The Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team's lineup for the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah includes U.S. U23 national road race champion Neilson Powless along with two additional Under 23 national champions, Ecuador U23 national time trial champion Jhonatan Narvaez and British U23 road race champion Chris Lawless.
In its 13th edition, this year’s race covers 605 miles with 136,525 feet of vertical climbing. In addition to two summit finishes, the race will pass through several ski resorts, including Brighton, Snowbasin Resort, and Snowbird. For the first time since 2011 when Axeon Hagens Berman Sports Director Jeff Louder finished 10th overall, the course will include an individual time trial with Stage 3’s five-mile 5.5 percent gradient uphill race against the clock.
Louder, who is a Utah native and won the overall at the Tour of Utah in 2008, said he appreciates the changes to this year’s race profile and has stressed to his riders that every day is hard and they must remain focused and consistent all week to earn a good result.
“I think it will be a great race from start to finish and our squad is full of strong riders. I think every stage suits our abilities because we tend to rise to the occasion and perform better the tougher the racing gets. This team is so deeply talented and I think anyone on the squad could have a breakout performance. Everyone is focused on the Tour of Utah and I am excited to see who can put it together and show what they are capable of,” Louder said. “I really like this year’s course, especially with the addition of the Snowbasin summit, which will be the first big GC shakeout. I am particularly looking forward to the last two stages because they feature some of my personal favorite roads and race venues.”
In the 2016 Tour of Utah, Axeon Hagens Berman rider Adrien Costa finished second overall. While Costa is not on this year’s roster, the team is bringing an eight-man squad to “America’s Toughest Stage Race” with a combined 14 victories during the 2017 season. American Under 23 national road champion Powless has four wins including the opening stage at the Giro Ciclistico d’Italia, better known as the Baby Giro. In addition to the U23 British National Championship, Lawless’ additional win this season includes Stage 3b at the Tour de Beauce. New to the Axeon Hagens Berman roster this season, Ecuadorian Narvaez has already powered to four wins this season including the overall title at the Circuit des Ardennes and Stage 5 of the Tour of the Gila. Michael Rice scored wins on Stage 3 of the Redlands Bicycle Classic and Stage 3 of San Dimas Stage Race. Fresh off a win on the track at the U23 European Championships in the Elimination, Rui Oliveira took home top honors as the best young rider at the Joe Martin Stage Race.
Powless joins Owen as the only Axeon Hagens Berman riders who have raced at the Tour of Utah before. The 22-year-old Owen won Stage 3 of the race in 2015.
“Logan and I were both a part of Adrien’s success last year and that gives the whole team confidence heading into the race. The Tour of Utah is unique because of the altitude but having raced it last year helped me learn how and when it is necessary to use energy,” Powless said. “My goal heading into the race is to share my experiences from last year, but for the most part, I think everyone is putting in all the right efforts to show up in the best form possible.”
Following a mid-season break, the Axeon Hagens Berman’s squad arrived in Park City last week to help the riders acclimate to the altitude and heat and to ride some of the key stages. Neilson said the challenging race profile plays well to the versatile skills of the Axeon Hagens Berman squad.
“We have a super strong team this year and most of us have been preparing at altitude for a while. To be honest, I believe we realistically have someone for every stage. We have a group of really explosive guys with Chris, Logan, Michael, and Rui. For the climbs, the team will look to Will, Jhonatan and me,” Powless said. “In particular, I’m looking forward to the second and final stage. The final stage around Salt Lake City looks exciting; when you have a stage like that at the end of a weeklong race, things get lively, and you’ll definitely see guys cracking.”
LARRY H. MILLER TOUR OF UTAH (July 31-Aug 6):
Riders: William Barta (USA), Jonny Brown (USA), Chris Lawless (GBR), Jhonatan Narvaez (ECU), Neilson Powless (USA), Michael Rice (AUS), Rui Oliveira (POR), Logan Owen (USA).
Sport Directors: Axel Merckx (BEL), Jeff Louder (USA).