Gord Fraser recounts the glory of Kocjan’s stage 2 ride at Tour of Utah

SmartStop claims the yellow jersey on stage 2, but Fraser explains that it was a nervous finale with an unexpected outcome

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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Editor’s Note: This is a first-hand account from the Tour of Utah’s stage 2, written by SmartStop’s second director, Gord Fraser

The views were magnificent as we traveled through Bryce Canyon dropping into Torrey, Utah to conclude the second stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah on Tuesday.

Along the way the relentless pace set by the Garmin team had shed five of our riders in various groups that were splintered all over the vast countryside.

With the yellow jersey, Moreno Hofland (Belkin), back with some of our guys, the GC lead was certainly in play, but BMC’s Michael Schär was holding off the group.

Schär was the lone survivor of a serious five-man break that went early. With only Josh Berry and Rob Britton to lend a hand in the chase, we would do our best to close the gap on the Swiss rider but the splits coming over race radio weren’t encouraging.

Looking at the GC picture, our SmartStop rider Jure Kocjan held an 11-second advantage over Schär but with the Swiss strongman taking a mid-race three-second bonus, that advantage was reduced to eight seconds. This wasn’t looking good.

I was following the third group on the road in car two, leap-frogging with the fourth group in an effort to keep the SmartStop guys fueled.

The battle up front was witnessed by Mike Creed in our first car, and I’m sure he was as nervous as I was 10 minutes behind. Our last time gap was 25 seconds with two kilometers to go. Surely our chance at the stage and the coveted yellow jersey was not to be.

Schär was confirmed as stage winner and Jure would mop up the field sprint for second. Normally I’d be pretty elated, but knowing the yellow jersey slipped through our fingers was truly bitter.

I’m going to be honest. I was already picturing the words I was going to type and how I was going to paint this pretty picture of how we gave it our best shot and that second-place two days in a row was a great accomplishment.

I knew it would sound hollow.

What I really felt was disappointment and anger. I was pissed that a bunch sprint win would garner the points jersey surely, but the yellow would go to powerhouse BMC. My mechanic will attest that my language was colorful those last few minutes.

Finding Mike’s car and the RV, I pulled up, ready to congratulate the team on a fantastic effort but the ear splitting grin on Mike’s face immediately changed my inner tantrum to delight. What wasn’t mentioned over race radio was the time gap, and Jure would take the jersey by a meager two seconds. I’ve seen Mike celebrate with his team time and again this season but to share the joy of the moment with this team was truly special. I’ve been around this sport a long time, and it’s refreshing to me that I can still feel surprise and elation from a poignant result.

The SmartStop Pro Cycling Team has worked very hard to step up their game in these prestigious races and everyone should take a little credit. It’s a team sport and I’m truly glad to be a small part of it. Wednesday is another day, and we’ll try our best to claim that elusive stage win. As today shows, anything is possible.

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