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Tour of Utah: Marco Canola electrifies Salt Lake City with scintillating Stage 4 sprint finish

Marco Canola of team Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane celebrates after winning Stage 4 of the Tour of Utah in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019.
Marco Canola of team Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane celebrates after winning Stage 4 of the Tour of Utah in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — With the sun setting and thousands of Utah cycling fans on the Tour of Utah course, Salt Lake City witnessed a world-class cycling race. Cyclists maneuvered around the Avenues seven times before churning up the steep State Street incline and passing just east of the Utah State Capitol.

On the eighth and final lap, with fans ringing cowbells, screaming and clapping the barriers, Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane rider Marco Canola surged late to edge the hard-riding fan favorite, Worthy Pro Cycling’s Travis McCabe.

“The last 20 meters was a great feeling for me to win in Salt Lake City,” Canola said. “It’s really fantastic for me. I like this city, I like this atmosphere. It was a perfect day for me.”

As Canola sat for the post-race press conference, his entire right leg was bandaged. He had scars on his arms, left leg and his face and even had a bit of road rash on his back from a fall that nearly threatened him continuing the tour.

“Two days ago, I thought my Tour of Utah was finished,” Canola said about the crash. “I slept poorly, like 3-4 hours after that crash, but Thursday was a new day and one of my goals coming here was to win this stage at the Tour of Utah.”

With about 200 meters left in Friday’s stage, Arapahoe/Hincapie rider Brendan Rhim launched for the finish line. Shortly after Rhim went, McCabe followed. Canola ducked to the right and slowly edged past McBride over the last 50 meters of the race.

That new feature of finishing the race near sundown proved to be a massive success as Salt Lake residents were stacked around the entire 6.5 mile course. McCabe, who won the sprint jersey at the 2017 and 2018 tours and took the lead in that competition Friday, was a big fan of the time change.

“Having it in the evening allows people to get off work, come out and watch a brutally tough, two-hour race,” McCabe said. “We had people lined up on the course the entire time so I thought having it at night was a pretty cool experience and I hope the Tour of Utah does it again.”

With very few sprint finishes in this year’s tour, McCabe felt like teams and riders got greedy on Thursday’s stage, not letting the breakaway group stay away. On Friday, the fan-favorite rider managed to get in the break and thought it had a chance to stick until the end.

“The plan was to get someone in the break, preferably not me but it worked out that way,” he said. “It looked like a promising break and a win would have been pretty fantastic, but I’m happy that Marco won and that I finished well.”

There is no change in the overall standings as race leader Ben Hermans of the Israel Cycling team raced to stay out of trouble. Heading into the final two stages of the Tour of Utah, Hermans has a 44-second lead over Elevate-KHS rider James Piccoli.

Stage 5: Canyons Village at Park City

Saturday’s stage features an 85.1 mile ride with just over 5,000 feet of climbing. For the first time in Tour of Utah history, Canyons Village at Park City Mountain Resort will host both the start and finish. Initially cyclists will trail across Summit County and riders will pass both Jordanelle and Rockport reservoirs. Riders will find their way to Kimball Junction with some serious elevation gain in the last 6 miles. Riders will cross the top of Utah Olympic Park then face a furious descent on Bear Hollow Drive. The finish is uphill along Canyons Resort Drive and High Mountain Road to the finish.

Stage 4 results:

1. Marco Canola, Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane 1:56.54

2. Travis McCabe, Worthy Pro Cycling (same time)

3. Brendan Rhim, Arapahoe/Hincapie (same time)

4. Pablo Andres Alarcon, Canel’s Specialized (same time)

5. Guillaume Boivin, Israel Cycling Academy (same time)

6. Peter Stetina, Trek-Segafredo (same time)

7. James Piccoli, Elevate-KHS (same time)

8. Joe Dombrowski, EF Education First (same time)

9. Ben Hermans, Israel Cycling Academy (same time)

10. Griffin Easter, 303 Project (same time)

General Classification:

1. Ben Hermans, Israel Cycling Academy 12:27.18

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

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 (+2:48)

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

9. Rob Britton, Rally UHC Cycling (3:22)

10. Matteo Badilatti, Israel Cycling Academy (3:54)