OGDEN -- The Ogden area will play an expanded role in Utah's most prestigious bicycle race this year, as the largest and arguably most grueling stage will take place on a new route connecting North Ogden Divide and Ogden Canyon.
The Tour of Utah, a six-day, 409-mile race through the Wasatch Range and surrounding communities, will feature approximately 120 of the world's top male cyclists representing 15 teams.
The tour opens Aug. 9 with a time trial at Utah Olympic Park in Park City.
Ogden then hosts the first stage Aug. 10. In past years, the stage consisted of a ride from Ogden to Salt Lake City, but this year, it will feature a loop that keeps both the start and the finish in Ogden.
The new format will go a long way toward helping the city showcase its outdoor-recreation identity, said Sara Toliver, president and CEO of the Ogden/Weber Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"It's a great opportunity to show people from around the world what we have to offer as a community," she said. "It's now recognized as one of the top races in the country, and it's right in our own backyard."
Hosting a stage finish as well as a start means the event will appeal more to the general public, Toliver said.
"When you host a start, it's a great opportunity for cycling enthusiasts to meet the racers and check out the latest equipment," she said, "but typically, the crowds and the festival component are associated with the finish.
"This year, by hosting a start and a finish -- and, even better, in the same spot -- we'll get the benefit of both."
Racers will start near the Ogden Amphitheater on Historic 25th Street, then head to North Ogden Divide to make three laps around a 38.5-mile loop that goes over the divide, around Pineview Reservoir, down Ogden Canyon and back to the divide.
The race finishes back at the Ogden Amphitheater.
Steve Miller, president of the Utah Cycling Partnership, which owns and organizes the race, said the new loop format in Ogden will be more spectator-friendly while still presenting a significant challenge to competitors.
Stage two will consist of a 100-mile course that starts on the north side of Utah Lake and ends in Provo. As in past years, the third stage will be held at Miller Motorsports Park. The fourth stage on Aug. 13 will consist of 11 laps around a 7.4-mile course in downtown Salt Lake City.
The Tour of Utah wraps up Sunday, Aug. 14, with the traditional fifth stage, a 100-mile route from Park City to Snowbird resort.
This year's race will fork out more than $116,000 in prize money and award jerseys.