Van Avermaet wins stage 1 of Tour of Utah
Van Avermaet's attack on the final lap in Cedar City, Utah caught the peloton off-guard as he powered away from the field after it had caught up to breakaway leaders Michael Torckler of BISSELL Pro Cycling and UnitedHealthcare's Chris Jones.
Van Avermaet had created a small gap when he rounded the final corner about 600 meters from the finish of the 180 kilometer stage. He managed to maintain the gap all the way to the finish line where staff members and thousands of fans were ready to celebrate his victory.
"I previewed the finish yesterday and it wasn't such a great finish for me because it was downhill," Van Avermaet explained after being congratulated on the podium. "I thought guys like (Michael) Matthews could beat me. So I tried to do it differently and went in the last kilometer. It was already hard and I attacked. I came into the last corner with a gap and then I was just pedaling to finish and hoping they wouldn't come over. I'm happy that I won."
Matthews (Team GreenEdge) finished second and Ty Magner (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team) crossed the finish line in third position. Van Avermaet's win was his fourth of the season, adding to a pair of stage wins and the overall title at the Tour de Wallonie last month.
An experienced sprinter, Matthews was disappointed to come up short of the yellow leader's jersey.
"It's hard when you're so focused on the first stage and it slips away. But that's racing. You can't win every race and you have to put faith in your team," Matthews said.
Van Avermaet explained his winning move was planned – and inspired by BMC teammate Taylor Phinney's solo attack in Poland last week that was from much farther out but equally as successful. "You can have the plan, but sometimes it's hard to work out," Van Avermaet said. "But the team was riding well on the circuits and it worked out in the last kilometer."
Stage winner Van Avermaet earned a 10-second time bonus for the victory and now leads Matthews and Jones by four seconds. But with 3,010 meters of climbing awaiting the riders in tomorrow's 210 kilometer stage 2, Van Avermaet's time in the yellow jersey might be limited.
"It's going to be hard for me to take the GC (general classification)," Van Avermaet said. "We have a couple of good guys like Steve Cummings and Yannick Eijssen, who are going really good uphill. It's always good, though, to start a stage race with a victory. Hopefully, we can get some other ones."