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Tour of Utah celebrates 15 years of excellence as America's toughest stage race

Hagens Berman Axeon cycling team members get a training ride in as they pedal along a road near Wanship, Summit County, on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. The team will be competing in this year’s Tour of Utah bike race. Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As event organizers, corporate sponsors and Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah riders gathered Thursday at Zions Bank Basketball Campus, the general consensus was that America's toughest stage race just got tougher.

The 2019 Tour of Utah gets underway Monday with a prologue (individual time trial) to be held at Snowbird. Competing will be 117 cyclists representing 24 countries, and already, racers are leery of Wednesday's Stage 2, which extends from Brigham City to a high mountain finish at the top of Powder Mountain ski resort.

"We have done our homework this year and every stage is going to be hard," said James Piccoli of Team Elevate-KHS. "The second stage is Powder Mountain, probably the toughest climb in North America, with a mountain to finish, and then every day after that is hard."

While Thursday's press conference was an introduction to the 2019 tour, it was also a day to reflect on the continued impact the Tour of Utah makes on the state.

Vicki Varela, managing director for the Utah Office of Tourism, compared the Tour of Utah to a moving postcard of Utah that is broadcast to 156 countries globally.

"Imagine if you had to wake up every day and figure out how to persuade people to spend vacation time in Utah," Varela said. "The Tour of Utah gives us a chance to show the world some of the great vacation destinations in Utah with so many spectacular vistas."

“The Tour of Utah gives us a chance to show the world some of the great vacation destinations in Utah with so many spectacular vistas.”

Utah Office of Tourism managing director Vicki Varela

Varela thanked the Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment group for the best partnership anyone could dream of to show people from 156 countries Utah's spectacular landscapes.

Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission, recalled some of the early days of the Tour of Utah. He noted the commitment of the Larry H. Miller family and the enormous contributions from the state of Utah, the tour's corporate partners, the media and the many volunteers that make the Tour of Utah happen.

"As you look at getting the word out, you know, obviously we're looking at hosting another Olympic Games," Robbins said. "What better way to get the word out internationally about the great things we are doing in Utah?"

The 2019 Tour of Utah has several new routes this year. Stage 1 will be in North Logan. Stage 3 starts at Antelope Island and finishes in North Salt Lake City. Friday's Stage 4, the Salt Lake City circuit stage race, is an evening stage, expected to finish near 8 p.m., giving cycling enthusiasts a spectacular venue to watch world-class cycling.

"We could not be more proud of the field of riders we have this year," said John Kimball, managing director of the Tour of Utah. "We have 117 riders, 17 teams from seven different countries and riders representing 24 countries."

Friday's Stage 4 will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Network. Fans can follow the race on FSN and are encouraged to download the Tour of Utah AP, Tour Tracker.