Arriving at the 2009 Tour of Utah as defending champions as well as hot favourites, the BMC Racing Team is not taking anything for granted. Hoping to repeat the successes from the 2008 edition, the team will have spent the week leading up to the tour at a high altitude training camp, riding many of the most important stages.
The tour organizers have mixed up the stages in a way that the eventual winner will have had to climb consistently at altitudes often exceeding 8000 feet. The race will once again include a stage climbing up to Mt. Nebo which had been missing last year. This means that there will be two massive climbing days as well as the deceptively hard time trial around the Miller Motorsports Park. Louder and the rest of the BMC squad are confident that their preparations will bear fruit and are excited to kick off the race at Tuesday’s prologue.
Relaxed, no stress, no excuses
"The camp has been going well and should give our guys an advantage since they will all have had eight or more days to acclimate," Directeur Sportif Mike Sayers explained. "They haven’t over-done-it and have been able to be relaxed and quiet. No stress and no excuses." Though already considered the premiere climbers’ stage race in America in 2008, the organizers have reintroduced the Mt Nebo climb to make this race even more a climber’s playground.
"This year’s race parcours is very hard and with Mt Nebo back, you can say it is one stage harder than last year," defending champion Jeff Louder said. "Mt. Nebo is a good climb for me since the last ten miles are over 8000 feet, and I do well at that altitude; the harder the stages are, the better it will be for me."
Coming with the aim to win
Louder’s confidence is backed up by the experience of the team’s successful pre-race training camp.
"They have ridden Mt Nebo to see just what to expect, and I know from racing it a few years ago that it is a hugely difficult climb; you can give a breakaway 30 minutes at the bottom and they will still be caught by the race leaders before the top," Sayers said. "There will certainly be massive time gaps after the Mt. Nebo stage."
Following the climb to Mt. Nebo which takes place on stage 3, the riders will still have to contend with the time trial as well as the mega climb to Snowbird on stage 5. Unlike last year, the time trial will precede the stage to Snowbird while the final day will be the race’s criterium.
This switch will naturally alter certain strategic options.
"Changing the time trial to the day before Snowbird will in a way make it even more critical than last year since more guys will still feel like they have a chance to do something in the overall and will
consequently ride it more seriously," Louder explained. "It also means that you have to put in a huge effort before the Snowbird stage instead of being able to hold back a little like you can when the criterium comes before the climbing stage."
Strong team facing strong competition
"Jeff will be our main man for the general classification, but we will have several guys able to make an impression," Sayers said. "Brent Bookwalter has shown recently that he is climbing and time trialling well while Chad Beyer is coming off a break, but he is always a threat." Being one of the few teams at the race with multiple riders who can climb as well as they time trial, BMC will hope to have several options to play with after a strong prologue performance. "We know that the main competition for the overall will come from the Rock Racing climbers, but we also know that our guys time trial better than them, so we will be looking first and foremost to stack the GC in the prologue," Sayers revealed. "After that, we can have the luxury of betting on multiple horses." Jeff Louder feels very happy to have the BMC crew behind him as he opens his defence of the Utah crown. "We know that the Rock guys will be tough as will Zabriskie and his Felt cohorts, Darren Lill, Chris Baldwin and several others," Louder said.
"Nevertheless, Brent is super strong and has a serious chance to do extremely well, and the rest of the guys here have been having a great camp and we feel like we’re all happy and on the same page." Since Louder is a native of Utah and still has a large family connection in the area, the team has really had the chance to increase the familial feeling. "My wife has been gathering a lot of our friends to come out and support us and my parents will be hosting several meals for the team," Louder said. "So there is a nice family atmosphere and we all know that we’re privileged to be able to come to the race as well prepared as we are; we definitely want to make the most of it."
BMC Racing Team for Tour of Utah:
Jeff Louder, Jonathan Garcia, Brent Bookwalter, Ian McKissick, Chad Beyer, Steve Bovay