Professional cycling is often predictable. A solo athlete or several riders often pedal off the front of the field and built margins that appear substantial enough to win. Invariably, the strength of the chasing large group is too much for front runners or the solo escapee. The result is a massive sprint to the line among those designated to get the day's glory after capitalizing on the ability to pedal at a high rate of speed for a short length of time.

The cyclists who powered to the front and remained there often for hours get relegated and often finish toward the back of the pack, exhausted. It seems unfair, but it's how the sport works.

Cycling is at its best when a breakaway is sustained like the long effort on August 2 by American Robin Carpenter and Ruben Companioni of Cuba in stage 2 of the Tour of Utah. The two riders escaped at the front of the field and built a 7 1/2-minute lead while riding at together for more than 60 miles of the 99-mile stage from Escalante to Torrey, Utah.

Carpenter assumes race lead

Carpenter accelerated past his long-time, front-riding companion in the final half mile, claimed a six-second solo win and moved into the race lead of the weeklong race. It was an impressive ride for 24-year-old cyclist from Pennsylvania, and it served as a prime example of cycling’s unknown.

Carpenter tried to explain how the breakaway stayed away and the difference between realizing he would in front and breakaway in which he would be caught by the pack.

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“When everyone knows you are going to stay away, everyone sometimes works harder,” he said. “But then sometimes that is not true because someone will think they have a shot at winning.

“When it’s just two in the break, the former is true. Everyone is very excited and they are pushing on the pedals. In the last lap, Ruben and I were coaching each other along, making sure we were staying together.”

Just like in other sports, favorites often win in cycling. It’s why they’re their favorites. But when the unexpected occurs, it’s gratifying for the cyclist who’s put in a long days’ work. And it’s equally satisfying for the sport’s enthusiasts. It’s refreshing to know in an era of increasingly specialized athletes, cycling can still offer surprises.