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Danielson won the first big mountain stage of the Tour of Utah after an exciting duel with Chris Horner on the steep Powder Mountain and took a comfortable lead in the overall classification

Photo: Sirotti










07.08.2014 @ 23:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) brought himself into the perfect position for his title defence at the Tour of Utah when he won today’s first mountain stage of the race in impressive fashion. After an exciting duel with Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) on the steep Powder Mountain), the Garmin captain put almost a minute into Ben Hermans (BMC) and the Vuelta champion to take both the stage win and a comfortable overall lead.


One year ago Tom Danielson and Chris Horner were involved in a close battle for the win in the Tour of Utah. This year the scene has been set for a repeat of that duel and today’s summit finish on the very steep Powder Mountain was expected to give the first indication of the hierarchy between the two American stars.


As it had been the case 12 months ago, Danielson seems to be in a class of his own in the Utah mountains as the defending champion took a dominant stage win in stage 4 of the race. Having set a hard pace almost from the bottom of the final climb, his rivals all fell off until only Horner was left.


With 4km to go, the Vuelta champion also had to surrender and from there Danielson time trialled his way to the top, constantly gaining time on Horner who had fallen back to Ben Hermans (BMC). As he crossed the line for his first win of the season, Danielson had put 56 seconds into his two chasers, with Hermans leading Horner to the finish.


The stage was the first big mountain test for the riders in this year’s Tour of Utah and brought the riders over 168.5km from Ogden to a new summit finish on Powder Mountain. In the first part of the stage, the riders tackled the very steep North Ogden Divide before hitting a long flat stretch. Inside the final 25km, they again went up the North Ogden Divide that preceded the very steep final climb whose average gradient was more than 10%.


The race was off to a very fast start and it was none other than Jens Voigt (Trek) who animated the early part of the stage. Straight from the gun, the German attacked with a Smartstop and a Jamis rider and this set the scene for lots of aggression.


Voigt was always part of the action and as they hit the first climb, a small group with the likes of Voigt, Dylan Theuns (BMC), Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell), Janier Acevedo (Garmin), Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk) Adam Phelan (Drapac); Flavio De Luna (SmartStop) and Martijn Tusveld (Belkin) were off the front. On the lower slopes of the climb, Voigt and Theuns got a gap while more riders bridged across to form a chase group behind the duo.


From this group, KOM leader Harry Carpenter (Hincapie) set off in pursuit but he failed to catch the leader before the top and had to settle for third behind Theuns and Voigt. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Bissell) and Andrea Vaccher (Lampre-Merida) were first from the next group that also included Valerio Conti (Lampreæ-Merida), Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthCare), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Magias, Phil Gaimon (Garmin) and Darren Lathorne (Drapac).


That group caught Carpenter on the descent and were joined by the next group which contained Rob Squire (Jamis), Acevedo, Tusveld, Phelan, De Luna and another rider. After Theuns had beaten Voigt in the first intermediate sprint, the front duo were picked up by the chasers while several riders, including race leader Jure Kocjan (Smartstop), tried to rejoin the peloton after having been dropped on the climb.


Cannondale had missed the move and were now in full chase mode and after 40km of racing, it was clear that the break was doomed. Voigt launched several counterattacks to form a new selection but when the group broke, he missed the move.


Reijen, Theuns, Geoghegan Hart, Wyss, Luis Davila, Acevedo, Tusveld and Vacker got clear but were swallowed up moments later. Instead, the attacking started again and at the 50km mark, a new break was formed.


Thomas Dekker (Garmin), Luca Dodi (Lampre), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Ryan Eastman (Trek), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin), Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthCare), Thomas Soladay (Optum) and Travis MCabe (Smartstop) made up the move and were first joined by Gregory Daniel (Bissell), Yannick Eijssen (BMC) and Jeffry Louder (UnitedHealthCare) and later by Vaccher, Alex Kirsch (trek) and Ivan Basso (Cannondale).


That group got a 1-minute gap but Garmin soon realized that this was a dangerous situation. Gaimon hit the front to start the chase but was replaced by Ben King who did an amazing job on the front of the peloton.


Soladay led Eijssen and Basson across the line in the second sprint while King continued to ride on the front and keep the gap around the 1-minute mark. With 74km to go, he got some assistance from Robert Wagner (Belkin) and those two riders traded pulls for most of the day.


Basso led Vaccher and Dodi across the line in the final intermediate sprint and from there it was status quo for the next many kilometres, with the gap hovering around the 1-minute mark. With 34km to go, he race- situation changed when Loude launched the first attack that only Eijssen could follow.


With a lack of cohesion in the chase group, attacks started to get launched while an unfortunate Eastman punctured back to the lead group. However, the battle for position had now started and this caused the pace in the peloton to go up. Before they hit the lower slopes of the climb, the chase group was caught.


Garmin led the peloton onto the climb, with Dekker and later Gavin Mannion setting the pace, but they had no response when Jens Voigt attacked with his teammate Riccardo Zoidl on his wheel. They caught the front duo and dropped Louder before Zoidl took off.


The Austrian champion never got a big gap and stayed clear to the 25km to go sign when he was brought back by the peloton that was now led by Gaimon. The impressive American set a brutal pace that had whittled the front group down to less than 25 riders.


As they neared the top, Alex Diniz (Funvic) launched a powerful attack and the Brazilian managed to open a 45-second advantage. Gaimon led Tom Danielson, Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and Chris Horner (Lampre) across the line and continued his pace-setting on the descent.


In the valley between the final two climbs, Gaimon set a blistering pace that was too much for Diniz who was brought back before they hit the final climb. The American led the group onto the lower sloopes where Voigt launched one final attack.


Alex Howes took over the pace-setting and quickly caught Voigt who dropped back together with Logan  Swirbul (Bissell). Howes set a brutal pace that put several riders into difficulty. The group splintered to pieces and with 6km to go, only his leader Tom Danielson, Chris Horner (Lampre), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), Ben Hermans (BMC), George Bennett (Cannondale), Diniz, Carter Jones (Optum) and Winner Anacona (Lampre).


At this point, Anacona launched the first attack which forced Danielson into chase mode. While the Colombian soloed clear, the defending champion hit the front to try to reel Horner’s lieutenant in.


Only Horner, Diniz and Hermans could keep up with Danielson while Cadel Evans (BMC) was riding on his own a little further back. Just as they were about to rejoin the lone Colombian, both Diniz and Hermans cracked, leaving just Horner and Danielson in the group that caught Anacona.


Anacona managed to keep up with the pair, meaning that Danielson found himself in the Lampre sandwich, but as the Garmin captain continued to ride hard on the front, the Colombian cracked. Danielson and Horner passed the 5km to go sign as the leading pair while Hermans, Diniz and Anacona followed a little further back. Evans, Kelderman and Jones formed the third group.


With 4.1km to go, Horner started to show some signs of weakness as small gaps started to appear and moments later, the Vuelta champion cracked, leaving as the lone leader of the race. The defending champion looked back to realize the situation and quickly started to put time into his key rival.


As he continued to lose ground, Horner started to fade and could see Hermans and Anacona who had dropped Diniz, get closer from behind. Hermans distanced Anacona and rejoined Horner but with 3km to go, the pair were a massive 24 seconds behind the lone Danielson.


With 2km to go, Danielson was 40 seconds ahead of the chase duo that was single-handedly led by an impressive Hermans. At one point, it seemed that he was about to fade but inside the final kilometre he had enough left to up the pace a further notch and increase his advantage at the finish to 56 seconds. Hermans led Horner across the line to take second. Anacona took fourth at 1.47 while Diniz completed the top 5, 19 seconds further adrift.


Danielson now goes into stage 5 with a comfortable 56-second lead over Hermans and is expected to get a relatively easy first day as race leader. The first part of the stage is a long gradual uphill to the top of Bald Mountain but the second half is a gradual descent and a flat run-in to the finish which should give the sprinters a chance to shine.



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