The final Grand Tour of the season gets underway tonight with double points for the KOM Competition. New segments, less room for error, and the same names looking to bring home the red jersey.
Alex Vanias, Team OAM-NOW. Two for two for Grand Tours this season, he can make it a complete sweep with a victory here. It’ll also put him down as the most successful Grand Tour rider ever, moving him past Ty Schmidt on the all time list. He’ll have a time balancing his copious ambitions; he races at SOL tonight, will take a run at the MTB State Championships on Saturday, has Stage Two next Thursday and the full X100 just 36 hours later. And, it’ll take a strong Vuelta and a little gas left in the tank at the SOL World Championships to take the WorldTour win as well.
Ryan Kennedy, Einstein Racing. He’s been Vanias’ closest challenger all summer and the pair have built a lot of respect for each other, even working hard together at Ore2Shore two weeks back. Kennedy is primed for a run, and will face a SOL/X100 relay dilemma next week as well. The team will ride for “Mr. President” as long as he’s in the race, and he could turn into a valuable engine if he decides not to finish the Vuelta and target the last two stages instead.
Jason Lowetz, Einstein Racing. Lest we forget, he’s the reigning Vuelta champion. The Boss always seems to find his legs by late August, and with the X100 on his radar, he won’t mind a little high intensity heading into the tail end of August. He put on a solid show at last Sunday’s Cherry-Roubaix, and the short, intense SOLs will suit his sprinter’s style. He’ll be a valuable number two behind Kennedy and will be the man to grab the reins if needed.
Kaitlyn Patterson, Team OAM-NOW. No rider has had a season like Kaitlyn, Vanias included. She just won the Ore2Shore, has broken every SOL record on the books, and has won races since April with alarming regularity. She sits in third place in the WorldTour standings and has scored points in every competition of the season, save the Team Time Trial, which she skipped. Now, she’s taking the same four events in two weeks as Vanias with equally high ambitions.
Susan Vigland, Hagerty Cycling. When she’s on hand, the ride is simply better. Only Kaitlyn Patterson has scored more points as a woman in SOL history, and Vigland has also helped Hagerty by consistently being relied on to score in team competitions as the second best time on each stage. Heading into the Vuelta, she looks like the only challenger to Patterson and, if she can get some help, could make Patterson dig deep over the next four weeks.
Dark Horse. Sean Kickbush, M-22. He’s won the TC Tri and The Divide Gravel Race over the past two months, but has been inconsistent with SOL attendance. If he’s on hand for four weeks, he joins Kennedy and Vanias as the heavy favorites. However, he, too, is looking at a Murder’s Row of racing over the next two weeks, and he’ll have to balance his ambitions heading into the fall.
The Speed of Light Vuelta Competition leaves Ec tonight at 6.30pm.