The 5th stage of the Tour of Utah was taken out by Michael Woods (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit) with Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) in 2nd and Kiel Reijnen (United Healthcare) finishing 3rd.
At only 89.1km in length, the 5th stage started off with a real bang as 8 riders attacked right from the gun. Songezo Jim was one of the riders in the move, ensuring MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung kept its unique record of being in the break in each stage of the Tour of Utah this year so far.
The 8 leaders were held at just over a minute for most of the day as with the finish coming up so soon, the GC teams couldn’t risk letting the gap go. Strangely though, team Smartstop were leading the chase most of the day while also having a rider driving the break too. It was of no concern to Songezo though as he just got on with the business before eventually attacking the lead group along with Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) with 35km to go.
The duo held onto a 30″ lead until 20km to go before they were caught by the peloton. Johann van Zyl then proceeded to mark any attacks for our African team as there was a plan to keep Natnael Berhane up high in the GC. MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung drove the peloton into the penultimate climb of the day and then Youcef Reguigui launched Berhane onto the hill with 14km to go. Unfortunately this move was actually 1 lap too early.
Natnael put his head down and went for broke. The Eritrean champ built up a 30″ lead on the climb but the peloton would regroup before mounting the chase. Natnael put in a valiant effort but unfortunately was caught with just 2km to go. After a massive 12km solo effort Natnael crossed the line 26″ behind Woods and is still in contention to challenge for a high GC spot. Songezo Jim was also awarded the most aggressive rider jersey for his efforts.
Songezo Jim – Rider
Today I got in the break again which was good, and with two laps to go I attacked with one other and thought maybe we had a chance but it didn’t work. Tomorrow is another opportunity and we will try again.
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx – Sport Director
It was a short stage, just 7 laps of a 12.5km circuit with a steep climb at 1km from the finish. The plan was to protect Natnael all day and bring him to a good position for the final km. He attacked with 1 lap to go, this wasn’t actually the plan and I was not too happy with this attack. I have to say the team were still excellent though, for the 5th time in 5 stages we had somebody in the break. It was a good job by Songezo, he got the prize of most aggressive rider. It was a pity he couldn’t stand on the podium yet because the presentation was washed out by a very big thunderstorm.