OGDEN, Utah -- Rory Sutherland felt like a survivor as much as a winner.
Sutherland survived four rugged mountain climbs and blistering heat to win the first stage of the Tour of Utah on Tuesday.
"It was a pretty hot and hard stage like normal out here," Sutherland said. "It's one of the longest stages on the tour. To get that on the first day at altitude in such temperatures is a pretty hard way to start the tour."
The Australian finished the 131.7-mile stage in 5 hours, 25 minutes, 40 seconds. Italy's Damiano Caruso took second and American Brent Bookwalter was third.
Sutherland emerged from a small group of riders that came off the final climb at the North Ogden pass. After rounding the final corner in downtown Ogden in the pack, he jumped ahead to lead a sprint to the finish in the final 200 meters.
The stage featured 8,939 feet of climbing, second to only the fifth stage in elevation gain.
The effects of racing at high altitude broke up the pack at the end.
"The last climb was definitely hard, especially after how far we had ridden," Sutherland said. "It whittled down to a group of 30 or 40 over the top."
The peloton broke apart on the final climb, leaving about 30 riders within striking distance of a stage win coming into downtown Ogden. Several riders, including five-time U.S. time trial champion David Zabriskie, made attacks to get in front. None stuck until Sutherland prevailed at the finish.
"The final 20 miles were pretty chaotic," Bookwalter said. "There was a hard climb right there towards the finish and everyone was focused on making it over the climb. Then the guys who make it over are (all) there and everything reshuffles. No team really took control."
Jesse Anthony, who won the Ogden stage in 2011, made a charge late in the race to get into contention for a repeat victory. He jumped out from the peloton with 35 miles remaining and caught a small group of leaders who had broken off from the group with 16 miles left. He briefly took the lead, before losing it on the final climb.
The six-stage race continues Wednesday with a team trial stage scheduled for Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.