By Tom Haraldsen
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY—The canyons and roadways in Cedar City are beautiful—but proved very challenging for 110+ riders who took off on Stage 1 of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah on Aug. 7. In the end, Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare) won a chaotic sprint to take the title. McCabe kicked early, around the final corner, and opened up a comprehensive gap on the rest of the field.
It marked a fitting climax to a day of fun, excitement and colorful celebration in Iron County. The final miles involved three laps around most of the Southern Utah University campus before finishing right where the riders had started more than 4 hours earlier—in front of the Southern Utah Museum of Art.
“There aren’t really any big sprinter teams because it’s such a heavy climbing race this year,” McCabe said, “so I just floated along and waited for the opportune time to sprint, opened it up with 250 meters to go and won.”
Ulises Alfredo Castillo (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) and Edwin Avila (Israel Cycling Academy) rounded out the top three.
The stage was dominated by an early break, with four riders leading the way up to the race’s highest elevation near Brian Head. On the long descent into Cedar City the sprinters’ teams began to take control. Until that point BMC Racing and Trek had set the tempo, before the last rider from the break, Daan Olivier (LottoNL-Jumbo), was caught.
That sparked a number of counter attacks with Luis Lemus (Israel Cycling Academy) the next rider to try his luck. Neilson Powless was the next to try with 7km to go, and despite opening up a short gap he was caught at the start of the final lap by a small group that contained Griffin Easter (303 Project), who thought the race was over, duly sprinted and raised his arms a lap early after thinking he had taken the win.
When McCabe came through to the front with over 200 meters to go it looked as though he had gone too early, but by now the remaining fast men were on the their own and without teammates. As soon as McCabe opened up a sprint, and gained an initial gap, the stage win was his.
“I waited until the lull came because it as an uphill tailwind,” McCabe said to the press. “I came in second wheel behind one of the Axeon guys who was going. As soon as you see guys start to open up around you, you don’t have a choice, you either go or if you wait you end up losing. With that tailwind I was confident. I wasn’t afraid, and it paid off.” McCabe won Stage 3 in Layton two days later, his fourth stage win overall in his history with Tour of Utah.
Race day saw large crowds come to cheer on the cyclists, as well as enjoy booths and displays from local businesses and vendors. For his efforts, McCabe received a beautiful wooden trophy from the Cedar Woodturners club, as well as a plaque and the traditional flowers that are awarded to the top three riders. It was a hot but beautiful day that allowed Iron County showcase its many wonders, even if the cyclists themselves might prefer to come back and visit when they have a little more time!