We just tried to focus on the race and see if we couldn’t turn a negative into a positive and the week finished out pretty well for us. —Joe Dombrowski
PARK CITY — With a 50-second lead entering Stage 7 of the Tour of Utah, all Cannondale-Garmin rider Joe Dombrowski had to do was stay on the wheel of his closest competitor, Team Optum’s Michael Woods.
On Sunday’s 78-mile stage, Dombrowski, with help from his team, followed Woods up Wolf Creek Pass and then up the brutal Empire pass climb, maintaining his advantage and claiming the overall win in the 2015 Tour of Utah.
“Yesterday I had a really good climb but I can’t say enough about how good the team was all week and especially today,” Dombrowski said. “They did a good job controlling the break and for us that meant less stress. We were able to save guys longer and have more guys with me at the bottom of the beginning of the big climb.”
The 2015 Tour of Utah could not have started worse for the Cannondale-Garmin team. The team was rocked with the news that two-time defending champion Tom Danielson had failed a doping test and would not be riding in this year’s tour.
Dombrowski said the mood in the team bus early in the week was tough after hearing about Danielson, but that he rallied the troops by telling his teammates this could still be a special event.
“I said to the guys on the team bus the first day, I think we can win this race and get some stage wins,” Dombrowski said. “We just tried to focus on the race and see if we couldn’t turn a negative into a positive and the week finished out pretty well for us.”
With the overall yellow jersey pretty well sewn up going into the final stage of this year’s Tour, the drama turned to who would join Dombrowski on the podium for the overall classification lead.
Team Optum’s Woods gave it everything he had but couldn’t pull time back on the race leader.
“Coming into today, the big goal was to shake up the general classification but Joe was super strong today and I just couldn’t shake him,” Woods said.
With a cluster of riders behind Woods vying for the third spot on the podium, BMC rider Brent Bookwalter knew he had some work to do on Sunday. Bookwalter was dropped by the main group going up Empire Pass but fought back into that group before attacking the final descent into Park City.
Bookwalter charged over the summit and red-lined it down the mountain at speeds approaching 65 miles per hour. While he was caught by Drapac Cycling’s Norris Lachlan for the stage win, the six-second bonus he received vaulted him into third overall, just two seconds in front of Trek Factory Racing’s Frank Schleck.
“Going into today my dream scenario was winning the stage, getting on the podium and getting the points lead,” Bookwalter said. “I came up a couple inches short but it was a real honor to kind of step up and carry the flag for the team and I was honored to have them working for me.”
Tour of Utah Executive Director Jenn Andrs announced the dates for the 2016 Tour of Utah: Aug. 1-7, 2016 while adding the 2016 Tour route will feature new mountains and locations.