The Tour of Utah kicks off on August 12 and runs through August 18, and it's an annual showcase of some of the best talent in North America, along with some of the United States's most epic riding areas and most unique landscapes. A host of World Tour teams also show up each year, making for a dynamic and exciting race unlike any other in the world. "America's Toughest Stage Race" is more than a clever moniker—ask any pro rider who's taken part in the past, and every single one will tell you that it is, indeed, one of the most brutal stage races in professional cycling. Leading up to the 2019 edition, we caught up with two pro racers from the Rally UHC Cycling team, each of whom has a unique perspective on the event. American Emerson Oronte is a veteran of the Tour of Utah, and his role as a pivotal support rider for his team leaders can make or break the squad's entire campaign. Canadian Rob Britton won the the overall at the Tour of Utah back in 2017, and he's ready to give it a go in pursuit of a second title.
This will be my sixth time taking part in the Tour of Utah which, now that I’ve said it out loud, is hard to believe.
In a nutshell, this race is like finding the steepest road around your house and climbing up and down it all day long. You’re also doing it while it’s close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit [38 degrees Celsius] outside. Oh, and you’re at a very high altitude, above 7000 feet [2200 meters].
For me, the heat and the altitude are the defining characteristics of the Tour of Utah. Every year, they add a whole new element of difficulty to an already hard week.
Hard! Like, “Why didn’t I play golf?” hard.
My relationship with this race has been very contentious, so to say I that look forward to it may be a bit of a lie. It’s always been a sort of enigma for me in terms of being able to prepare and show up with the form I’d like to have for an entire week. Some years I started off great, but then faulted. Other years, I’ve started poorly and gotten better. And, I won't lie, there have been quite a few years where I was just plain bad! I’m always optimistic, though!
As with any race, I look to show up and do my job, and that is to support the guys going for overall or stage win ambitions. Rob Britton [below] has won this race in the past, and Gavin Mannion and Kyle Murphy have put in strong performances as well. For me, I get a lot of satisfaction in being one of the individuals behind the scenes who can contribute to the success of the team as a whole. If any of those guys find their way to the podium and I know I played a part, for me, that’s a success.
Not to sound cliche but it is a very beautiful state. Given that my eyes are often burning with sweat or focused on the wheel in front of me, I don’t get to take in nearly as much of the state as I’d like. When I am able to pay attention, though, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
When the road goes uphill, you don’t want any extra weight. Having a bike that is both stiff and light makes a big difference when you’re doing close to 30,000 feet of climbing in a week. Disc brakes are also an added bonus anytime gravity is in your favor. So, regardless of whether we’re going uphill for downhill (which we’ll be doing a lot), the FR is ready for the job.
Lots of climbing and time at altitude.
Each day we can expect to burn between 2,000 and 4,000 calories. On the bike, I try to keep my intake to around 400 calories per hour with the general goal of getting to the end of the stage with as little of a deficit as possible so I’m ready for the next stage. Electrolytes are also really important given the heat. I tend to sweat out a lot of salt so replacing that is important. If you ever see me at the dinner table, you’ll notice I salt EVERYTHING. This week will be no exception.
A Lot! 8 or 9 times.
It’s America’s toughest race! What more is there to say?
Tour of Utah is unique in that it’s hotter, at higher altitude, and has more climbing than any other race in the United States. Those three things combined make it an incredibly difficult week of racing, even if it’s not the longest race on the calendar—that would be the Tour of California.
Even before I won the general classification in 2017, the Tour of Utah had always been a special race to me.
Well, I set the bar pretty high a couple years ago. So it would be nice to get back to that level again.
Its liquor laws.
The FR is light, stiff, and responsive. Along with its geometry, it all combines to make it the perfect choice for any mountainous race, or any race for that matter!
About 100 hours in the last four weeks with a specialized block of altitude work in the two weeks leading up to the race to really help focus on the demands of the courses.
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