Morton soloes to stage 3 victory in Tour of Utah
The 191.9 kilometer stage 3 of the Tour of Utah took the riders from Richfield - a gateway to National Parks, high mountain lakes and broad expanses of open range - to the classic western city of Payson under sunny skies.
21-year-old Morton soloed away from a large chase group on the steeper parts of the ascent of Mount Nebo, the highest and southernmost peak in the Wasatch Range and part of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. He traced down a two-man breakaway just before the summit and continued his solo attack on the downward slope that brought him closer to the finish line in Payson.
Morton managed to hold off a hard-charging chase group down Payson Canyon, thereby taking control of the race in front of enthusiastic crowds. Morton crossed the finish line 34 seconds ahead of BMC Racing Team’s Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium), who won the sprint for second place and thereby finished runner-up for the second straight day. Team UnitedHealthcare’s Lucas Euser (USA) finished third.
“When you have an opportunity like that, you take it. I just put my head down and went as hard as I could,” Morton said when asked to describe his attack up Mount Nebo. “I was just trying to get a win. The yellow jersey is a nice bonus, but we still have a lot of cards to play on our team. It puts me in a nice position and it puts the other guys in a nice position too. It's an ideal scenario for us.”
Van Avermaet said when Morton made his attack, it was not a moment he could respond. "We tried to close the gap with Michi and Jakub and Yannick (Eijssen), but for me it was a hard moment," he said. "I think everyone was at their limit. Then it was only downhill to the finish."
Winning the field sprint, which earned Van Avermaet the sprint jersey, was less of a challenge than his solo attack Tuesday that earned him his fifth win and the race lead after Tour of Utah's stage 1. "It's always a bit tricky with a downhill sprint, but Michael (Schär) did a good lead-out with 500 meters to go," he explained. "I started to sprint with 200 to go and it was easy to win. So it is a little disappointing that one guy (Morton) was away."
The stage victory gives Morton a 22-second lead over Van Avermaet in the general classification. Euser moves into third overall, 40 seconds back. Team RadioShack's Tiago Machado (Portugal) sits in fourth place at 43 seconds back. The general classification is still wide open with a total of 14 riders less than one minute from Morton's yellow leader jersey.