Perfect timing: Moreno Hofland pounces at the right moment, captures 2nd Tour of Utah stage win
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
TOOELE — With one lap remaining on the winding asphalt at Miller Motorsports Park at the close of the Tour of Utah's third stage, Moreno Hofland waited patiently as the UnitedHealthCare team surged to the front with multiple riders.
Hofland's Belkin team slowly moved to the front over the final lap of 2.2 miles, and the Dutch rider got a perfect lead-out.
He took full advantage of the opportunity — again.
Two days after winning the first stage, Hofland pounced off the final sweeping left-hand turn to pick up his second stage win in three days, edging Italy's Andrea Palini by about a bike length Wednesday.
"Today was all about being patient," Hofland said. "I didn't have a very good day (Tuesday) in the mountains, so maybe that's why I had a little more energy for that final sprint."
For much of the day, riders chased a five-man breakaway group led by the tour's most aggressive rider, Danny Summerhill. About 80 miles into the 118-mile stage that started in Lehi, the Summerhill group had just over a four-minute gap on the peloton.
That gap steadily narrowed, however, as riders approached the sports park. The group of five was eventually swallowed up by the main field with just under two laps to go.
Slovenian rider Jure Kocjan maintained the yellow jersey as he finished with the same time as the main pack, but he didn't have the same confidence as Hofland over the final laps and was wary of protecting the lead over what he assumed would be a furious finish that had several very difficult turns.
"I felt good all day and felt like for the most part my team controlled the race and kept me right where I wanted to be," Kocjan said. "I didn't like the concrete at the end because I knew it would be aggressive riding and I didn't want to make any mistakes."
Kocjan, who spent about two weeks prior to the Tour of Utah training in the high altitude of Colorado, said he's acclimated to the elevation of Utah and hopes to hold onto that yellow jersey as long as he can.
"They say the yellow jersey causes you to lose 10 pounds, so we'll see," Kocjan joked.
Kocjan maintains a two-second advantage over Swiss rider Michael Schar, who earned a gritty Stage 2 victory on Tuesday.
American rider Robin Carpenter, who holds the best young rider and king of the mountain jerseys, was part of the five-man break early, but decided to come back to the pack in the best interests of his team after picking up the necessary points over the climbing sections of the course.
Carpenter said he's anxious to get to the mountains of Stage 4, which starts in Ogden and finishes at the summit of Powder Mountain Ski Resort.
"Our team is holding a lot of jerseys right now and we'll see if we can hold onto them in the mountains (Thursday)," Carpenter said. "We've got Chris Butler near the top of the standings, and our primary goal (Thursday) will be helping him."
Park City athlete Tanner Putt, riding for the Bissell development team, continues his strong ride in the tour. Putt finished with the main pack on Wednesday and is currently tied for fifth place in the overall category, trailing race leader Kocjan by only 12 seconds.
Now it's back to the mountains.
The 104-mile Stage 4 starts in Ogden and finishes with a climb that ascends 3,000 feet in just 6 miles to the base of Powder Mountain.
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