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PARK CITY — There was a moment with about 5 kilometers left in the final stage of the 2016 Tour of Utah that Lachlan Morton of Team Jelly Belly didn’t think he was going to make it.
“The last 5K and the climb there, I’ve never gone that deep before,” Morton said. “I thought I was actually going to die for a second.”
But the Australian did more than survive — he won the whole thing.
Morton won the seventh and final stage in Park City in 3:08:07 to take the overall win in 27:12:49. The victory was good enough to take a 1:09 lead over second-place Adrien Costa of Axeon Hagens Berman. Stage 6 winner Andrew Talansky of Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling was third in 27:14:28.
Even when Morton was about to give up, he closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and pushed through the final incline at a pace more reminiscent of a walking spectator than a world-class cyclist that descends on the Beehive State every year for one of the toughest road races in the United States.
Sunday’s Stage 7 wound through 78 miles of Summit County and ascended 7,883 feet of elevation before finishing on Main Street in Park City. And then, as he strode uphill toward the finish line, Morton pumped his fist and shook his head in disbelief while celebrating a long-awaited win.
“I’ve had a pretty tough few years since I last raced well here,” Morton said during the post-race press conference. “There were a lot of changes in my life, but to get back to this top step is very special. There are a lot of people who are involved with that.
“There are a lot of feelings in my head. But thank you to all the people who have continued to support me when it wasn’t easy.”
The 18-year-old Costa, who won Best Young Rider, was Morton’s top competition with an early stage win, but the final climb was just enough to give Morton the 31-second win.
“The climbs were all hard,” said Costa, who started stage 7 in third place overall before moving up to the runner-up spot. “But at least you’ve got the spectacular scenery of Utah to enjoy. That’s always nice.”
Talansky used a stage 6 win to take pole position into the final sprint. But Morton made up the 22-second deficit with a series of smart decisions that proved the difference maker.
“I just stuck with the group, and knew that was the key: just win the climb,” Morton said. “The chances of us to come back were pretty high. But to win any race, you have to be willing to lose it first. We just stuck to our guns and rode our race, and let them ride theirs.”
BCM Racing finished atop the team standings in 81:51:52, followed by Cannondale-Drapac (82:04:18), Axeon Hagens (82:06:17), Trek Segafredo (82:11:31) and United Healthcare Pro Cycling (82:23:14).