SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It has long been called North America’s toughest stage race, and for good reason. The 15th edition of the Tour of Utah maybe the toughest of them all. This year’s race spans seven days, covers 477 miles, and riders will climb almost 38 thousand feet.
“It really is America’s toughest stage race,” said James Piccoli, one of the favorites to win the race. “Everyday is tough. We’re racing up mountains, down mountains, at altitude, in the heat, in the rain. This week, everything is thrown at the riders to make it really tough.”
“They’ve made the additions harder,” said Eric Young, who will be competing in his sixth Tour of Utah. “This is definitely the hardest race that we will have done in the Tour of Utah. I would say just the stature of the race in the U.S. has also grown.”
The quality of riders is also top notch. Giulio Ciccone, who led led the Tour de France for two stages last month in here, as is 2015 Tour of Utah champion Joe Dombrowski.
“Every year, you’ve seen better and better fields attending,” Dombrowski said. “It seems like it has real staying power now. Also locally, it seems like it’s been really well received by the community.”
“I’ve won two of the stages here in the past,” Young said. “Those were really defining moments of my career.”
With some 117 riders bunched up, racing sometimes 60 miles an hour through tight canyon corners, crashes are bound to happen.”
It’s a dangerous sport,” said Ty Magner, who has raced in three Tours of Utah. “We know the risks, and it can happen to anybody. But we all respect each other, and we make it as safe as possible out there.”
This year’s race will focus on Northern Utah. The Prologue stage begins Monday at Snowbird, with the following six stages starting in Logan, Brigham City, Antelope Island, Salt Lake City, Canyons Village and ending in Park City.
The popularity of the race has grown over the years, and the riders appreciate all the fans that come out.
“The fans here are great,” Piccoli said. “We’ve had so many people come up to us and wish us luck in the race. The people here are really spectacular, and they really do a good job of promoting the race and making it special for us.”