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Having attacked from the bottom of Empire Pass, Morton soloed to victory in the final stage of the Tour of Utah; the Australien won the race overall ahead of Costa and Talansky who could only manage fourth on the stage

Photo: Sirotti












07.08.2016 @ 23:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly) bounced back from yesterday’s huge disappointment by delivering the best performance of his show career on the final stage of the Tour of Utah, winning both the stage and the overall. The Australian attacked from the bottom of the Empire Pass and then kept increasing his advantage on the climb, negotiated the descent safely and soloed across the line to take his second stage win in the race. Adrien Costa (Axeon) finished second to move into second overall while Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) suffered massively and dropped to third in the overall standings.


After his big performance in stage 3, Lachlan Morton seemed to be on track for the Tour of Utah victory that had so dramatically eluded him after a similar performance in 2013. However, it suddenly looked like history would repeat itself when he was unable to follow Andrew Talansky in yesterday’s queen stage and slipped to second in the overall standings.


Morton was hugely disappointed after the stage and refused to speak to the media after he reached the finish. However, he had still not given up hope that he could turn things around and with the final stage including the Empire Pass and a 10km down run to the finish, he knew he had a chance to make up for the disappointment.


Morton was prepared to make a big gamble and so the peloton had barely hit the climb which is known as one of the hardest in the country before he took off. He immediately flew past the remnants of the early break and from there he never looked behind. Throughout the entire climb he kept increasing his advantage until he crested the summit with a big gap that allowed him to take no risks on the descent. In the end, he did what most had thought impossible yesterday as he again turned the GC on its heads and came away with both the stage win and the overall win.


The scenario couldn’t have been more different for Talansky who found himself in a completely different position than yesterday. After having followed a strange attack and spent part of the stage in a chase group, the race leader was distanced on the lower slopes of the climb and from there it was one long attempt to try to limit the losses. His teammate Joe Dombrowski did a marvelous job to help his leader but he could do nothing against Morton, Adrien Costa and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) who all left him behind. In the end, he slipped to third overall behind Morton and Costa who again proved his impressive potential by taking second on both the stage and GC.


After yesterday’s queen stage, there was another difficult challenge on the menu in stage 7. The 125.7km around Park City had a flat start before the riders got to the Wolf Creek Ranches climb at the midpoint. From there, they descended to the intermediate sprint in Midway at the bottom of the steep Empire Pass which averaged 8% over 12km. The first 6km were the steepest and it got significantly easier in the final 4km. The top came 10.7km from the finish and was followed by a very technical descent that ended at the flamme rouge where the riders took two turns in quick succession. From there, it was slightly uphill all the way to the finish.


Unlike in the previous stages, it was raining when riders gathered for the short, final battle around Park City. They had wet roads for the neutral ride but luckily, they were back on dry tarmac for the real start.


As it has been the case in the last few days, Fortuneo-Vital Concept attacked as soon as the flag was dropped and today it was Steven Tronet making the first move. He failed to get clear though and in general the many attacks in the first few kilometres were unrewarded.


The first rider to get a significant gap was Mathieu Jeannes (Lupus) and he was soon joined by Taylor Eisenhart (BMC). The young American went straight past the Lupus rider before Tanner Putt (Unitedhealthcare) joined him from behind.


As rain started to fall, Putt was briefly dropped on a wet descent but made it back to sit on Eisenhart’s wheel as the American powered along without even looking back at his companion. While the duo pressed on, the peloton suddenly split into two big groups and Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale) was one of the riders that found himself caught out in the second bunch.


Unitedhealthcare really went on the offensive as Daniel Eaton and one of his teammates were among four riders to bridge across to the two leaders but they were soon caught by the first bunch. Hayden McCormick (ONE) went on an immediate attack on the descent but he was brought back as they returned to flat roads.


Trek went on the attack with Peter Stetina and he was joined by the likes of Damiano Cunego (Nippo), Larry Warbasse (IAM), Travis McCabe (Holowesko), Dylan Teuns (BMC) and Janier Acevedo (Jamis). As they were caught, Teuns went again and this time he got company from Warbasse, one from Lupus and a Silber rider but this move also failed.


Warbasse was extremely aggressive and after a bit of attacking he escaped alongside Joey Rosskopf (BMC) but Unitedhealtcare shut it down. Next it was Robbie Carpenter (Holowesko) escaping with a BMC rider but they had no luck either.


David Tanner (IAM) featured prominently in a small group that escaped just before the intermediate sprint but they were brought back in time for McCabe to take maximum points ahead of Simon Pellaud (IAM and James Oram (ONE). Pellaud then tried to create a small group but there was still no room to escape.


Rosskopf instigated what seemed to be the right move when he created a group that also included Eaton, Chris Jones (Unitedhealthcare), Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Carpenter. However, it wa way too big for Cannondale and so they chased it down.


Just before the catch was made, Carpenter attacked again and he drew an 8-rider group clear. Another two riders bridged across and then the peloton slowed down and it was clear that the group had gone.


Carpenter, Warbasse, Jacopo Mosca (Trek), Acevedo, Evan Huffman (Rally), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon), Richard Handley (ONE), Angus Morton (Jelly Belly), Matthew Busche (UnitedHealthcare) and Bryan Lewis (Lupus) quickly built an advantage of 2 minutes before they entered the final 80km but it didn’t take long for Cannondale to start the chase. The team lined out their troops on the front and it was Ben King who did the early work to keep the break under control.


Cannondale allowed the gap to go out to 3.20 before they hit the first climb where heavy rain started to fall. After King had set a steady tempo on the lower slopes, BMC launched a surprise attack with Eisenhart and Darwin Atapuma. While they tried to create an advantage, Mosca led Lewis, Handley, Warbasse and Morton over the top of the climb.


Atapuma and Eisenhart forced Cannondale to chase hard and so the peloton splintered into four big groups. As they reached the top, the first bunch was just 2.10 behind the leaders. Meanwhile, Luis Romero (Jamis) and Peter Stetina (Trek) abandoned.


Cannondale brought the two BMC riders back just after the top of the climb, with four of their riders leading a group of 10-15. As they slowed down again, a regrouping took place and then BMC attacked again, this time with Joey Rosskopf and Dylan Teuns. Surprisingly, Talansky followed the move, and he stayed glued to Rosskopf’s wheel when the BMC rider left his teammate Teuns behind.


An attentive Adrien Costa (Axeon) bridged the gap to Rosskopf and Talansky and suddenly the trio had an advantage of 20 seconds. Rosskopf didn’t look back and just kept riding with Talansky and Costa sitting on his wheel. Hence, the trio hit the final 50km just 50 seconds behind the leaders and 45 seconds ahead of the peloton.


Rosskopf rode hard down the wet descent as he tried to get rid of his companions while the Rally team had lined out three riders on the front of the peloton, trying to bring Rob Britton back into contention. Further up the road, Morton was dropped from the front group and passed by the chasers. They also passed Huffman who was asked to wait for the peloton and his Rally teammates.


Warbasse, Carpenter, Lewis and Geoghegan Hart managed to drop their companions before Rosskopf, Talansky, Costa and Handley who had been picked up by the chasers, caught Mosca, Busche and Acevedo.  With 30km to go, the seven chasers were 55 seconds behind the four leaders while the peloton was at 2.00 and still led by Rally.


There was no cooperation in the chase group and so they kept attacking each other. Rosskopf was by far the most active and he briefly got cleat together with Mosca. However, Talansky and Costa worked well together to bring them back.


When Carpenter led Warbasse and Lewis across the line in the final intermediate sprint, the gaps were 1.15 and 1.35 respectively but now the chasers were cooperating better, with Costa keen on trying to move into second overall and so taking some solid turns alongside Rosskopf. However, it was all in vain and the chasers were soon brought back by the peloton.


Cannondale lined out their troops on the front and kept the front quartet at 1.20 as they headed into the final 20km. It had come down to 1.05 when they hit Empire Pass where King immediately created a big selection in the main group.


Surprisingly, Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly) attacked almost immediately and he quickly got an advantage while the Cannondale domestiques blew up in a matter of seconds. Instead, it was Eisenhart who led the chase for BMC, whittling the group down to less than 10 riders.


Morton sprinted past Lewis who had been dropped from the front group which was about to split up. Geoghegan Hart first dropped Warbasse and when Carpenter was also left behind, the young Axeon rider was the lone leader.


Warbasse paced himself well to pass both Carpenter and Geoghegan Hart but he couldn’t hold off Morton who approached from behind. He made the junction when 18km remained and he quickly dropped the IAM rider.


Further back, Atapuma attacked from the peloton and suddenly Talansky found himself distanced alongside his teammate Joe Dombrowski and one of the BMC riders. The defending champion did a great job to pace him back to the main group but the race leader was clearly suffering.


Talansky and Dombrowski fell behind again but slowly they made it back to Rob Britton (Rally). With Dombrowski doing the work, they tried to catch Atapuma, Costa and Geoghegan Hart who just a few seconds further up the road.


The two trios merged with 17km to go where Morton was 20 seconds up the road. After a short chance to recover, Dombrowski hit the front of the sextet and a big chase started. That was too much for Geoghegan Hart who was left behind.


Costa saw that Talansky was suffering and he made a big attack to try to try to bridge across to Morton. A little later, Atapuma joined the American while Talansky could only maintain his own pace, with Domrbowski constantly having to slow down to wait for his leader.


With 15km to go, Morton had an advantage of 1.05 over Costa and Atapuma while Dombrowski, Talansky and Britton were 10 seconds further adrift. From there, it was a big pursuit between the three groups, with the two chasers working well together and Dombrowski doing all the work in the third group.


Morton reached the top of the climb with advantages of 1.20 and 1.55 respectively. Atapuma attacked Costa as they crested the summit while Dombrowski led Talansky and Britton over the top.


Morton took no chances on the tricky descent but that can’t be said for Costa. The American quickly closed the gap to Atapuma and then left the Colombian behind.


While Costa increased his advantage, Morton hit the uphill finishing straight and started to celebrate early before he crossed the line, falling to the ground immediately. Costa reached the finish 31 seconds later, with Atapuma completing the podium 18 seconds later. Dombrowski dropped Talansky and Britton in the uphill finale and then waited for his team leader before pushing him across the line with a time loss of 1.50. The defending champion was fifth while Britton crossed the line in sixth.


The result allowed Morton to take the overall victory with an advantage of 1.09 over Costa while Talansky slips to third, 1.31 behind the Australian. Kiel Reijnen (Trek) wins the points competition and Costa is both the best climber and the best young rider. BMC wins the teams competition.


With the Tour of Utah done and dusted, the attention in North America turns to the biggest Canadian stage race, Tour of Alberta, which kicks off on August 31.



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