For six years the Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s Rory Sutherland (AUS) has raced in the United States’ biggest stage races, and for six years he has done well, landing on the podium and placing in the top 10 of these races multiple times. But today, thanks to a complete team effort and gusty performance by the highly decorated rider, Sutherland accomplished what he had yet been unable to do and secured his first stage win at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
After nearly five and one-half hours of racing amidst scorching temperatures and over four rugged mountain climbs covering a total of 211.9km (131.7 miles), the versatile 6’2” Australian separated himself from a small group of riders coming off the final climb at the North Ogden pass. Coming into downtown Ogden, Sutherland launched a full sprint effort inside the final 200 meters to triumphantly cross the finish line just ahead of Liquigas-cannondale’s Damiano Caruso (ITA) and BMC Racing Team’s Brent Bookwalter (USA), who finished second and third respectively.
For Sutherland and his Teammates, the Stage One victory in front of several Team sponsors and an enthusiastic crowd of thousands was the result of a complete Team effort that saw all eight riders contribute to earning the first stage win of the 2012 edition of America’s Toughest Stage Race.
Sutherland, winner of the overall of the 2012 Tour de Beauce and 26th Annual SRAM Tour of the Gila, spoke about the stage, his performance and the Herculean effort of his Teammates this afternoon. The first man to don this year’s Tour of Utah’s yellow-jersey said, “Today was a super hard, super hot start to the tour. This was a long stage, 211km with a lot of serious climbs on a ‘flat day,’ so to speak. We have done it a lot this year and just continue to come together really well as a group. We look after each other. We have three more sprint guys here with Robert (Förster), Jake (Keough), and Hilton (Clarke) and they did a phenomenal job helping out all day in one of the first races where they didn’t have to think about the finish. Ben (Day), Chris (Jones), Jeff (Louder), and Phil (Deignan) were outstanding, too.”
“We came into the last climb all grouped up and once I hit that one I knew I was feeling good and I could go with it, I just had to make it over with the top 10-20 guys and just wait. Coming in toward the finish, there were so many attacks coming in and then (Dave) Zabriske’s (Garmin-Sharp) gone away by himself and we had Ben and Philip in there. I told them you have to close down every single gap you see because I need to get to the last corner grouped up with the other guys. They were tremendous and did a great job so you feel it on your shoulders that it’s your responsibility to finish your job.”
“I’ve done this enough and luckily enough crits that I know where I need to be in a group like that coming through the last corner. It’s been nearly six years trying to win a race of this size in the U.S., the Utah’s, Colorado’s, California’s, the Missouri’s and Georgia’s. I’ve been on the podium I think in every single one for a stage and now I’ve finally got one,” Sutherland concluded.
Mike Tamayo, the Team’s General Manager and Team Director, noted, “The boys executed our plan perfectly today. Coming into the final climb, the gap was still at four minutes so we actually sent Hilton to the front to help out a bit and make sure that gap came down. It quickly came down from four minutes to two minutes before the bottom of the climb.”
“We knew we had a good shot at winning with Rory so we wanted to make sure the breakaway came back. Coming into town, we had to make sure it was together coming to the line because we knew Rory was one of the faster guys in that small group of 30. Philip and Ben knew to attack and keep the speed high so Rory could settle in and wait for the finish. Philip attacked with eight kilometers to go and set the speed high for us. That was countered by Zabriske, which also kept the speed high. It all worked out as Rory was able to be patient and wait for the finish.”