Alex Vanias takes his first yellow jersey, but there were a number crashes and some surprising time gaps on the first night of the Tour Competition.
The results looked almost to script, but the day was anything but predictable for the leaders on the first stage of the Tour. On the line, it was a solid field of racers ready to roll on the nicest night of 2015 thus far, with temperatures into the upper 70s. The dry weather brought out the deep sand pits and rolling dust behind the peloton as the leaders sprinted off the start.
Cody Sovis’ traditional hole shot gave way to teammate Ryan Kennedy controlling tempo over the next two small climbs before Hagerty’s Craig Webb rolled to the front. The field was split almost immediately, with ten riders clear as they made the left turn onto the Trouee de Madeleine’s. Webb kept control, with Vanias bouncing along in the bunch and obviously itching to move up as they made the gentle left to the top of the sections small ascent.
As Webb looked to pull off the front, Kennedy made the move to pass. The pair were tangled up, bringing the entire field to a dead stop as they sifted through the bikes and bodies. The race was neutralized until both Webb and Kennedy were up and remounted, but now with most of the field back in touch and rolling with them.
With Chris Kushman and Ryan Kennedy in sight, Einstein Racing committed Cody Sovis to the front of affairs over the Power Section, where Keegan Myers rallied from behind to score the fastest time and the first 10 points of the Sprint Competition. Kennedy, Kushman and Eric Grassa also got on the board for the green jersey.
All the while, Vanias was waiting to play his first card. As the lead group spilled over the Power Section and towards the Saarlock Pit, Alex accelerated with Sovis, Kennedy and Grassa jumping with. Only Kennedy could go, and the likes of Webb and Macdermaid rallied to chase. Sovis was dropped, almost true to script, in the Saarlock Pit, with the rest splintering on the heels of a show of force from Vanias.
Webb chased hard but ceded his spot to a surging (and geared) Macdermaid and Myers, with Chris Kushman in hot pursuit as well. Grassa and Sovis will be hard pressed to make much of an impact on the podium with so many tough riders ahead, but if Stage One is any indication, anything can and will happen.
The women’s race is all Kaitlyn Patterson, but Heidi Jones finished and no one is as locked in to SOLs. She’s a former Grand Tour winner that is sure to attend every night, while Patterson may miss a stage. No other women stepped up to give it a shot.
The Mountains Classification will take center stage next week, with double points up for grabs on the Boonenberg. Craig Webb will start in the polka dot jersey, with a 2 point buffer over Ryan Kennedy. Chris Kushman and Myers are also already in the hunt, but the double points night will be the best predictor of the jersey’s final home at the end of four weeks.
Webb leads the Best Old Rider Competition, but is expected to miss the final two weeks of the Competition. Rob G. would be the heir apparent, with John Ammond and Don Marsh flying the flag for Einstein Racing’s elderly population.