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After a late attack by Smith was neutralized less than 10m from the line, Smith narrowly passed Bookwalter in a very close sprint to win stage 3 of the Tour of Utah; Reijnen defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti






05.08.2015 @ 22:48 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Logan Owen (Axeon) took a breakthrough victory when he came out on top in a very close sprint at the end of the third stage of the Tour of Utah. After a late attack from Dion Smith (Hincapie) was neutralized less than 10m from the finish line, he managed to come around Brent Bookwalter (BMC) and with a perfect bike throw, he was able to take the win. Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare) had to settle for seventh but defended his overall lead.


Since he finished fourth at the Junior World Championships two years ago, Logan Owen has been regarded as one of the biggest American talents. However, the elusive breakthrough victory has always escaped him and no one had mentioned him as one to watch for the Tour of Utah which has gathered a strong field for a week of hard racing.


After today’s stage, Owen’s name will be known by a lot more after he took a hugely surprising win on the third day of racing in the mountainous race. The Axeon rider beat riders who are usually a faster than him when he handled the reduced bunch sprint in a perfect way to beat Brent Bookwalter and Edwin Avila (Colombia) into the minor podium positions.


It was definitely not a foregone conclusion that the stage would come down to a sprint. The riders would end the stage by doing a lap of a 15km finishing circuit that included the steep Temple climb just 12km from the finish. As they hit the lap, the peloton had already been whittled significantly down and they were chasing Joey Rosskopf (BMC) who led the stage with a 25-second advantage while there was a 7-rider chase group with Phil Gaimon (Optum), Lachlan Norris (Drapac), Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka), Rob Britton (Smartstop), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis), Marco Canola (Unitedhalthcare) and Joe Schmalz (Hincapie) in between.


As soon as they hit the climb, Norris went on the attack and he made it up to Rosskopf. After a short moment to recover, he dropped the fatigued BMC rider before more riders joined from behind. Lots of attacks had made the peloton splinter and it was Flavio De Luna (Smartstop), Michael Woods (Optum), Daniel Martinez (Colombia), John Hornbeck (Hincapie) and another Smartstop rider that made it up to the leader.


Woods was riding strongly on the front and only Martinez, Norris and De Luna could keep up with him. Rob Squire (Hincapie) and Hornbeck joined them before they got to the top where De Luna led Martinez and Woods across the line.


Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly) joined the front group just after they had reached the summit and later a 7-rider group with most of the overall favourites, including Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale), Frank Schleck (Trek), Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka), Janez Brajkovic (Unitedhealthcare) and Bookwalter, also made it across. No one wanted to take responsibility and so Berhane went off the front.


Behind the lone Eritrean, a regrouping took place and it was a relatively big field that was chasing ebjind Berhane. Unitedhalthcare took control but they couldn’t prevent Woods and Martinez from bridging the gap to Berhane.


Bookwalter, Alew Howes (Cannondale) and a Hincapie rider tried to make it across but Unitedhealthcare managed to bring it back together with 6km to go. Owen now tried to launch an attack but Rosskopf shut it down and an attack from a Colombia rider didn’t work either.


With 4km to go, Brajkovic again hit the front to keep things together for a sprint finish as they sped down the descent. He stayed there for a few kilometres and when he swung off, his teammate Danny Summerhill was ready to take over.


The pace went down and this allowed Dion Smith (Hincapie) to take off. He quickly got a big gap and had a solid advantage as he passed the flamme rouge. Behind, Bardiani had got the chase organized and they were riding hard as they hit the finishing straight.


Michael Schär hit the front to do the lead-out for Brent Bookwalter who launched a long sprint with Jure Kocjan (Smartstop) and Owen on his wheel. They caught Smith just metres from the line and it was Owen who narrowly came out on top in a very close sprint.


Kiel Reijnen tried to mix it up in the sprint but didn’t have the speed to match the best. Nonetheless, he defended his overall lead and now has a four-second advantage over Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), Kocjan, Bookwalter and Owen. He takes it into tomorrow’s stage which is another tough challenge. The first 30km are all slightly uphill and then the riders get into flatter terrain before they tackle a category 2 climb 60km from the finish. Then it’s mainly a downhill run to the finish, with a small category 4 climb to break the legs 20km from the finish which is slightly uphill and should suit the puncheurs.


A hilly stage

After two days for the sprinters, the GC riders were expected to get their first chance to shine in stage 3 which brought the riders over from Antelope Island State Park to Bountiful. The first 60km were completely flat and then the riders tackled a category 2 and a category 3 climb before they headed back onto flat roads. In the finale, they would do two laps of a tough circuit that included the Temple climb, with the final passage coming just 11km from the finish. Then it was a short flat section and a downhill run to the finish.


After the rainy opening stage, it was another great day for a bike race when the riders gathered for the start of stage 3. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present when they headed out for their neutral ride.


Lots of attacks

As it is usually the case for the big American stage races, it was a fast start with lots of attacks. A Jelly Belly rider attacked straight from the fun and his aggression would signal the start of a very hectic phase where attacks were constantly flying in both sides of the road.


Smartstop were also very aggressive but no one had any luck until Tyler Magner (Hincapie) escaped after 23km of very fast racing. He was joined by Joey Rosskopf (BMC) and his teammate Dion Smith to form a strong trio that fought hard to maintain a 5-second advantage.


A six-rider break gets clear

Jasper Bovenhuis (Cannondale-Garmin) and Wouter Wippert (Drapac) bridged the gap at a point when it was still just 10 seconds and finally Johann van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) alsos made it across after he had dropped a companion. Hence, it was a six-rider group that had a 25-second advantage after 32km of racing.


While van Zyl easily won the first intermediate sprint, the peloton took a small breather and so the gap had gone out to 2.25 when Unitedhealthcare gathered their team on the front after 40km of acing. Jonathan Clarke and Chris Jones did most of the early work to keep the gap between 2.30 and 3.00 as they headed along the flat roads in the early part of the stage.


Van Zyl attacks

When they hit the first climb, the escapees had extended their advantage to 3.20 and this prompted Airgas to put a rider on the front. He traded pulls with Unitedhealthcare and made sure that the gap was slowly coming down as they went up the climb. Meanwhile, Wippert had to stop to get mechanical service.


Van Zyl attacked near the top of the climb to take maximum points ahead of Rosskopf, Smith, Bovenhuis and Magner and he decided to continue his attack. While the gap was down to 2.20, he battled on his own for a while until the group came back together with 100km to go.


Wippert wins the sprint

Wippert decided to show his sprinting legs when he beat Smith and Rosskopf in the second intermediate sprint at a point there the gap had gone out to three minutes again. Unitedhealthcare and Airgas were still collaborating to keep the gap at around that mark for a long time.


Wippert again needed mechanical assistance as they went up the second climb while van Zyl again attacked near the top to take maximu points. Wippert, Rosskopf, Smith and Magner were next across the line and the group came back together when they went down the descent.


Busche crashes out of the race

A big crash on the descent involved 20-25 riders. Gregory Brenes (Jamis) and Matthew Busche (Trek) both hit the deck and unfortunately the latter was forced to withdraw with a suspect broken collarbone. The rest of the riders all managed to get back on their bikes.


With 65km to go, Unitedhealthcare and Airgas had brought the gap down to 2.15 and they kept the gap at that mark as they approached the first passage of the Temple climb. As they entered the final 40km, Wippert was dropped from the front group and he was quickly brought back by the peloton.


The break splits up

The peloton accelerated hard as they got closer to the climb and when they hit the ascent, it was down to just a minute. As soon as they started to climb Magner was dropped and fell back to the peloton.


Smith realized that it was time to go full gas and he quickly distanced his companions. Meanwhile, Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) launched unsuccessful attack from the peloton.


Rosskopf the lone leader

Rosskopf had not given up and he quickly dropped his companions before he made it back to Smith. The Hincapie rider was unable to keep up with his former teammate and the BMC rider was soon off the front as the lone leaders with just a 15-second advantage over the peloton.


In the peloton, the attacking had really started and it was Walter Pedraza (Colombia), Chris Butler (Smartstop) and Ruben Guerreiro (Axeon) who caught Smith. However, just as the junction was made the group was caught and Cannondale moved to the front to keep the pace high.


A chase group is formed

Pedraza attacked just before the top and led Butler over the line but they were brought back as they hit the flat roads. Here Rosskopf managed to extend his advantage to 30 seconds.


Meanwhile, the attacking continued in the peloton which was completely uncontrollable. Gerardo Medina (Airgas), Brajkovic, Adam Phelan (Drapac), Robin Carpenter (Hincapie), Bookwalter, Jesse Anthony (Optum), Songezo Jim (MTN-Qhubeka) were among the many riders to give it a go until Brajkovic tried to restore order with 15km to go.


At this point, the gap was 35 seconds and the attacking continued. Gaimon managed to escape and was joined by Schmalz, Canola, Niyonshuti, Norris, Britton and Jacques-Maynes to form a strong chase group before the started the final lap of the circuit. However, it was a sprint that decided the stage and it was Owen who came out on top.



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