tour of utahAs one of only five internationally sanctioned cycling races, the Tour of Utah is quickly becoming known as one of the most challenging races North America has to offer. The 2013 Tour was the longest and most difficult yet – nearly 600 miles while climbing over 43,000 feet. One of the stamps of the Tour is a climb to end the race that often determines the winner.

Todd Hageman, a Park City resident and course director for the Tour, talked about the brutal climb in an interview with the Christopher Kamrani of the “Park Record” in Park City last year before the Tour.

“It’s brutal,” Hageman said. “Paco Mancebo called it the toughest climb he’s ever done. That Empire Pass climb will define this race; it will put a stamp on the Tour of Utah as America’s toughest stage race. It climbs 3,000 feet in 10K.”

This year’s winner, Tom Danielson, used the Empire Pass climb to claim the lead and he never gave it back after that. “I owed it to myself to try to be that person that I want to be, and just take the bulls by the horn and do it,” Danielson said when asked about his race tactics. He also dedicated the win to his teammates and called it the  “biggest win of my career.” Pace Mancebo won stage six and places 2nd overall.

The Tour of Utah is obviously great for cyclists in North America, providing an exciting, diverse,and challenging race that stands up to any European contender. However, the Tour provided benefits beyond that for everyone here in Utah. It is growing every year, and this year alone it generated a conservative estimate of $14 million direct income for the Utah economy. The economic impact doesn’t end there however; racers and spectators come from world wide and the Tour served as a rolling postcard for the state. The race went from the red rocks of Southern Utah to the mountain vistas of the Wasatch Front to the pastoral lands and lakes of Weber, providing one of the most stunningly diverse races in the world.  In Weber County, one of the most memorable moments occurred when a dozen or so local ranchers took to their horses alongside the road. They raced with the bicycles for about half mile, but it showed the enthusiasm people feel for the event and showed some of the local flavor to the racers.

The tour already stands shoulder to shoulder with the largest cycling events in the world and is growing in popularity and prestige every year. If you get the chance, go see a stage next year. This is one of the few world class sporting events that is free to the public, and at most stages it was a party while watching the bikers fly by. If you are an aspiring cyclists, the Tour of Utah event makes room for amateurs to compete, so you could be a part of the signature event of our state.

Image courtesy of lowjumpingfrog.