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With a powerful acceleration after the steepest section, Woods distanced the punchy sprinters and held off Colbrelli and Reijnen to win stage 5 of the Tour of Utah; Woods also took the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti




08.08.2015 @ 02:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Michael Woods (Optum) took a breakthrough victory when he came out on top in the uphill sprint on stage 5 of the Tour of Utah. The Canadian made a perfectly timed attack after the steepest section of the final wall and before the sprinters recovered from their effort, he built a big advantage that allowed him to hold off Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) and Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare) to take the stage win and the overall lead.


Michael Woods started cycling started to ride a bike relatively late but right from the start of his career it has been evident that he is a huge talent. Already last year, he caught the eyes of many team managers and it was the Optum team that picked him up for the 2015 season.


Woods caught the attention of the ProTeams too when he finished fifth in the queen stage of the Volta ao Algarve that was won by Richie Porte before he returned to the American domestic scene where he won a big stage in the Tour of the Gila. Today he took the biggest win of his career when he won the tough circuit race on stage 5 of the Tour of Utah.


The stage was held on a hilly 12.7km circuit that included a steep 20% wall to the finish and the Smartstop team had made sure that things were back together when they hit the final climb for the final time. Here Chris Jones (Unitedhealthcare) took a brief turn before MTN-Qhubeka made a big move.


Youcef Reguigui attacked hard with his leader Natnael Berhane before sending the Eritrean off the front. At the start of the final lap, he had a solid advantage while Jelly Belly chased hard.


Berhane managed to build an advantage of 25 seconds as he entered the final 10km. Meanwhile, a chase group with the likes of Enrico Barbin, Francesco Bongiorno, Michael Schär, Michael Woods, Tao Geogehegan Hart Janez Brajkovic, Daniel Martinez and Ben King had gone clear and the two Bardiani riders were riding hard in a quest to catch Berhane.


With 7km to go, the chase group was caught but Bardiani continued to ride hard on the front with Bongiorno who brought the gap down to 15 seconds. When he swung off, a Unitedhealthcare tried to bridge the gap and he approached Berhane as they entered the final 5km.


With 3km to go, BMC hit the front and that made the difference in the chase. Just as the chaser caught Berhane, a strong Michael Schär caught the duo and continued to ride hard on the front with Taylor Phinney on his wheel.


The two BMC riders led the peloton past the 2km to go mark while the Colombia and Unitedhealthcare teams scrambled for position. It was the latter team who took control when Schär swung off, with Jonathan Clarke, John Murphy and Chris Jones hitting the front.


Clarke swung off just before they passed the red kite where a Colombia rider made a strong attack. Murphy chased hard behind and brought the Colombian back with 700m to go.


Murphy, Kiel Reijen, Daniel Martinez (Colombia) and Kocjan got a gap and when Murphy ended his work at the bottom of the steepest part, Reijnen accelerated hard. Martinez and Kocjan stayed with him but Dion Smith brought the trio back with 400m to go.


That’s when Woods accelerated hard and he immediately got a big gap. Kocjan briefly tried to react but it was Smith who had to lead the chase. Sonny Colbrelli launched a furious sprint in the final 100m but he ran out of metres, with Woods holding on to the victory.


There splits in the finale and this allowed Woods to take the overall lead with a four-second advantage over Brent Bookwalter (BMC) while previous leader Kocjan is one second further adrift in third. He takes that lead into tomorrow’s queen stage which includes the traditional summit finish at the Snowbird Ski Resort. The riders will tackle two smaller climbs in the beginning before a long flat sections leads to the category 1 Guardsman Pass. Then it’s a fast descent to the bottom of the final HC climb which will have a big impact on the final GC in the race.


A short circuit race

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the terrain would be a lot harder in stage 5 which was a short circuit race in Salt Lake City. It consisted of seven laps of a 12.7km circuit that included a tough climb with sections of 20% gradients. The climb led to the finish line, meaning that the short 89.1km stage was perfectly suited to puncheurs.


It was a great sunny day in Salt Lake City when the riders gathered for the start of the circuit race. All riders that finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out for their neutral ride.


The break takes off

A Unitedhealthcare rider attacked straight from the gun and surprisingly the break was established just moments later. Travis McCabe (Smartstop), Phil Gaimon (Optum), Carson Miller (Jamis), Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani), Songezo Jim (MTN-Qhubeka), Adam Phelan (Drapac), Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts) and Danny Summerhill (Unitedhealthcare) were the riders that got up the road and they had a 20-second advantage after 7km of racing.


Smartstop hit the front immediately to control the short stage and brought Manuel Senni (BMC) back after the youngster had tried to bridge the gap. As they ended the first lap, they had allowed the gap to go out to 40 seconds.


Smartstop under control

The hard circuit was taking its toll as Brad Huff (Optum) was the first riders to get dropped. Meanwhile, Smartstop continued to ride on the front and kept the gap just below the one-minute mark for a few laps.


Miller had to drop back to adjust his saddle but he was back in the peloton in time for the first intermediate sprint where McCabe edged out Gaimon and Pirazzi. At the halfway point, the gap was still 55 seconds and it was still Smartstop controlling things.


Pirazzi and Jim take off

With 45km to go, the gap went out to more than a minute for the first time and it stayed there until the riders hit the final climb with three laps to go. Here Kilian Frankiny (BMC) attacked strongly and h managed to get to within 20 seconds of the leaders with 30km to go. At this point, the peloton had reduced the gap to 45 seconds.


Pirazzi and Jim attacked from the break and they immediately distanced their former companions. Their advantage quickly went out to 20 seconds while Frankiny was now at 30 seconds.


The gap comes down

Smartstop accelerated dramatically as they approached the start of the penultimate lap and they had brought both Frankiny and the chase group back as they hit the final climb again. Here attacks kept flying but Smartstop managed to keep it under control, meaning that just two riders were clear when they started the next lap.


Julian Kyer (Smartstop) abandoned the race and Stephen Leece went down in a small crash while Smartstop slowly reeled the front duo back. Pirazzi kept attacking Jim but the duo stayed together.


Lots of attacks

The attacking started again, with Taylor Phinney and Johann van Zyl being part of the action but it was Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) who managed to bridge the gap to the two leaders. Jonathan Clarke (Unitedhealthcare) also made it across but as Smartstop continued to control the pace, the quartet was caught with 20km to go.


Pirazzi made an immediate counterattack and while yesterday’s winner Eric Young (Optum) was one of the riders to get dropped, a big group gathered around the Italian. Van Zyl, Carlos Ramirez, Jesse Anthony, Michael Schär were among the riders on the offensive but as Smartstop continued to chase hard, it came back together with 16km to go.


MTN-Qhubeka take control

As they sped down the descent, there was a big fight for position until Angus Morton (Jelly Belly) took off. He was joined by his teammate Steve Fischer and another rider to form a strong trio that got an advantage of a few metres,


Behind, MTN-Qhubeka had taken control and they brought the trio back as they hit the wall to the finish. Moments later, they launched Berhane off in an attack to start the finale.



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