SALT LAKE CITY — By cycling standards, things did not look good for team Lotto NL-Jumbo’s Sepp Kuss as Tour of Utah riders entered the base of the climb to Snowbird. With a 21-second overall lead, and 6.5 miles of climbing remaining, the race leader found himself with no teammates to support his climb up the mountain.
EF-Drapac led into the base of the Queen stage with a three-man train, from which Joe Dombrowski attacked early in the climb. Kuss went with the 2015 Tour of Utah champion, but, when the pace stagnated, the Durango, Colorado, native jumped out of saddle and went up the road alone. Kuss was 20 seconds ahead when he flew past Superman in the Tanner’s Flat area.
Before crossing the finish line with a 39-second advantage, Kuss broke out in a huge grin before high-fiving an appreciative Utah crowd at the line.
“When I got to the bottom of the climb, I just decided to ride my own pace because it was easier than having to deal with jumps from everybody,” Kuss said.
Initially, Israel Cycling Academy rider Ben Hermans tried to stay with Kuss, which put another jolt into Kuss’s drive up the hill.
“I saw Ben behind me and said, ‘Oh-no.’ That’s not who I want chasing me because he has a big engine,” Kuss said.
Even with an experienced climber behind him, Kuss continued to push. At the finish line he was 39-seconds in front of Hermans, and 1 minute, 21 seconds up on Hermans in the overall standings with one day of racing remaining.
“Attacking is really fun when you are on a good day,” Kuss said. “When you feel good, there is really no better feeling in the world than kind of dancing on the pedals up a climb.”
For much of the day, BMC rider Kilian Frankiny was up the road as part of a breakaway. That break held up through Guardsman Pass with the group eventually getting caught at the base of the uphill to Snowbird. Frankiny was awarded Saturday’s Most Aggressive Rider after a great day out in front, and a final attack just before Kuss and others caught him.
“The lead was down to 45 seconds heading into the last climb,” Frankiny said. “I was feeling good before the climb, so I attacked, but after a while, Sepp, and others passed me.”
It was a historic day for 20-year-old Aevolo rider, Luis Villalobos. With a seventh-place stage finish, Villalobos became the first Mexican rider to wear a tour jersey after he took the lead in the Best Young Rider Competition.
“I am very happy because its been a long time since we've had Mexicans in the big races,” Villalobos said. “This is my first time at the Tour of Utah and it has been wonderful for me, for the team and I’m hopeful for better things to come in the future.”
While Kuss had no teammates with him up the Snowbird climb, he was complimentary of all the guys on the team for the work they put in.
“Everybody was on point,” Kuss said. “I think we had four guys up the road at one time, we are a Dutch team and cycling is in their blood.”
Sunday’s Stage 6 finishes in Park City: Sunday’s final stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah starts and finishes at 250 N. Main. After riders navigate 76 miles of undulating train, one final climb, up Empire Pass looms. That climb featuring 10 percent to 20 percent grades will leave riders one final chance to attack race leader, Sepp Kuss. The race is expected to end at about 3:45 p.m.
Tour of Utah overall standings:
- Sepp Kuss, Lotto NL-Jumbo
- Ben Hermans, Israel Cycling Academy 1:21
- Joe Dombrowski, EF-Drapac 2:05
- Hugh Carthy, EF-Drapac 2:05
- Jack Haig, Mitchelton-Scott 2:07
- Brent Bookwalter, BMC Racing 2:27
- Luis Villalobos, Aevolo 2:33
- Michael Woods, EF-Drapac 2:40
- Keegan Swirbul, Jelly Belly 3:01
- Peter Stetina, Trek-Segafredo 3:17