With no Craig Webb on the line, the burden of leading Hagerty Cycling falls to Steve Andriese.
Up against one of the most talented fields ever in a fake Grand Tour, Steve Andriese was isolated almost immediately on Stage One of the Vuelta, with only the brave riding of Jake Ellis in support. Tour contender Craig Webb did not make a start at the Vuelta, leaving Andriese the reins of what might be a faltering squad in the Grand Tours. As the likes of Wakeley, Lowetz, Kennedy and Kushman tore forward, Andriese found himself lacking in support, though Jake Ellis delivered a brilliant ride to stay in touch over the 12 mile course.
Like Webb, Andriese expertly deflected questions about his team’s strength at the post-race presser, acknowledging that the Blue Train was off its rails on the first stage, a bad sign after a difficult Tour. “We didn’t have as many guys there as we’d like, but I’m not worried about it. I’ve got the legs and if Jake is riding this strong in September, I’ll have all the support I need,” he said, ignoring shouts that indicated he should be disappointed, rather than contented.
In fact, more support may not have been necessary, and as Einstein Racing’s top guns regroup to support Jason Lowetz for the overall, they are up against what may become an allied Keegen Myers and Jorden Wakeley. Einstein will most likely provide the structure if Wakeley’s early accelerations can be matched, something that suits the late-burst style of Myers.
Behind Andriese, Jake Ellis rode strong, but it was a long ways back to Pete Worden, who is sits second behind Andriese in the Best Old Rider Competition, over seven minutes back from leaders Jorden Wakeley and Jason Lowetz. It’s even further back to Cody Sovis, Brian Beauchamp, Bryan Carps, Nathaniel Saldanha and Wes Sovis, all of whom were riding in the back half of the race from the word go last Thursday. Wes Sovis has vowed to provide more firepower, lamenting the depth and profusion of sand on the SOL course. “It was an absolute sand pit. It was like in Star Wars, where they’re in the desert. I felt like Sand People were about to start taking pot shots at us. Yeah, it was sandy,” commented Wes at this week’s presser. Cody Sovis, who had looked to target the green jersey at the Vuelta, had his hopes dashed over and over again in the sand pits. The two cyclocross bikes put in the worst times of the season, though will carry on next week with Quixotic determination.
Racing returns this Thursday with Stage Two, with 1.5 points on offer for the fastest time on Anita’s Hill. Inspired by the 18, 15 and even 30% gradients at the Vuelta in Spain this past weekend, all climber’s points will be based on riders’ times on the cruel, sandy and increasingly washed out Anita’s Hill segment. The top times this season have been posted by Speed of Light racers Jorden Wakeley, Jason Lowetz, Cody Sovis, Dave Walston, Keegan Myers and Eli Brown. It’s be a showdown for the ages.