Tour of Utah Race To Make Unprecedented Trip Through National Parks
Since its inception, the Tour of Utah bike race has been known as one of the toughest, and most scenic, bike races in the country.
This year the toughness and scenic quality will both take a bump upward, as the race will cut through the red rock and national park country of southern Utah.
cyclingnews.com has this article describing the race. Here's a quote:
The Tour of Utah has scored one of American cycling's biggest coups, gaining permission to pass through some of the USA's most scenic National Parks, including the Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in its first foray to the southern part of the state.
"It makes us proud to host the Tour of Utah - one of the world's premiere professional cycling races. Utah's spectacular and diverse scenery is on the world stage as we host the sport's elite riders right after the Tour de France. Television viewers will get a peek at The Mighty Five™ our five spectacular national parks and will experience our scenic byways that transport visitors through our red rock country. The world will see that some of nature's greatest accomplishments are right here in Utah," said Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.
Stage One presented by Zions Bank begins in Brian Head, the home of Utah's highest-elevation ski resort. The 112-mile (180-km) road race on Tuesday, August 6 begins with a sharp ascent to Cedar Breaks National Monument. The spectacular red rock spires of the Monument contrast sharply with the alpine forest of the Markagunt Plateau as the racers crest the day’s highest point at 10,300 feet. From there the course descends past Panguitch Lake and the undulating roads of Cedar Canyon, meandering alongside the ancient lava beds and alpine lakes of the Dixie National Forest. It reaches a summit of 9,600 feet in the shadow of Cedar Breaks National Monument and overlooks the northern portion of Zion National Park. Due to the location on a high plateau, temperatures in this area are expected to be moderate for summer, highs ranging from 68 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. The racers will descend nearly 4,000 feet to the finish in Cedar City, with three loops through downtown Cedar City and the campus of Southern Utah University.
Stage Two presented by Utah Office of Tourism will begin on Wednesday, August 7 in Panguitch and meander through the multi-hued sandstone terrain that has been sculpted over 325 million years into hoodoos, spires, mesas, cliffs and slot canyons. This is the longest day for the pro peloton at 131 miles (210 km) and will include 9,877 feet of elevation gain. The road race will pass through portions of Bryce Canyon National Park, the first time the race has entered a national park. It will also cross through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the nation’s largest national monument. This stretch will use Highway 12, one of America’s top scenic byways. The second day of racing will conclude with a climb of Boulder Mountain, which is part of the Dixie National Forest, and a sweeping descent into Torrey. This part of Wayne County rests in the shadow of Capitol Reef National Park and the geologic wonder known as the Waterpocket Fold.
The 119 miles (191 km) of racing for Stage Three on Thursday, August 8 begins in Richfield, the seat of Sevier County. This is a relatively flat day, and is the second longest stage of the week. The course does turn upward for a climb of Mount Nebo, which returns after a two-year hiatus from the Tour route. Mount Nebo is the southernmost and highest mountain in the Wasatch Range of Utah, with its lofty peak sitting at 11,928 feet. The cyclists will summit the roadway at 9,300 feet, then have a twisting and exhilarating 22-mile descent into the city of Payson, which rests between the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains and Utah Lake. While the Tour of Utah has passed through this section of Utah County in previous years, it is the first stage finish in this classic western town.
Stage Four presented by University of Utah Health Care reprises the popular circuit race in Salt Lake City on Friday, August 9. The route is similar to the circuit race held in 2011, with the start/finish on Capitol Hill. This year’s 33.8-mile (54.7-km) version will start later in the afternoon, at 5:30 p.m., and include five laps from the Capitol, past the University of Utah, and through the Historic Avenues community. From a start in front of the Utah State Capitol, the course skirts the mouth of City Creek Canyon, with a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Fans in Reservoir Park will get great vantage points as the race passes on three sides before making a hard turn westward onto South Temple. This wide, leafy avenue is Salt Lake City’s stateliest boulevard, including the Governor’s Mansion. After a sharp right turn under the Eagle Gate in front of Brigham Young’s house, riders will confront the 11 percent climb up East Capitol Street toward the front door of the Capitol Building, and complete the circuit.
Saturday, August 10 is Stage Five, the “Queen Stage” of the Tour of Utah which covers 10,611 feet of climbing over 113 miles. This year marks the sixth consecutive finish at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort for this stage. The stage features a new start at Snowbasin Resort, just northeast of Ogden, for the first time. Stage Five will cross five counties and pass six ski resorts. From the Snowbasin Resort, it’s all downhill into Mountain Green and the Morgan Valley, then up and over an imposing red rock escarpment to East Canyon Dam. After skirting East Canyon reservoir, the peloton will make a short but steep climb over Hogback Summit into the town of Henefer. The route will roll through scenic ranchland areas and take a long, gradual ascent of Brown’s Canyon to access Park City. The showdown for the true climbers begins at this point with an 11-percent gradient across Guardsman’s Pass and crossing for the first time ever into Big Cottonwood Canyon. Following a 14-mile descent through the canyon, the route enters the south end of the Salt Lake Valley to conclude with the final legendary six-mile climb into Little Cottonwood Canyon for the finish at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
For the third time, the Tour of Utah returns to Park City for the grand finale, this year on Sunday, August 11, Stage Six presented by VLCM & Barracuda Networks. Like 2012, the route climbs through the scenic and private Wolf Creek Ranch, with its 2.15-mile climb among aspen trees that reaches a maximum pitch of 22 percent. The race crosses the Heber Valley through the friendly mountain towns of Heber City and Midway before winding its way to the base of Empire Pass. This six-mile climb has sections that surpass a 20-percent gradient and should witness another all-out assault by the pure climbers. Following a blistering descent down Mine Road that was climbed one day earlier, the 78-mile (125-km) road race expects to finish in front of massive crowds in historic Park City on lower Main Street.