Australian Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) attacked on the HC climb of Empire Pass to win the final stage of the Tour of Utah and clinch the overall general classification victory at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. An inspired Morton, who lost the yellow jersey on Stage 6, accelerated away from GC leader Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) for the win in Park City.
By
Cycling Central

8 Aug 2016 - 1:21 PM  UPDATED 8 Aug 2016 - 8:37 PM

Adrien Costa of Axeon Hagens Berman crossed the finish line 31 seconds behind Morton and moved from third to second overall on GC, one minute and nine seconds back. Talansky, who was paced on the final climb by his teammate Joe Dombrowski, dropped to third overall in the overall. Darwin Atapuma Hurtado of BMC Racing Team finished third on the stage, 50 seconds back, and was fourth. Defending Tour of Utah champion, Joe Drombrowski finished eight overall.

“I have had a few pretty tough years since the last time I raced here,” said Morton after the stage. "I've had a lot of changes in my life and to get back to this top step is very special, and there are a lot of people who were involved with that."

"So, yeah, there were a lot of things going through my head, but mainly just all the people who continued to support me when things weren't good.

"It's easy for people to come out and congratulate you or pat you on the back when do something good, but when you're down and out that's when you know who your friends are," Morton said. "I guess I was thinking about all those people in all those tough moments, and that's what was going through my head."

Morton entered the final day of the seven-day stage race with a 22-second deficit to race leader Talansky. He captured the leader’s jersey on Stage 3, a stage he also won in 2013 with a climb over Mount Nebo. He lost the overall lead two days later on the queen stage after Talansky took the attack to him on the summit finish.

“Having the defending champion of this race to work for me was pretty special," said Talansky. "The way Joe (Dombrowski) was riding, he could have easily ridden up to Lachlan."

“He could have had a chance for a stage win. He sacrificed all of that to stay with me, to help stay on the podium.”

“The climbs in this race, the calibre of the field, the altitude, everything… it really lived up to its reputation. It was a tough week.”

As it happened

The start of Stage 7 showcased dynamic, attacking racing from the start in Park City. The 104-rider peloton was still together for the first of two sprint points in Kamas. A break of 10 riders, who escaped after 25 miles of non-stop attacking, had a lead of three minutes at the bottom of rain-soaked Wolf Creek Ranch, the first KOM of the day.

Attacks from BMC Racing Team shattered the peloton on the climb, which led to the showdown on the Hors Category (HC) climb of Empire Pass.

Morton, who started the day second 22 seconds back from Talansky, played the waiting game throughout the stage, despite the attacks from BMC’s Joey Rosskopf, Talansky and third-placed Costa (Axeon Hagens Berman).

The trio built a gap and began to pass members of the early break, but Morton bided his time in the bunch and relied on the race coming back together before the final climb up Empire Pass. When things did reform, Morton jumped away from the yellow jersey group at the base of the climb and soloed away to the finish.

"We had one card to play today, and that was to go all in on the last climb," Morton said. "So BMC kind of turned the race on its head in the middle there.”

“And credit to them, they blew it apart on the middle climb. I saw Andrew pull out and then Adrien went across.

“That as the moment of making a decision, and sometimes you just have to stick to your guns. I knew if I went with those guys there's no chance I'd have any teammates, so I just stuck with the group.”

Morton went all-in at the bottom of the final climb of the day and as the rest of the GC riders chased Morton, Talansky began to lose contact with the group. Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapac) paced Talansky up the slope, but the Cannondale leader was obviously suffering badly.

With an advantage of just under two minutes to Talansky at the summit of the climb and only needing to pull back 22 seconds to claim the overall win, Morton descended safely to take the stage and overall Tour victory.

The win is yet another milestone in an already impressive season for the former WorldTour cyclist. He took the overall win in the Tour of Gila, before showing some serious form against the best in the USA at the Tour of California.

Nonetheless, this win is probably the best result of his career to date, really announcing that the 24 year-old Aussie is back to the sort of form that had many labeling him a star of the peloton in his youth.