The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team showed great depth and power across the entire 4th stage of the 2016 Tour of Utah on Thursday. Former US national champion Matthew Busche raced into the breakaway of the day, allowing his teammates to sit in and save energy as they planned for attacks later on. When the 95.7-mile stage began to heat up and enter the finishing circuits in Kearns, Busche attacked ferociously, gaining a small gap immediately. The effort showed promise but was unsuccessful with an entire field of sprinters and lead out trains chasing the rider down. As the last breakaway rider standing, Busche was awarded the most aggressive rider jersey for the attempt.
With Busche back in the bunch, the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train began to organize for the sprint. Marco Canola would be the designated sprinter for the day, but the team still had cards to play in Tanner Putt and Janez Brajkovič. The combination of high desert heat and crosswinds after an already challenging stage made it difficult for any one team to take control of the race, allowing relentless attacks to fly off the front. At one point, Janez Brajkovič and Tanner Putt attacked in a group of ten that showed potential to stay away.
Ultimately, the peloton regained contact and sprints began to fly. Chris Jones led Marco Canola out for 4th place in the final sprint down the left side of the road, while Daniel Jaramillo tried his luck following wheels on the right, coming across the line with an impressive 7th place position for the climber. Sporting director Mike Tamayo was calling the shots from the team car and commented, “Overall we had a great day of racing, we wanted to shine today for our sponsors and the riders did that by animating the race at every point and showing outstanding teamwork.”
The team has been firing on all cylinders and moving through the 7-stage race with great momentum, earning top-10 finishes on each stage. With a breakaway far up the road early into stage 3, Utah native and determined all-rounder Tanner Putt went to the front of the peloton to drive the pace along with the Cannondale-Drapac Team. The goal of this effort was to keep the breakaway advantage manageable as the final climb neared, so that the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team climbers and GC threats would be in good position as the road tilted up. Tanner helped lead the peloton from kilometer 60 until the base of the climb, where Daniel Eaton and Chris Jones joined the effort in setting the pace up Mt. Nebo. As the road climbed up, a crash in the field caused chaos, mechanicals, and injuries. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling squad was unaffected by the crash, but an unfortunate mechanical event rendered Janez Brajkovič’s bike temporarily immobile while the support staff rushed to his aid. Brajkovič was able to chase back on the lead group, but an elite selection of general classification riders had gone up the road for the stage finish. Brajkovič and Jonny Clarke finished strong to limit losses, with Clarke coming across the line in 10th and Brajkovič in 12th. The riders showed outstanding cohesiveness and teamwork throughout the brutally hot stage, setting a strong tone for the remaining days of racing.
On Tuesday’s stage 2, Italian sprinter Marco Canola claimed 7th in the field sprint after a breakaway group of 2 riders managed to escape the peloton. With 3 stages now left in the 2016 Tour of Utah, expect the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team to keep attacking, working together, and creating opportunities across the vast Utah landscape.