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Kamas • Eric Young was handed a large bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on the track at Miller Motorsports Park on Wednesday afternoon. It was a third-place beer. The same bottle was grasped by the 25-year-old Illinois native two days later inside Kamas City Hall.
A passer-by asked the Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies rider prior to the start of the Stage 5 news conference how the beer tasted.
"This is a first-place beer," said a grinning Young.
Indeed it was.
In Stage 5 of the 2014 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Young's victory sips were punctuated by a photo finish and a final kilometer that was pure chaos. The three-man breakaway of Jens Voigt, Kirk Carlsen and Brent Brookwalter was caught with less than two miles to go, leaving a swarm of riders booking it for the finish line. Once the fifth stage was officially up for grabs, Young saw the banner signifying 1K remaining. A teammate helped him up the left side of the mass of riders, but he eventually ran out of gas.
"At that point," Young said, "you just kind of have to be a sprinter and you just kind of have to be creative."
Young noticed another rider from Team Jelly Belly flying up for an attack, so he stood out of his seat and accelerated. He caught his breath and told himself if there was a time to go for a stage victory, it was now. The play was simple.
"Up the left side with everything I had," Young said, "and that was it."
Just behind him was Jure Kocjan of Team SmartStop, who finished with his third second-place finish in five stages. Finishing third was Kiel Reijnen of UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling.
"I knew Eric would be tough to beat," Reijnen said. "He was the stronger guy today. That's alright by me."
Defending Tour of Utah champion Tom Danielson remains the general classification leader heading into Stage 6 on Saturday with a 57-second lead over second-place Chris Horner. Stage 6 is the Tour's vaunted Queen's Stage, leaving Salt Lake City and rolling up Emigration Canyon, Big Mountain, Guardsman's Pass and finishing at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. Saturday will feature 12,643 feet of elevation gain in 107.2 miles.
Stage 5 presented a different challenge than the first four. For the first time ever, the Tour of Utah ventured outside of the state, starting Friday morning in Evanston, Wyo., and biking along the picturesque Mirror Lake Highway into Summit County and Kamas. The grueling climb up Bald Mountain Pass was soon a distant memory for the riders who suddenly were tasked with a rapid descent and circuit laps around Kamas.
"Today was Stage 5," Danielson said, "but it felt a few more like that. It's been hard from the beginning. Every day has been creative."
The peloton made headway on the six-man breakaway when the riders touched Democrat Alley, a dirt road that sent the race into a cloud of dust for a good while. The breakaway group was eventually caught, giving Young a small glimmer of hope as he played his cards correctly.
"We brought some sprinters here, and we wouldn't have been happy without a stage win here, so to be able to walk away this week with this? Objective complete," Young said.
Tour of Utah results
Stage 5, Evanston, Wyo., to Kamas: 101.4 miles
Top 10 finishers in Stage 5
1. Eric Young (U.S.), Optum Kelly-Benefit Strategies
2. Jure Kocjan (Slovenia), Team SmartStop
3. Kiel Reijnen (U.S.), UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling
4. Robert Wagner (Germany), Belkin-Pro Cycling Team
5. Rick Zabel (Germany), BMC Racing Team
6. Ben Hermans (Belgium), BMC Racing Team
7. Dion Smith (New Zealand), Hincapie Sportswear Devo
8. Alex Kirsch (Luxembourg), Trek Factory Racing
9. Serghei Tvetcov, (Romania), Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
10. Alan Marangoni, (Italy), Cannondale
Top 10 general classification through Stage 5
1. Tom Danielson (U.S.), Team Garmin-Sharp 22.32'22''
2. Chris Horner (U.S.), Lampre-Merida, 22.33'19''
3. Ben Hermans (Belgium), BMC Racing Team, 22.33'19''
4. Winner Anacona (Colombia), Lampre-Merida, 22.34'09''
5. Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands), Belkin-Pro Cycling Team, 22.34'29''
6. Alex Diniz (Brazil), Funvic Brasilinvest-Sao Jose, 22.34'29''
7. George Bennett (New Zealand), Cannondale, 22.34'48''
8. Carter Jones (U.S.), Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, 22.34'53''
9. Cadel Evans (Australia), BMC Racing Team, 22.35'05''
10. Lachlan Norris (Australia), Drapac Pro Cycling, 22.35'13''