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United Health Care’s Travis McCabe conquers Bountiful bench to claim Stage 5 of Tour of Utah

BOUNTIFUL — With Bountiful’s East Bench taking a toll on the field at the 2017 Tour of Utah, United Health Care sprinter Travis McCabe was clearly suffering as he struggled to maintain contact with a main field that had splintered to about 20 riders. As the field crested the final summit, McCabe was about 200 meters down, but with the help of a teammate, McCabe worked himself into position and then pounced.

Riding the wheel of teammate Jonathon Clarke, and the energy of a jam-packed Main Street in Bountiful, McCabe charged into the lead and thrust his arms triumphantly into the air as he crossed the line to win Stage 5 of the Tour of Utah.

“It was a pretty fast finish with a slight downhill. I was just patient and waited until about 250 meters to go and opened it up,” McCabe said. “I love Utah and I’ve done this now for a third year and know just how hard it is, so to get a win is quite emotional.”

McCabe finished third on Stage 1 of the tour and talked about how good sprinters have to be good climbers and be able to suffer. The East Bench made plenty of riders suffer, but McCabe fought through the pain to get the stage win.

“You just have to turn off the brain and suffer as much as you can and you make it or you don’t,” McCabe said.

For Marco Canola, the second-place finish was the first podium appearance for the Nippo Vini Fantini team at this year’s tour.

“Today we tried, and I’m not 100 percent in my condition,” Canola said. “I was hoping for the other general classification rider to go hard to the top of the climb, but then they stopped so other riders came from the back.”

Third on Friday’s stage was Axeon Hagens Berman rider Logan Owen, a former winner of the Bountiful stage who used his experience to his advantage.

“I just sat in back all day and tried to save energy,” Owen said. “It was a stage I’d targeted because I’ve won here before, and the team looked after me all day.”

Early in Friday’s stage, Holowesko Citadel rider Robin Carpenter crashed. Carpenter hit the deck hard and even cracked his helmet as another rider went by. With no cell service near the lake and no extra helmet in the two team cars, Carpenter said he was ready to jump in the team car and abandon the race when someone shouted that a fan up ahead had a helmet.

“I had to walk 300 meters up the road to get it because they wouldn’t’ let me continue on with a broken helmet,” Carpenter said. “I was two seconds from climbing in the car and calling it and someone in the broom wagon was telling me that someone had a helmet 500 meters up the road.”

When Carpenter finally climbed back in the saddle he was 10 minutes down on the peloton. After chasing for 30 minutes, Carpenter caught the main field, put on an official team helmet, and eventually finished 4th on the stage.

Following Friday’s Stage 5, the yellow jersey (overall leader) is still up for grabs. Rally Cycling’s Rob Britton maintains a 26-second lead over United Health Care rider Gavin Mannion, with six other riders within a minute of the overall lead.

For Stage 6, known as the Queen Stage, cyclists for the 10th consecutive year will end with the always difficult climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon with a finish at Snowbird. This year's stage is just 61 miles as riders start at Soldier Hollow, travel around Deer Creek Reservoir before tackling the Alpine Loop, a category 1 climb. The final six miles up to Snowbird features gradients of 8-12 percent. A great location to view the race is the Tanner’s Flat area that regularly sees the largest crowds, some with the best and most innovative costumes seen throughout the tour.

Stage 5 results:

1. Travis McCabe — United Health Care

2. Marco Canola — Nippo — Vini Fantini

3. Logan Owen — Aexeon Hagens Berman

4. Robin Carpenter — Holowesko Citadel

5. Brent Bookwalter — BMC

Overall results:

1. Rob Britton — Rally Cycling

2. Gavin Mannion — United Health Care — (-26)

3. Serghei Tvetcov — Jelly Belly — (-28)

4. Neilson Powless — Axeon Hagens Berman — (-38)

5. Brent Bookwalter — BMC - (-44)