NORTH LOGAN — When my day began Tuesday, I never expected to be out in front of the peloton during Stage 1 of the Tour of Utah.
But there I was with Preston “Terry” Gaylord III. For more than half of the race we enjoyed the scenery of northern and western Cache Valley before any of the cyclists riding in the 2019 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. We got to hear the cheers of fans first and wave to many people who turned out along the route that took us from North Logan to Benson, Newton, Trenton and eventually back to North Logan and Hyde Park.
No, I was not racing and neither was Terry, a retired professional rider who at times looked like he would love to be out there with the youngsters. Terry is in his late 60’s, but still going strong. We were teamed up in a media car that got to go ahead of the race.
Having watched many cycling events on television and some in person while also covering many over the years, including LoToJa, this was the first time I had the opportunity to be right in the action of a field of all pro fessional riders. I was offered a seat in a media vehicle and took it after my son encouraged me to. We were originally going to watch it together at the start/finish line between Green Canyon High School and the RSL training facility.
So, Terry and I got in a blue Ford car and were rolling as the race radio announced “two minutes from the start.” We followed UHP cars and motorcycles, and a variety of other officials and VIPs in what Terry called a “parade” before the racing officially began.
As we approached 600 West on Airport Road I saw the official start line and soon heard the radio declare Stage 1 was underway. We picked up speed and along with 113 riders and a very large caravan of others were off. The cyclists started the day by riding between 26 to 28 miles per hour.
The streets around North Logan were packed at the beginning and later in the race. Fans turned out in Newton in force and many were on the climb near Little Mountain between Trenton and Clarkston. There were farmers on four-wheelers parked on gravel roads and in corn fields who took a break to watch the Tour of Utah go by, as well as a front-end loader driver at a gravel pit who positioned his piece of machinery for a good view as the cyclists zipped by.
There was plenty of excitement in the race, including five riders breaking away for a long stretch of the race in the early going. However, my heart rate went up a bit several times out among the alfalfa and safflower fields. Twice we were allowed to let five breakaway riders pass us and then follow them. That lasted until the peloton got within less than two minutes, then race officials asked us to “clear the gap please.”
I think Terry enjoyed those moments. It meant we had to get past the leaders support vehicles, race officials and the TV crew. With a honk of the horn as we approached each car on the left, we made our way back to the front of the riders. Let’s just say we were not driving the speed limit, and as Terry said, “how often do you get to pass the cops?”
Terry did a great job maneuvering us back to safety. He still rides for exercise, but at races finds himself behind the wheel of a car these days, driving VIPs, media or even race officials. Gail Miller and some of her grandchildren even rode with him once.
As we got back to North Logan, we decided to do one lap around the circuit and then park in order to watch at the finish line. As we made our way past Green Canyon High School, race traffic got a little bunched up, and cyclists were bearing down on us. Race officials started getting on the drivers and Terry was quick to respond: “Let’s get the hell out of the way.”
He accelerated, I held on. We made a few sharp turns around corners as Terry said, “I got the tires to chirp a little there.” I nodded and smiled.
After we parked, I went on my way to the finish line, while Terry prepared to help with escorting the winning riders to the podium. It was fun experience, and an opportunity I’m thankful for.
Perhaps I will get the chance again to be out front with Terry. I certainly would take it without hesitation.