SALT LAKE CITY -- With a boost in distance and elevation gain, race organizers of the 2012 Tour of Utah say they've made the competition even tougher.
The event, scheduled for Aug. 7-12, is the first major weeklong stage race following the Tour de France and London Olympics.
Organizers say mileage in this year's race will increase from 409 to 550 miles. There will also be a 25 percent increase in elevation gain for the week, from 30,000 feet to 37,500 feet of vertical gain, including a new road race on the final day in Park City.
"The Tour of Utah is very important for American cycling. It's billed as 'America's Toughest Stage Race,' and I believe the courses reflect that. We have some very difficult climbs, especially this coming year. There are a couple of new ones that will really shock people," said Levi Leipheimer, the two-time defending Tour of Utah champion and a stage winner at the Tour de France, who now rides for Omega Pharma-Quick-Step out of Belgium. His team has recently accepted an invitation to race at the Tour of Utah for the first time.
The event was elevated in 2011 to a 2.1-rated stage race by the sport's governing body. It is one of four such rated in North America this year.
" 'Tough' really is the quintessential word for the Tour of Utah this year. The reconfigured course will really test the best cyclists in the world. And it's going to be unbelievably exciting for fans -- from the enormous crowds we expect at all the host venues and at all the King of the Mountain climbs, to the worldwide audience we anticipate with live coverage," said Steve Miller, president of the Tour of Utah.
"We are pleased to increase our involvement in this year's Tour of Utah, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said Tuesday. "It is a privilege to host the first 131.6-mile stage race as well as the Ogden to Salt Lake City stage three start. We are looking forward to the excitement of the world's best cyclists conquering our beautiful landscape."
"The geography in Utah is very unique. I've been all around the world and you just don't find the high mountains, and the desert, and the red rocks, and the aspen trees and the Great Salt Lake," Leipheimer added. "It's all very unique and definitely worth a trip."