The Tour of Utah – Toughest Stage Race in America

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It’s like the Tour de France, except it goes by my house in Farmington, Utah.  The “Tour of Utah” holds its claim to fame as the “toughest stage race in America”.  Every year over 100 scrawny guys from all over the world converge in Northern Utah with their bikes and teams to see who will be the first to cross the finish line of this grueling week-long bicycle race.

This race requires absolute commitment, an iron will and I think a little “crazy”.  Today the temperature is in the mid 90’s and the combined elevation gain is well over a mile.  Today’s stage runs nearly 88 miles from an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake to the mainland with twisting downhill sections and insanely steep 13% uphill grades (they loop this part three times).  The race closes hundreds of intersections as the riders glide through dozens of small towns and cities.  It is a sight to see. 

I normally don’t watch the race, but for some reason I was excited to see it this year.  As I watched the live feed of the race on my iPad I noticed many familiar landmarks passing behind the riders on the screen.  I could tell they were getting closer and closer to our house.  I grabbed my kids and we jumped in the car for a 30 second drive to the intersection where we’d watch the racers go by. 

We got out of our car and sat in the shade under a tree in the park strip.  A dozen or so police motorcycles and cars passed by, ensuring the route was closed and safe.  We sat on the curb with our legs resting in the gutter waiting for the riders to pass.  

Almost immediately a truck with loudspeakers on top drove by, thanking the spectators for attending the race.  The announcer said there were six riders in the lead pack approaching soon.  More police, dozens and dozens of support vehicles passed and then behind one more set of police came the first six riders with their skin tight outfits.  In a flash, they came and went.  They were in a tight group with plenty of space on the road for a safe and enjoyable ride. TV motorcycles passed, more support cars and a few minutes later the “big” pack of over 100 bikes came into view.  

It was a sight to see.  Over 100 riders in a tight pack, surrounded by vehicles, motorcycles and bystanders.  It was pure chaos, and it was a blur.  One misstep from anyone in the group would have caused disaster for the masses.  Within a matter of about 20 seconds the entire pack buzzed by, and the remaining support and police vehicles followed.  

My 14 year old looked at me and said “that second group was crazy!”, referring to the high level of danger and crowding.  I looked down at her and said “it would be a lot better to hang with the first group, wouldn’t it?”.  Without thinking I followed with “that’s why mom and I always tell you to find good friends to hang with, everybody is pedaling, but it’s a lot less crazy for the one’s working hard to be better”.  

Just then she got a text from a friend and I’m guessing the lessons didn’t have enough time to sink in. But she heard it, and at some level it’s in her mind as one more stone in her life’s foundation.  

Everyone is pedaling… remember that.  If we just try to be a little better we can pull ourselves out of the noise and chaos and into to a place where the metaphorical air is clear, the view is more full and the support vehicles can find  a us little easier.  




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