SALT LAKE CITY — Score one for the youngsters.
Taylor Phinney, who just a couple of days ago wasn't aware he'd be racing at the Tour of Utah, blew away the field and posted the fastest time on the short 2.8 mile prologue course at the Utah State Capitol.
"It's fun to stick it to the old guys," the 20-year-old from Colorado said.
Phinney, racing for the U-23 Trek Livestrong team, scorched the road around Memory Grove with a time of 6 minutes and 2 seconds. He was three seconds faster than his teammate, Alex Dowsett and 11 seconds faster than BMC Pro Cycling's Brent Bookwalter — the 2009 prologue winner.
"I went hard and I guess I have to be happy with it," the multi-time world track cycling champion said." Now, I'll try to ride and support some of our other guys. It's going to be pretty tough in the mountains."
Phinney, a rising star in the sport, is known for his power and speed but not so much for his climbing ability. At 6-foot-5, Phinney may struggle hauling his large frame up Old Snowbasin Road and Big Mountain in Emigration Canyon Wednesday.
Former Utahn Levi Leipheimer also raced Tuesday night. But after his win at the grueling Leadville Trail 100 on Saturday, he's far from recovered and is still smarting from a crash that left him with a nasty bit of bruising and road rash on his leg and hip.
"It's great to be out here," Leipheimer said. "I know these roads well and I've wanted to race here for a while, so I'm glad I was finally able to make it happen."
A big crowd gathered along the prologue course Tuesday night and did not leave disappointed. George Hincapie, the reigning U.S. champ, showed he is far from over the hill and had one of the best times of the day. His BMC teammate Jeff Louder, a Salt Lake native and the 2008 winner of the race, also had a great time and will be looking to put some time into the field today as he seeks to return to the top step of the podium after finishing third a year ago.
Louder crossed the line at 6:17, good enough for seventh and puts him in the Best Utah Rider's red jersey today.
The jersey everyone cares about, though, is yellow and belongs to Phinney — at least for today.
The Tour of Utah hits the road for an 85-mile trip from Ogden to the University of Utah's Research Park Wednesday and then heads south for a day of flat racing that turns sharply uphill at the end with a nasty climb from Nephi to the top of Mount Nebo on Thursday.