Johan Tschopp wins Tour of Utah
PARK CITY, Utah -- One goal guided Johan Tschopp through the final stage of the Tour of Utah. The Swiss rider simply wanted to finish strong.
He knew he didn't need a stage victory. The only thing that mattered to him was navigating the toughest mountain climb yet and staying in contention to the end of the stage.
Tschopp did, finishing fourth in the final stage Sunday to win the overall title.
"My strategy was to perform to the maximum," Tschopp said. "I did what I needed to do to get through the course.
Tschopp finished with an overall time of 21 hours, 26 minutes, 32 seconds. Six American riders placed in the top 10, led by second-place finisher Matthew Busche -- 43 seconds behind Tschopp.
Levi Leipheimer won the stage, surviving the rugged climb through the Wasatch Mountains to finish the 76.8-mile ride in 3:06:53.
Steven Kruijswijk was second, and Leopold Koenig finished third -- both 49 seconds behind Leipheimer.
The final stage featured the toughest climb in the entire race at Empire Pass. Riders climbed to an elevation of 8,913 feet on a trail featuring multiple switchbacks before descending into downtown Park City.
Leipheimer seized control during the climb over Empire Pass. He built up a lead of 1:30 before finishing with a comfortable stage victory.
The Montana rider often trains in Utah in between races and approached Tour of Utah organizers about including the climb over Empire Pass for the 2012 race. For Leipheimer, it simulated tough climbs in Europe that are often challenging to American riders.
He welcomed the inclusion of such brutal climbs as a way to help American riders prepare for the tougher European races.
"These stages prepare riders for that step," Leipheimer said. "Then there's not such a big gap between racing in the U.S. and racing in Europe. Everybody will get stronger from it."
Leipheimer's stage victory culminates a comeback from an accident in April when he broke his fibula after being hit by a car. His legs felt good enough all week that Leipheimer felt confident enough to push himself to the limit in the mountains.
"The bone is fully recovered," Leipheimer said. "It definitely took a lot out of me. You lose a lot of energy and momentum when you have an injury. It takes a long time to get back from that."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- German clubs face off for CL crown
- Grizzlies' Hollins all for anti-flopping rules
- Spurs' Duncan divorcing wife of 12 years
- Pacers clutch late, even series against Heat