Going into the stage in third overall, Ben Hermans got a scare in stage 5 of the Tour of Utah when he hit the deck inside the final 25km of the race. The Belgian managed to rejoin the peloton in time for the sprint finish and hopes to have the same good feelings in the upcoming mountina stages.
BMC Racing Team's Rick Zabel finished a season-best fifth while teammate Ben Hermans was sixth and chased back after a late crash to hold onto his third place overall Friday at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
Zabel notched his third top 10 finish of the week, adding to a pair of seventh place finishes on Stages 1 and 3. And, like he did at the Miller Sports Motorsports Park finish on Wednesday, he had help in the lead out from teammates Michael Schär – who won Stage 2 – and Cadel Evans, who remained ninth in the overall standings with two days of the race to go.
"I was fifth with 500 meters to go, but it was unbelievably fast," Zabel said. "With 250 meters to go, I began my sprint and got out into the wind but it was just too fast. So I went back on the wheel. Then I just stayed fifth. But honestly, this was was the maximum for me because after Ben's crash, I had to bring him back. So I lost some energy there."
Eric Young (Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies) took the win ahead of Jure Kocjan (Smartstop Pro Cycling Team) and Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team).
Hermans went down on his left side with 20 kilometers to go in the 163.1-km race that featured the first start in Wyoming in the race's 10-year history.
"We took a left turn and because of the nervous peloton, I got pushed out of the corner," Hermans said. "I don't know what happened. My bike got blocked and I crashed. I wanted to start again but I had to switch bikes. Fortunately, the peloton waited and my teammates took me to the front just in time before a gravel road, so that was good."
Hermans remains 57 seconds behind race leader Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp). He is tied on time with Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida), who holds down second place on the basis of tie-breaking criteria. Runner-up to Danielson on Thursday's summit finish at Powder Mountain, Hermans said he was feeling good until the crash.
"Before the crash, I had really good legs," he said. "I saw a lot of people suffering in the altitude, but I was fresh and good. We will have to see how it goes tomorrow, if I still have the same good feeling in the legs."
For the second straight day, BMC Racing Team's Brent Bookwalter was part of a breakaway. What started as a three-man escape grew to six but was reduced to three on the long run-in to Kamas that featured a headwind.
"We were working very well, but it was still no match for 100 riders flowing down the canyon," Bookwalter said. "Everyone was getting pretty tired, but we were still giving it what we had until the first attacks started happening."
The trio was caught with three kilometers to go, setting up the bunch sprint. Zabel and Hermans's top 10 finishes, combined with Danilo Wyss in 26th place, helped the BMC Racing Team earn the "best team" prize for the third time in five days. In the overall team standings, BMC Racing Team trails Lampre-Merida by 38 seconds.
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