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Tour of Utah: Thrills, spills and controversy as Italian Umberto Marengo claims Logan stage

LOGAN — With relatively little climbing in Tuesday’s Stage 1 of the Tour of Utah, the sprinters were expected to challenge. All appeared to be on track as a five-man breakaway held a two-minute lead over the peloton most of the day. After winding around northern Utah, the cyclists came back to Logan for five, 7-mile laps to finish the race.

And then, all heck broke loose.

A crash with 20 miles remaining wreaked havoc on multiple riders’ bikes. With just over a lap remaining, the overall yellow jersey rider, James Piccoli, suffered a flat tire. In the end, six cyclists broke away on the last lap as NSK Neri Sottoli Selle Italia KTM rider Umberto Marengo earned the stage win.

“The team worked perfectly as we had a teammate in the breakaway so no one had to work very hard until the final laps,” Marengo said. “When our teammate, Sebastian Bongiorno, had a flat tire, the team moved forward and the end was perfect as I launched the sprint and won.”

Near disaster, that later proved disastrous for the winner of Monday’s prologue, James Piccoli. The Elevate-KHS rider had to be pulled back to the peloton with help from his teammates. After the race, there were a few hard feelings as race etiquette normally calls for the yellow jersey not to be attacked after an equipment malfunction.

“I got a flat tire at the bottom corner with one lap to go,” Piccoli said. “I made it back on the climb, but I didn’t have much to cover attacks over the top. It’s a shame that the situation was taken advantage of, but I guess that’s bike racing. It’s part of the deal.”

Piccoli was assessed a 20-second penalty related to the flat tire. That additional time dropped the former yellow jersey leader all the way to 13th place. The Canadian rider is 26 seconds off the lead.

“We got a little unlucky in the last 10 km with a mechanical, but the guys did awesome,” said Paul Abrams, Elevate-KHS manager. “We burned up every guy today but the big day is tomorrow and today we showed what good teamwork looks like.”

The rider who ultimately benefited most from Piccoli’s misfortune was EF Education First rider Lawson Craddock. The American finished 2nd on Monday’s prologue and 2nd on the Logan Stage. Craddock will take a six second lead into Tuesday’s Brigham City to Powder Mountain stage.

“I attacked with about 4 km when we went over the top of the climb,” Craddock said. “Trek Segafredo made it really hard but there was a slight incline with about 3.5 km remaining that looked like a good place to launch an attack, and it just kind of went from there.”

Craddock showed up to the post-race press conference wearing a big straw hat. He was thrilled to be wearing yellow but felt bad for Piccoli.

“Our director came on the radio and let us know what happened and that Piccoli had made it back on the peloton,” Craddock said. “That is a really unfortunate that something like that may play a factor in the race but when you have 7 km to go you have to race your bike.”

Tuesday’s Stage 2 begins in Brigham City in front of the Box Elder County Courthouse. After a 34-mile loop through the northern part of the county, the race passes through Brigham City again. After circling Pine View Reservoir twice, cyclists will bear down as they endure the massive climb to the summit of Powder Mountain with a finish at Hidden Lake Lodge.

Stage 1 results:

1. Umberto Marengo — Nero Sottoli Selle Italia KTM — 3:23.32

2. Lawson Craddock — EF Education First — 3:23.32

3. Avila Vanegas Edwin Alcibiades — Israel Cycling Academy — 3:23.32

4. Griffin Easter — 303 Project — 3:23.32

5. Joao Almeida — Hagens Berman Axeon — 3:23.32

6. Sebastian Schonberger — Neri Sottoli Selle Italia KTM — 3:23.32

7. Travis McCabe — Worthy Pro Cycling — 3:23.38

8. Michael Rice — Hagens Berman Axeon — 3:32.38

9. Tyler Magner — Rally UHC Cycling — 3:23.38

10. Cole Davis — Hagens Berman Axeon — 3:23.38

Overall standings:

1. Lawson Craddock — EF Education First — 3:32.09

2. Joao Almeida — Hagens Berman Axeon — 3:32.15

3. Serghei Tvetcov — Worthy Pro Cycling — 3:32.21

4. Kyle Murphy — Rally UHC Cycling — 3:32.27

5. Gavin Mannion — Rally UHC Cycling — 3:32.27

6. Joe Dombrowski — EF Education First — 3:32.30

7. Guillaume Boivin — Israel Cycling Academy — 3:32.31

8. Keegan Swirbul — Worthy Pro Cycling — 3:32.32

9. Travis McCabe — Worthy Pro Cycling — 3:32.32

10. Ben Hermans — Israel Cycling Academy — 3:32.33