to his impressive haul during his first ride in Utah.
Sprint champion Trek Segafredo’s Kiel Reijnen endured a bad fall on day one of the race, but rebounded nicely with a second-place finish on Stage 4 and a Stage 5 win in Bountiful.
Riding for his new team, Reijnen was happy with his effort but nervous about Sunday’s course when rain started to fall during the race.
“The weather was definitely not on our side,” Reijnen said. “I think I just had my fingers crossed at the descent through Wolf Creek, the wettest point on the course.”
For Lehi resident TJ Eisenhart, a 12th place finish during his pro debut in his home state was an added bonus for the work he put in for the BMC team.
Eisenhart’s teammate, BMC rider, Darwin Atapuma finished fourth overall, trailing Morton by 1:57 by tour’s end.