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After an impressive ride up the final climb, Talansky beat Atapuma in a two-rider sprint to win the Tour of Utah queen stage; Costa and Morton lost 31 seconds and so Talansky took the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

ANDREW TALANSKY

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DARWIN ATAPUMA

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EF PRO CYCLING

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TOUR OF UTAH

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06.08.2016 @ 23:56 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) proved that he is back on track and ready for a great Vuelta by claiming an impressive stage win in the Tour of Utah queen stage. Having distanced race leader Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly) halfway up the final climb, he did all the work in the front duo and still had enough left in the tank to beat Darwin Atapuma (BMC) in the sprint at the top. The win allowed him to move into the race lead with a 22-second advantage over Morton.

 

Two years ago Andrew Talansky was one of the brightest grand tour hopes. The American had top 10 finishes in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana and when he beat all the stars at the Criterium du Dauphiné, it seemed that the sky was the limit for the talented American.

 

However, a bad crash in the 2014 Tour was the start of two disastrous years for the Cannondale leader who failed to find his best form in 2015. This spring was equally disastrous but when he found the reasons for his struggles, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Antibiotics helped Talansky get rid of the virus that had marred him and he showed that he was back on track when he put in strong rides at the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse which he nearly won. However, the Tour de France came too early and instead he chose the Vuelta as his big goal for 2016.08.06

 

This week the Tour of Utah serves as his final preparation race but he planned to do the race in service of teammate Joe Dombrowski. However, Talansky turned out to be stronger than his leader in stage 3 and so he had taken over the captaincy role for today’s queen stage.

 

Talansky was clearly motivated to try to distance race leader Lachlan Morton and Cannondale did a lot of work to make the race hard on the penultimate climb of Guardsman’s Pass. In the end, the captain finished off the job as he took the stage win in a two-rider sprint against Darwin Atapuma and gained enough time to take the overall lead.

 

After yesterday’s hilly stage, it was time for the 183.1km queen stage which brought the riders from Snowbasin Resort to the well-known finish at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. After a flat first half, the riders climbed the difficult Guardsman Pass (12km, 7%) whose top came with 46.1km to go. From there it was a descent to the bottom of the final climb which averaged 8% over 10.3km.

 

It was another very hot day when the riders gathered for the start and as in the previous stages, they kicked off with lots of attacks. A Fortuneo Vital Concept rider attacked immediately and was joined by riders from BMC and Lupus. However, that trio was soon brought back and instead an aggressive Tanner Putt (Unitedhalthcare) attacked twice. In his first move, he was joined by one from BMC and the next time a Holowesko rider followed.

 

None of the attacks paid off and things were back together after 7km of fast racing. As they sped down a fast descent, it was impossible for anyone to launch a real attack in the next kilometres as the peloton headed down at breakneck speed.

 

As they returned to flat roads, Fabien Lienhard (BMC) and Janier Acevedo (Jamis) briefly got a gap but they failed to stay away and so the attacking could continue. Jacopo Mosca (Trek) tried a solo move but he had no luck either.

 

After 20km of racing, a strong group with Rick Zabel (BMC), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM), Kiel Reijnen (Trek), Robin Carpenter (Holowesko), Neilson Powless (Axeon), Daniel Eaton (Unitedhalthcare), Ben King (Cannondale), Kristofer Dahl (Silbert), Emerson Oronte (Rally) and Stephen Bassett (Jamis) got clear and they used a small lull to build an advantage of 15 seconds. However, attacks kept flying from the peloton as numerous riders tried to bridge across. At one point, Richard Handley (ONE) almost made the junction but he finally had to surrender.

 

The gap stayed at 15-20 seconds for a long time until Dion Smith (ONE), Chad Beyer (Lupus) and Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis) finally made it across. The attacks kept coming for a few more kilometres but the peloton finally slowed down and so the gap quickly went out to 2.30 before Jelly Belly slowly gathered their troops on the front. However, they were not chasing yet and so the gap was still growing. With 125km to go, it had reached a massive 4.50.

 

Jelly Belly slowly upped the pace and the gap came down steadily during the next 25km. As they hit the final 100km, the escapees were only three minutes.

 

As they approached the first sprint, Carpenter accelerated and Reijnen and Zabel only followed halfheartedly, with the trio crossing the line in that order. They then started to cooperate again, maintaining their advantage of 3.25.

 

Jelly Belly kept riding on the front but they couldn’t prevent the gap from going out to 3.45 as they entered the final 75km. Here disaster struck for the Trek team as almost all their riders hit the deck when Alexandr Braico (Jelly Belly) crashed in the front end of the group. Eugenio Alafaci, Peter Steina, Jacopo Mosca (Trek), Bryan Lewis (Lupus) were all involved. Alafaci was worst off but everybody was able to continue.

 

Jelly Belly were unfazed by the crash and had reduced the gap to 3.15 as they approached the final intermediate sprint. This time Reijnen did not leave anything to chance as he attacked to take maximum points ahead of Zabel and Dahl.

 

The group came back together and then worked together before they hit Guardsman’s Pass with an advantage of 2.45. As soon as the road went up, Reijnen, Bassett, Smith and Dahl fell off the back and Romero also lost contact a little later.

 

Jelly Belly were riding hard in the peloton as they went up the climb and this forced the escapees to ride hard. Fumeaux and Zabel were the next to get distanced while Reijnen and Smith were quickly brought back by the speeding peloton.

 

Only Beyer, Carpenter, Powless, King, Oronte and Eaton were left in the front group which was still 2.10 ahead of the peloton. Not content with the situation, Beyer launched a solo attack and while Zabel rejoined the group, he put 5 seconds into his former companions. The German stayed in the chase group for a little while but then fell off again.

 

While Beyer rode hard to extend his advantage to 15 seconds, Cannondale took control in the peloton where Phil Gaimon created a big selection, whittling the group down to around 20 riders. He brought the gap down to 1.30 and then swung off 5km from the top. Here Angus Morton took over, working for his brother Lachlan.

 

Angus Morton soon left the front as Cannondale again took charge with Alberto Bettiol. He brought most of the original break back and when Zabel had been swallowed up, only Beyer and the five-rider chase group were still ahead.

 

Carpenter was the next to let the chase group go before they finally caught Beyer with 45km to go. Moments later, Powless also fell behind, leaving just King, Oronte, Eaton and Beyer in the front group.

 

Eaton was the strongest in the front group and did most of the work. 300m from the top, King was also left behind before Beyer just sneaked past Eaton to win the KOM sprint. Oronte was third, King fourth and Powless fifth. Daniel Jaramillo (Unitedheatkcare) attacked out of the peloton to take sixth as he passed Carpenter who was swallowed up by the peloton.

 

King rejoined the three leaders on the descent while Bettiol continued to lead the peloton 1.15 behind the front group. A few riders managed to get back and ONE rider took over the pace-setting for most of the time. However, as they again hit flatter roads, Cannondale returned to the front with Bettiol and Alex Howes, bringing Powless back in the process.

 

With 30km to go, the gap had dropped to just 55 seconds and it was still a minute when they reached the bottom of the descent fourteen kilometres later. At this point, King and Eaton had dropped Oronte and Beyer but the quartet came back together as soon as they hit flat roads. However, Oronte sat up almost immediately and left the other three riders to press on.

 

When the peloton finished the descent, Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) attacked and he was joined by Nicolae Tanovitchii (Lupus). As Cannondale didn’t react, Manuel Senni (BMC) also attacked but he didn’t get any freedom from Talansky’s team.

 

With Senni back in the fold and Howes and Bettiol allowing the front trio to extend the gap to 1.45, BMC took over the pace-setting in the peloton with Zabel. Meanwhile, Ledanois and Tanovitchii were stuck in no man’s land 30 seconds behind the leaders.

 

As soon as they hit the climb, Eaton was dropped from the front group and he was passed by the two chasers who finally caught King and Tanovitchii. Beyer was the first to surrender and then Ledanois also fell off the pace.

 

King had really found his legs and so launched a strong solo attack while Tanovitchii fell back to Ledanois again. Meanwhile, Howes led the peloton onto the climb before Unitedheathcare took over the pace-setting.

 

Taylor Eisenhart (BMC) launched a strong attack and went straight past the fading Beyer. While he started to increase his advantage, Howes blew up and left it to Bettiol to continue the pace-setting,.

 

Surprisingly, King decided to wait for the peloton while leading the race and this allowed Tanovitchii who had dropped Ledanois, to take the lead. However, he was soon passed by Eisenhart who was flying up the climb.

 

King dropped back to the peloton and then took one final big turn before Bettiol again took over, with his teammates Andrew Talansky and Joe Dombrowski sitting behind him. With 7km to go, he brought Eisenhart back, bringing everything back together before he swung off.

 

Eisenhart immediately started to ride on the front and he made the group split to pieces. Only Dombrowski, Morton, Talansky, Rob Britton (Rally), Darwon Atapuma (BMC), Laurent Didier(Trek), Robbie Squire (Holowesko), Adrien Costa (Axeon), Janvier Acevedo (Jamis) and Janez Brajkovic (Unitedhealthcare) could follow the talented American stagiaire.

 

Brajkovic was dropped and fell back to a chase group that included the Stetina, Chris Horner (Lupus), Senni, Joey Rosskopf (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini). Meanwhile, Eisenhart kept riding on the front until he dropped back to team leader Atapuma and let Dombrowski do the work on the front. That was too much for Didier who was the next rider to get dropped as they entered the final 5km.

 

Atapuma was the first rider to make a move and after a small hesitation, Talansky followed him. Morton and Costa gave chase but they had a harder time closing the gap. Instead, Britton joined them from behind while Talansky slowed made contact with Atapuma.

 

Talansky looked back and saw that Morton approached from behind. Just as the race leader was almost there, the Cannondale leader increased the pace and he immediately increased the gap to the Australian who had dropped Costa and Britton.

 

Costa made it back to Morton but they were unable to get any closer to Talansky and Atapuma who had a small 5-second advantage. From there, it developed into an exciting battle between Talansky and Morton who did all the work in their respective duos. Talansky kept asking Atapuma to come through but the Colombian refused to contribute.

 

Costa stayed calm on Morton’s wheel until he tried to attack with 1200m to go. However, the race leader still had something left and managed to close the gap.

 

Talansky led Atapuma under the flamme rouge with a 25-second advantage over Morton and Costa. Riding for GC, Talansky kept powering along and it became likely that Atapuma was going to win the stage. However, the Amercian still had something left in the tank. He led into the final 500m of descent and then launched his sprint from the front. Atapuma tried his best to come around but could not make up any ground and had to settle for second. Costa and Morton reached the finish 31 second later and the former managed to come around to take third place, with Britton completing the top 5 fifteen seconds later.

 

With the win, Talansky took the overall lead with a 22-second advantage over Morton while Costa is 34 seconds further adrift in third. However, he faces another big test before he can be crowned winner of the race. The final 125.7km stage around Park City has a flat start before the riders get to the Wolf Creek Ranches climb at the midpoint. From there, they will descend to the intermediate sprint in Midway at the bottom of the steep Empire Pass which averages 8% over 12km. The top comes 10.7km from the finish and is followed by a very technical descent that ends at the flamme rouge where the riders will take two turns in quick succession. From there, it is slightly uphill all the way to the finish.

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