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SALT LAKE CITY - After chasing a six-rider breakaway for more than 120 miles, American Jake Keough of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling won a thrilling sprint finish in downtown Salt Lake City at Stage Four presented by Adobe of the 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Friday afternoon.
Keough edged out Liquigas-Cannondale's Marco Benfatto (Italy) to the line in front of EnergySolutions Arena. Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda's Tyler Farrar (USA) finished third. A bunch sprint of 17 riders, which included the G.C. leader Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, covered the 134.2-mile (216.2-kilometer) course in four hours, 47 minutes and six seconds - averaging more than 28 miles per hour.
A six-rider breakaway escaped early and built a lead as great as 10 minutes racing through the Rush Valley and the historic Pony Express road. It took the peloton, led in part by UnitedHealthcare, almost 125 miles to chase down the break within the final kilometer on the downtown streets of the Utah's capital city.
"We committed to doing it all day (chasing the break). We knew a lot of the teams riding for the G.C., with the mountains coming, kind of wanted a break, so we tried to take advantage of that. It was hard to make the catch, but we chipped away at it and got it right at the end," said Keough the Massachusetts native said after winning Stage Four presented by Adobe. "It feels good. There's a lot of high quality riders here. I'm still learning. I'm still trying to progress."
The bunch sprint means there were no significant changes in the overall standings, with a quartet of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda riders atop the leaderboard. Vande Velde remains in the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Overall Leader's jersey. His American teammates Tommy Danielson and Dave Zabriskie are now three seconds back, in second and third respectively on G.C., and Peter Stetina is in fourth.
Rabobank's Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands) is fifth overall on G.C. and wears the Subaru Best Young Rider jersey. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling's Jeff Louder, who helped close the gap and lead Keough to the victory, is the Miller Light Best Utah Rider.
"I'm happy to be a Utahn and win this jersey, but I'm happy for our team UnitedHealthCare.," Louder said. "To see the team win is the best. To see Jake (Keough) win was great. It's an honor to be on this team."
Liquigas-Cannondale's Timmy Duggan (USA) retains his Ski Utah King of the Mountains jersey. Michael Matthews (Australia) of Rabobank Cycling Team remains in the XO Communications Sprint leader jersey. Bontrager-Livestrong's Jasper Stuyven (Belgium) was awarded the Exergy Development Group Most Aggressive Rider jersey after spending nearly 130 miles in the breakaway.
"It was a long hard windy day. We (six-rider break) worked well together to the very end so we all wanted to survive. I think everyone is very tired now," added 20-year-old Stuyven, making his first appearance in the Tour of Utah.
Saturday, August 11 is Stage Five presented by Exergy Development Group. The Queen Stage of the six-day race covers 101.1 miles (162.8 kilometers) from the Newpark Town Center outside Park City to the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. The course includes 10,000 feet of climbing and four Ski Utah KOM climbs. After departing Park City at 11:10 a.m. MT, the race travels around Jordanelle Reservoir and climbs the Alpine Loop scenic byway past Sundance Resort and in the shadows of Mount Timpanogos. The final climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon tests riders with a sustained 10 percent gradient over the final 10 kilometers to the finish. Race leaders are estimated to finish at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort close to 3:50 p.m. MT.
Overall G.C. Standings - following Stage Three presented University of Utah Health Care:
1. VANDEVELDE Christian Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda GRS 13.59'29"
2. DANIELSON Thomas Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda GRS 13.59'32"
3. ZABRISKIE David Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda GRS 13.59'32"
4. STETINA Peter Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda GRS 14.00'02"
5. KELDERMAN Wilco * Rabobank Cycling Team RAB 14.00'05"
6. KRUIJSWIJK Steven Rabobank Cycling Team RAB 14.00'05"
7. BENNETT George * Radioshack-Nissan-Trek RNT 14.00'10"
8. HORNER Christopher Radioshack-Nissan-Trek RNT 14.00'10"
9. BUSCHE Matthew Radioshack-Nissan-Trek RNT 14.00'10"
10. BOOKWALTER Brent BMC Racing Team BMC 14.00'19"