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Having instigated the race-winning move on Mount Nebo, Morton launched a late attack to drop 18-year-old Costa and Talansky and claim a solo win on stage 3 of the Tour of Utah; the Australian took the race lead too

Photo: Sirotti

ANDREW TALANSKY

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JELLY BELLY P/B MAXXIS

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LACHLAN MORTON

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TOUR OF UTAH

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03.08.2016 @ 23:56 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Three years after taking a breakthrough win in the similar stage, Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly) returned to his best by winning the first big GC stage on the third day of the Tour of Utah. Having instigated the move on the big climb of Mount Nebo, the Australian dropped Adrien Costa (Axeon) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) with a well-timed attack inside the final 1500m and soloed across the line to take both the stage victory and the overall lead in America’s toughest race.

 

In 2013, Lachlan Morton confirmed the potential he had shown in the youth ranks when he bounced back from a difficult start to his pro career by winning the third stage of the Tour of Utah. The stage included the big climb of Mount Nebo where the 21-year-old Australian made a solo attack that gave him a memorable breakthrough win.

 

Morton would later go on to lose the leader’s jersey and he failed to deliver on his promises, dropping back to continental level with the Jelly Belly team for the 2015 season. However, he has since bounced back and firmly established himself as the leading climber at the domestic level in the USA and he has set his sights on a return to the WorldTour.

 

Would there be any better place to prove his return to his former level than the place than launched him onto the pro scene three years ago? Apparently not as Morton repeated his achievements from 2013 by winning the similar stage in this year’s edition of the race in Utah.

 

The stage had the same finale as it had three years ago as it ended with the 40km descent from Mount Nebo to the finish in Payson. In a repeat of his tactic from 2013, Morton hit out in the steepest part but unlike in his last attempt, he didn’t manage to reach the top alone. Instead, he had 18-year-old sensation Adrien Costa and a reinvigorated Andrew Talansky for company and they worked well together to effectively reduce the GC fight to a three-rider battle.

 

Knowing that he was up against faster riders, Morton launched the first attack with 1200m to go and as his two rivals hesitated a bit, he got an immediate gap. Talansky reacted too late and this allowed Morton to solo to the finish with a three-second advantage to take both the stage win and the overall lead.

 

After two days with flat finales, the GC battle was expected to heat up in the 191.8km stage 3 which brought the riders from Richfield to Payson. The first 140km were among the flattest in the entire race but it was all just be a warm-up for the difficult finale. In the end, the riders tackled the category 1 climb of Mount Nebo that averaged 6% over 17km and had a pretty steep first half where the gradient was mostly 8-9%. The top came with 39.8km to go and they were almost all downhill. Only the final 2km were really flat and included two sharp turns before the riders got to the 1100m finishing straight.

 

It was a sunny day in Utah when the riders gathered for the start and all the riders that survived the brutal stage yesterday were all there when they rolled through the neutral zone. As soon as the flag was dropped, the attacking started and like yesterday Greg Daniel (Axeon) was active early on. However, he missed out when five riders got a gap after around one kiloemetre as it was Simon Pellaud (IAM), Stephen Bassett (Jamis), Kristis Neilands (Axeon), Andrei Krasilnikau (Holowesko) and Ben Perry (Silber) who managed to ride away. The quintet worked well together and even though lots of riders tried to jump across, they worked solidly to maintain a 10-second advantage.

 

Almost all attempts failed but Tom Zirbel (Rally) made use of his immense power on the flat to make the junction after seven kilometres of fast racing. As soon as he joined the break, the peloton slowed down and allowed the six riders to quickly build a bigger advantage.

 

It reached 2.40 after 20km of racing but this time the big teams didn’t leave anything to chance. Ben King (Cannondale) and Tom Bohli (BMC) soon started to swap turns on the front to keep the situation under control.

 

King and Bohli strung the bunch out but as the front group rode fast due to a solid tailwind, they couldn’t prevent the gap from continuing the upwards trend. As they entered the final 150km after a little less than an hour of racing, they were 3.50 behind the six leaders.

 

The gap went out to more than 4 minutes as BMC briefly stopped their work, leaving it to King to do the chase work alone. With 125km to go, Unitedhealthcare asked Tanner Putt to contribute to the chase and he joined forces with Jonathan Dibben (Cannondale). Bohli also returned and those three riders started to bring the gap down.

 

Approaching the first intermediate sprint, Pellaud made a small attack to pick up maximum points ahead of Bassett and Perry. The group soon went back to work but they couldn’t prevent the gap from coming down. It was down to three minutes when the passed through the feed zone where Julian Arredondo abandoned.

 

The gap dropped to 2.30 and then stabilized around that mark for the next 30km while Putt, Dibben and Bohli kept riding on the front. Alberto Bettiol took over from Dibben but apart from that, it was a pretty calm and relaxed, much in contrast to yesterday’s furious start.

 

No one wanted to challenge Pellaud in the final intermediate sprint which the Swiss won ahead of Krasilnikau and Bassett while the peloton crossed the line just 2.20 later, led by Bettiol and Putt. With the gap down at a manageable level, Bohli had again stopped his work.

 

Pellaud and Krasilnikau kept going after the sprint and soon managed to build an advantage of 30 seconds. The four chasers almost gave up immediately and were swallowed up before they entered the final 60km.

 

Krailsnikau and Pellaud hit Mount Nebo with an advantage of 2.45 over the peloton in which the fight for position had started and it was the Jelly Belly and Silber teams that led the bunch onto the ascent. As Jelly Belly took complete control, the hectic fight resulted in a big crash in the rear end of the group. Best young rider Colin Joyce (Axeon) and Luis Romero (Jamis) were some of the most badly affected but onnly Greg Daniel (Axeon) wasn't able to continue.

 

As soon as they climb got steeper, Pellaud dropped Krasilnikau and pressed on alone in an attempt to maintain his advantage of 2.05. It wasn’t easy though as Jelly Belly were going full gas in the peloton which had exploded to pieces, with less than 20 riders having made the selection as they entered the final 52km.

 

Pellaud’s gap melted away and it was Taylor Eisenhart (BMC) who closed the final bit of the advantage just 800m later. Just as the Swiss was brought back, Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly) accelerated and no one even tried to follow.

 

Andre Talansky (Cannondale) soon took off in pursuit while Eisenhart kept riding on the front of the 11-rider main group. The Cannondale star slowly made it back to Morton whom he joined when the gap had gone out to 15 seconds.

 

Eisenhart kept riding on the front in the main group, whittling it down to 8 riders, until Adrien Costa (Axeon) attacked. Darwin Atapuma (BMC) followed the move but the Colombian was soon dropped and left the young American to press on alone.

 

Costa joined the two leaders five kilometres from the top and then latched onto the back. He barely needed a second to recover before he launched a new attack but this time he failed to get away.

 

Atapuma had joined forces with Rob Britton (Rally) but they were 30 seconds behind the three leaders. Further back, a bigger group led by Trek riders Peter Stetina, Kiel Reijnen and Laurent Didier had formed and race leader Robin Carpenter (Holowesko) was digging deep to hang onto the back. The group also included defending champion Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale), Neilson Powless, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon), Jonny Clarke, Janez Brajkovic, Matthew Busche (Unitedhealthcare), Rob Squire (Holowesko), Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Manuel Senni (BMC) but they kept losing time.

 

Having sat on for a while, Talansky started to work with Costa and Morton and the trio kept a 30-40-second advantage over Atapuma and Britton, with the BMC pair ofEisenhart and Joey Rosskopf sitting in between their leader’s duo and the big chase group. Costa led Talansky and Morton over the top while Britton and Atapuma followed 40 seconds later. Rosskopf and Eisenhart were dangling just 20 seconds ahead of the main group which had lost 2.15 as they crested the summit.

 

The front trio worked well together on the descent and as they entered the final 20 kilometres, they had pushed their advantage over Britton and Atapuma to 1.30 while the big chase group was at 4.05. Impressively, Eisenhart and Rosskopf were approaching their team leader but surprisingly, Atapuma didnøt wait for them. Instead, he tried to drop Britton who had difficulties keeping up with the Colombian on the descent.

 

Eisenhart and Rosskopf caught Britton and the trio slowly made it back to Atapuma. The quartet joined forces with 10km to go but they still had 1.50 to make up on the three leaders and it was clear that the winner would come from the front group.

 

Riding for GC, Costa, Talansky and Morton kept working together until Morton launched the first attack with 1200m to go. Costa refused to close it down and as he asked Talansky to come through, the Jelly Belly captain opened a gap. Talansky dug deep in a try to bring the Australian. However, it was all too late and Morton had time to sit up to celebrate his win before Costa won the sprint for second 3 seconds later.

 

Rosskopf led Britton, Atapuma and Eisenhart to the finish 1.21 later before the big group with race leader Carpenter arrived with a time loss of 3.57. The Unitedhealthcare pair of Clarke and Brajkovic and Carpenter himself did a lot to limit the losses before Reijnen won the sprint for 8th but their huge losses effectively ended their dream of going for the overall win.

 

With the win, Morton takes the overall lead with a seven-second lead over Costa. He hopes for an easier day tomorrow in stage 4. The 154km between Im Flash and Kearns don’t have a single categorized climb but that doesn’t mean that they are flat. In fact, it is up and down almost all day and there is barely a single metre of flat roads. In the end, they will do three laps of a 6.4km circuit that includes a short, steep climb before the riders descend to the final 1500m which are only very slightly uphill.

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