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Tour of Utah: Hermans goes back-to-back with masterful stage win in North Salt Lake City

Israel Cycling Academy rider Ben Hermans celebrates as he crosses the finish line in first during Stage 3 of the Tour of Utah at Eaglewood Golf Course in North Salt Lake on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.
Israel Cycling Academy rider Ben Hermans celebrates as he crosses the finish line in first during Stage 3 of the Tour of Utah at Eaglewood Golf Course in North Salt Lake on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.
Colter Peterson

NORTH SALT LAKE — Having won Wednesday’s stage, and leading the 2019 Tour of Utah by 26 seconds, Israel Cycling Academy’s Ben Hermans didn’t need to attack Thursday. And yet, with a 10-second time bonus and a potential stage win at stake, Hermans got out of his seat and pedaled away from the competition.

The Belgian rider broke from a group of five yellow jersey contenders, then aggressively surged past Kyle Murphy and Lawson Craddock just before reaching the summit. From there, it was all downhill to the finish and Hermans raised both hands in triumph as he crossed the finish line in front of Eaglewood Golf Course.

“Our team was under pressure, but we never lost control of the race,” Hermans said. “I didn’t have to do much until the last kilometer and I saw a 30-second gap, bridged it, and that was enough for the stage win.”

After winning Wednesday’s climb up Powder Mountain and spending time at altitude during post-stage ceremonies, Hermans wasn’t sure what to expect on Thursday.

“After the stage yesterday, I was a little scared because it was really hard and it is not easy to recover at this altitude,” he said. “Once I got to the hotel and once I got up this morning, I felt good.”

With that 10-second time bonus gained, and by finishing eight seconds in front of Elevate-KHS rider James Piccoli, Hermans stretched his overall lead in the 2019 Tour of Utah to 44 seconds.

Thursday’s stage featured 85.9 miles of racing, starting at Antelope Island before weaving through Davis County. After an up-and-down jaunt over the Bountiful Bench, things got interesting as cyclists readied for four 6-mile circuits, each one summiting the steep climb before the golf course.

Six riders eventually got into an early breakaway. One of them, Alex Howes from the EF Education First team, picked up bonuses for reaching the summit first, three times. He is the leader in the King of the Mountains competition heading into Friday.

“It was pretty flat the first part of the stage, coming off the island,” Howes said. “You could tell a lot of people wanted to be in the break.”

Part of Howes’ strategy of getting in the break was putting pressure on Hermans’ Israel Cycling Academy team. Once in the break, Howes had to mentally adjust for what was ahead.

“Once I got in the breakaway I thought, well, I’m going to be up here a long time and it’s going to hurt real bad, so I might as well just go for it.”

With one circuit remaining, Howes’ teammate Lawson Craddock, who was with the lead group, bridged the gap to his teammate to assault the Eaglewood climb one more time.

“It wasn’t my intention to go with one lap to go, but I saw Alex and his group was pretty close,” Craddock said. “I took a bit of a gamble, made the jump across to Alex but in the end it wasn’t enough for the win.”

Stage 4: Salt Lake City

For anyone who has never seen a live, professional cycling race, Friday is your day. Tour of Utah organizers, for the third time, will be running the traditional circuit race in downtown Salt Lake City. In years past, this stage finished in the middle of the afternoon. Friday, the race starts at 5:55 p.m. and is expected to finish around 8 p.m. With the sun setting near the climax of Friday’s race, spectators will enjoy a spectacular race with a number of viewing areas, including City Creek Canyon and Reservoir Park. Friday’s race is an 8-lap circuit race that features a steep descent on North Virginia Avenue and a severe incline on North State Street as the race starts and finishes on East Capitol Boulevard.

Stage 3 results:

1. Ben Hermans, Israel Cycling Academy 3:20.27

2. Kyle Murphy, Rally UHC Cycling (+7 seconds)

3. Niklas EG, Trek-Segafredo (+8)

4. Keegan Swirbul, Worthy Pro Cycling (+8)

5. James Piccoli, Elevate-KHS (+8)

6. Lawson Craddock, EF Education First (+11)

7. Joe Dombrowski, EF Education First (+21)

8. Matteo Badilatti, Israel Cycling Academy (+36)

9. Scott Bowden, Team Bridgelane (+36)

10. Joao Almeida, Hagens Berman Axeon (+42)

Overall

1. Ben Hermans, Israel Cycling Academy 10:30.24

2. James Piccoli, Elevate-KHS (+44)

3. Niklas EG, Trek Segafredo (+1:06)

4. Kyle Murphy, Rally UHC Cycling (+1:46)

5. Peter Stetina, Trek-Segafredo (+2:02)

6. Joe Dombrowski, EF Education First (+2:04)

7. Joao Almeida, Hagens Berman Axeon (+2:38)

8. Robert Britton, Rally UHC Cycling (+3:12)

9. Lawson Craddock, EF Education First (+3:17)

10. Matteo Badilatti, Israel Cycling Academy (+3:17)