NEPHI It's rare that a breakaway succeeds in holding off the peloton for 90 miles.
It's even more rare to see a breakaway later pass that same peloton and get a round of applause as they roll past their standing-still competitors with more than 50 miles still to race.
Yet that's exactly what happened Wednesday during Stage 1 of the Tour of Utah cycling race after a missed turn sent a breakaway group of four cyclists down the wrong road in Mount Pleasant.
"That's a good question," stage winner Jason Donald said when asked if he'd ever seen a breakaway pass the peloton in a road race before. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before."
Donald, riding for Garmin-Chipotle, was part of the four-man breakaway which included Colavita/Sutter Homes' Sheldon Deeny, Successful Living's Brad White and Utah All-Star's Jesse Gordon that built a lead of as much as 7 minutes, 30 seconds before they inadvertently found themselves off course as they left Mount Pleasant.
After race officials figured out the mistake, they made a U-turn a mile up the road and, dejectedly, made their way back to the proper road where the rest of the 119-man peloton was already churning out the miles in front of them.
When word of the mishap got to the other riders, however, they decided to stop on a bend in the road and wait for the rightful leaders to catch up and pass them.
"We're all competing out there," Donald said. "But there's a level of respect."
The mistake, which happened because the lead car which cyclists were supposed to follow went straight instead of making a right-hand turn, turned out to both hurt and help the breakaway riders.
"We were kind of out of it mentally," Deeny said. "But after we realized they were going to put us back in front, we kind of got a second wind they said they were going to give us two minutes before they started them again. We just killed it."
Heading up the hill to Fairview and around a mountain where Donald earned a few King of the Mountain points the breakaway put the hammer down and built the lead back to 2:55 as they reached Fairview again on the descent.
Shortly after that, Gordon let up a little bit after contesting a sprint on the return to Mount Pleasant and was dropped by his three breakaway partners.
"I was fading for a little while," Gordon, who rides locally for Contender Bicycles, said. "After the sprint, they punched it and I didn't worry much about it. I thought I'd get around the corner and catch back on. But I guess that wasn't the case."
Still, Gordon had a tremendous showing against the pros. Thanks in part to his efforts in staying away from the pack, he helped the three remaining breakaway cyclists hold on for the win but just barely.
Coming down the canyon from the Sanpete Valley, the gap was just a minute with less than 10 miles left. Donald, Deeny and White, however, were not to be denied. As each mile ticked off, the gap seemed to stay at about 50-55 seconds until the final straightaway down Nephi's Main Street.
There, Donald won the sprint, edging out Deeny by a few bike lengths and crossing the line in 4:07:09. The mass sprint with the majority of the field came across about 20 seconds later, with Successful Living's Ricardo Esuela leading the charge to nab a few points in the sprint leader's contest.
Donald will wear the race leader's yellow jersey today, while White will don the polka dot King of the Mountain jersey. Deeny, thanks to top-three showings in all four sprint points, wears the green sprint leader's jersey.
Bryson Perry, riding for American RADD/agel, was the first Utahn to cross the finish line.The 5-day, 5-stage race continues today with an 84.6-mile mountain stage beginning in downtown Ogden and winding its way along the Wasatch Back past Snowbasin, Morgan and Big Mountain before setting up for another speedy descent down Emigration Canyon and finishing at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center in Research Park.
Race details at a glance
Stage 1: 101.8 miles
Winner: Jason Donald, Garmin-Chipotle, in 4:07:09.
Highlight: After a missed turn in Mount Pleasant, four breakaway riders are allowed to return to the front, where they hold off the peloton for the final 60 miles.
Online: A photo gallery of Stage 1's action plus Jared Eborn's blog entry recapping news, notes and observations from the race.
Today: Stage 2 starts in downtown Ogden and ends in Salt Lake City, but not before climbing 10,585 feet on ascents up Ogden Canyon, Trappers Loop and Big Mountain.