It's totally unbelievable for me and the team as well. We rode pretty hard all day to catch up to the break, and my team covered everything. —Eric Young, Stage 5 winner
KAMAS — When news surfaced early in Friday's Tour of Utah that Stage 1 and 3 winner Moreno Hofland had dropped out of the race, every sprinter in Friday's Stage 5 became a little extra alert.
Still, those sprinters were about five minutes behind a six-man breakaway group when the peloton reached the 11,000-foot summit of Bald Mountain.
Trailing by that margin, someone had to push, and team Optum went to the front.
The orange-helmeted team with black jerseys chased until they caught the breakaway and then chased all the way to the finish to give sprinter Eric Young the stage victory.
"It's totally unbelievable for me and the team as well," Young said. "We rode pretty hard all day to catch up to the break, and my team covered everything."
Young's teammate, Carter Jones, was the only Optum rider left as riders gathered for the sprint finish. Jones made a move with 500 meters to go, but Young hesitated, knowing he couldn't red-line from that far out.
Instead, he tucked in behind the wheel of another rider, drafted for a few seconds, and then struck with 300 meters to go where he held on for what he calls the biggest stage victory of his life.
"I don't think we would have been happy without a stage win, so to be able to walk away with a stage win this week is objective completed," he said.
For a while it looked like the peloton might not even catch the six-man group that broke away early.
Part of that group included Salt Lake native Jeff Louder.
Louder, who was awarded Vivint Most Aggressive Rider for Friday's stage, said he's ridden every road in the Tour of Utah, and Friday he had a definite home-court advantage.
"I knew points in the race where I could sit up a little bit and recuperate if I knew something was coming up, and I knew where to rest if I felt tired," Louder said.
Louder, who is retiring at the end of the season, said it's always a treat to race in front of friends and family.
"Knowing this is the last chance to do it, there is no reason to leave anything in the tank," Louder said.
Park City rider Tanner Putt made a brief move just over the summit in an attempt to reach the six-man break, but he came back to the pack when he couldn't significantly cut into the lead.
Tom Danielson, who took over the yellow jersey with a vicious climb to Powder Mountain Thursday, stayed out of danger Friday, maintaining his overall lead of 57 seconds heading into Stage 6.
"It was a tough ride with a lot of wind, rain and a lot of turns and a gravel road," Danielson said. "This was definitely the most technically challenging stage so far."
Danielson, the 2013 Tour of Utah champion, was complimentary of the course design and layouts throughout the tour.1 comment on this story
"A lot of races just go from point A to point B," he said. "Every race here is creative and challenging, and the organizers have done a great job."
Danielson will try to hold on to his overall lead of 57 seconds over Chris Horner and Ben Hermans as the tour shifts to Salt Lake City for Stage 6.
That race begins Saturday morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium and finishes at the base of Snowbird Ski Resort.
The 107-mile stage features 13,000 feet of elevation gain and a stiff final climb of 7,000 feet up Big Cottonwood Canyon.