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Canadian Rob Britton takes control of Tour of Utah with brilliant time-trial climb

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — As Rally Cycling’s Rob Britton entered the chute to start Wednesday’s 5.6-mile uphill time trial that finished at Brighton ski resort, he had all the information he needed. Previous Rally riders gave Britton an indication of how the course was riding, where the wind was blowing and how and where time could be made up.

With a time of 18:42 having been laid down by team Jelly Belly rider, Serghei Tvetcov, Britton charged from the gate. At the intermediate time check he was just one second down. Having ridden the course, and knowing the final two kilometers were over 8,000 feet, Britton just kept climbing. By race end, the 32-year old Canadian had earned 13 seconds between himself and his nearest competitor while assuming the yellow jersey as the Tour of Utah’s overall leader.

“I knew I was 2nd at the intermediate but not how close I was,” Britton said “Over the last kilometer you kinda have to dig really deep because once you get over that last little crest, you don’t have a lot of space to gain time but you can potentially lose time, so the last 2k I just held on and dug as deep as I could.”

Britton, who finished 5th in the 2016 Tour of Utah, used the strong ride to vault into the tour’s overall lead with a 26-second advantage over United Health Care rider, Gavin Mannion, who finished third in Wednesday’s stage.

While the tour has four days remaining, Britton says he’s confident the yellow jersey will stay with Rally Cycling.

“This has been my objective pretty much since California and one of my main objectives of the year,” Britton said. “With today’s ride and how I felt yesterday, we’re right where we want to be. We brought the team to take care of me and Sepp (Kuss) so yeah, I’m very confident.”

Wednesday’s time trial opened up some rather large gaps on the field as sprinters and nonclimbers finished minutes behind the time trial specialists. Just eight riders are within one minute of the overall lead, including Mannion who is having a good summer for United Health Care.

“It was a hard stage, at really high altitude so I think pacing was pretty crucial,” Mannion said “For me, I just tried to ride a steady pace even though the first half is a lot faster. It's kind of hard to do power toward the end so I just went out on a good tempo and was definitely suffering and felt terrible all day.”

Mannion indicated his United Health Care squad is having some health issues this week but still thinks he and teammate Jonathon Clarke can do some damage in the coming days.

“I kinda used the Cascade race a couple of weeks ago as good training and I’m looking forward to the next four days of racing,” Mannion said.

For Holowesko Citadel rider and Lehi resident TJ Eisenhart, Wednesday’s stage had to be at least a little disappointing. Eisenhart said he’d been thinking about this stage since it was announced as a venue earlier in the year.

Prior to the race, Eisenhart talked about what a special place Big Cottonwood Canyon has been for him.

“When I was 17 years old I won my first race here, the Porcupine Hill Climb, and so I have a lot of good memories on this climb and know it well.”

Eisenhart showed some solid tempo riding up the canyon, having the 12th best ride of the day. His time of 19:21 was 51 seconds back of Britton. In the overall classification, Eisenhart currently sits in 7th place, 58 seconds behind the race leader with four days remaining.

TOUR OF UTAH NOTES

Thursday’s Stage 4 covers 125 miles with a new start and finish in South Jordan. Starting on Redwood Road next to South Jordan City Park, the race will head to the West Desert using State Roads 36 and 73 to connect to the old Pony Express Trail in Tooele County.

Stage 3 results: Top 10

1 141 BRITTON Robert, RLY 00:18:29.9400

2 1 TVETCOV Serghei, JBC 00:18:42.5000 +12.56

3 24 MANNION Gavin, UHC 00:18:55.5000 +25.56

4 16 ROSSKOPF Joseph, BMC 00:18:55.6800 +25.74

5 43 CICCONE Giulio, BRD 00:18:59.6900 +29.75

6 103 MURPHY Kyle, CPC 00:19:03.5500 +33.61

7 97 POWLESS Neilson, AHB 00:19:07.0500 +37.11

8 17 SENNI Manuel, BMC 00:19:07.3100 +37.37

9 46 STERBINI Simone, BRD 00:19:10.4300 +40.49

10 4 SWIRBUL Keegan, JBC 00:19:15.9300 +45.99

Overall race leader

  1. Robert Britton - Rally Cycling - 8:53.32
  2. Gavin Mannion - UHC - -26
  3. Serghei Tvetcov - Jelly Belly - -28
  4. Kyle Murphy - Cyclance Cycling - -34
  5. Neilson Powless - Axeon Hagens Berman - .38