“Without a doubt, the Tour of Utah has achieved world-class status. Our event not only represents a forum for showcasing athletic perfection, but communicates a broader message: how individual attention to personal health and physical activity at every age will lead to a stronger, healthier society.” –Tour of Utah
I’ve been tuning into the 10th edition of the Tour of Utah daily. The Utah Sports Commission is sponsoring a free broadcast with Tim Johnson and Frankie Andreu, two former pro cyclists, as knowledgeable announcers. The broadcast gives an intimate look inside the sport of cycling and is showcasing how cycling fits into the greater fabric of American communities. Mayors, CEO’s and more dignitaries drop in as guests in the broadcast booth for short interviews and story telling while the racing unfolds. Cameras stay with the race broadcasting from motorbikes and helicopters for non-stop action. Seeing the tour travel through the Utah landscape is stunningly beautiful and the fans and racers are delivering high energy and exciting competition. Everyone is learning about Utah, cycling, health, the host communities.
It’s a world class field. The first day three Americans from Boulder finished 1 2 3. Yesterday Logan Owen, a 20 year old American who started riding on BMX bikes, won with a swift sprint and deft bike handling. Kiel Riejnen, an American from Boulder, has been in the overall race lead the whole race so far though that may have changed today after Stage 4.
The race is in its tenth year and is super well organized. They network the event into the host communities with kids bike races at the start/finish lines on downtown Main Streets. Mayor Mike Caldwell of Ogden is adoring affiliating his city with this event. He talked about how Ogden is attracting a cycling industry cluster to develop the economy. Mayor Caldwell commutes by bike and is expecting his bike planning process to start showing physical and visible improvements to make it easier for people to bike in Ogden. I get to race at Masters Nationals in Ogden this early September on some of the same roads the Tour of Utah rolled on.
At yesterday’s stage three finish in Bountiful Mayor Randy Lewis lined the 9 mile finishing circuit and Main Street with flags and 50,000 people showed up to cheer on the cyclists. Mayor Lewis glowed about the cooperative environment that brought the race to its first ever visit to Bountiful and praised the County Commissioners, the city staff, and the enthusiastic citizens.
If you look at the partners the Tour of Utah has assembled the diversity of involvement in pro cycling is incredible. You’ve got banks, health care, the automotive industry, tech industries, aerospace, cycling manufacturers, the Office of Tourism, Shell Oil, In and Out Burger, Subway, Papa Johns, and a ton more. Everyone wants to be a part of the sport that is practicable and timely, something that lifts up the livability and desirability of every community. Washakie Renewable Energy is also a sponsor. They make biodiesel and provide services to directly address pressing challenges in Utah’s Wasatch Front communities, including the air quality issues exacerbated by winter temperature inversions. Everyone is eager to enjoy and associate with the compounding benefits of cycling. Last year viewers from 164 different countries watched the Tour of Utah online. Tourism and recreation is a driver of the Utah economy. Nearly 8 billion dollars were spent in 2014. Cycling elevates the profile of Utah, and synergizes well with skiing, outdoor lifestyles and the interest in health and wellness.
Friday’s race is a circuit race through Salt Lake City including the Capitol Hill neighborhood and tons of fans will be cheering on the action out in the streets. Saturday and Sunday feature high mountain passes the Tour of Utah is most famous for (“the hardest race in America”) and the overall race leader will emerge. I’m picking Lachlan Morton or Chris Horner, but no matter what, we’ll watch some of the best athletes in the world performing at the pinnacle of the sport in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Go Cycle Utah or wherever it is you live.