With Jeff Owens leaving the Tour to prepare for the Olympics, it’s a dominant Ryan Kennedy now nearly three minutes up on the general classification.
It was a hot start to Stage Three Thursday night, with the heat index sniffing that elusive third digit. It did little to discourage a strong field, although some notable riders were absent. Along with Owens, Jaden Drews and Jason Lowetz were non-starters, with the list of GC finishers dwindling due to attrition, baseball practices and terribly scheduled band concerts.
From the off, the race was slower than usual, with incumbent race leader Kennedy riding alongside teammate Cody Sovis and a lurking Jorden Wakeley. Over the CC Climb, it was a massive field still in touch, until Kennedy and Wakeley put the hammer down on the last ascent, tearing a group of around seven off the front. All attentions were on the Power Section, with double points on offer and a green jersey likely waiting the fastest time. Wakeley took the long way round, but drew his teammate Jason Johnson with him. Johnson couldn’t bridge back up on the far side, and it was a group of just five in the hunt for green.
Early on the Power Section, Sovis called Jason Whittaker to the front. “The Man In Black” put in a very strong pull the put the nail in the coffin for the chase group, which included podium contender Marc Brunette. The first three riders on GC, Kennedy, Sovis, and a flying John O’Hearn, were present and correct before disaster struck for one.
Behind, alarm bells were ringing for the white jersey as well. A congested and slow start saw Steve “Love Is A” Lagerquist behind challenger and former winner Rob Goepfrich. Lagerquist didn’t panic, picking his way through the bunch to get onto the wheel of his tireless teammates Wes Sovis and Jon Throop. This week, however, Rob G. called in reinforcements of his own, including newly crowned road race state champion Susan Vigland. Todd Vigland and Yenson Schwab were also in the bunch to offer some help, and they did a lot to hold off a chasing Lagerquist under escort from his deputies.
Ahead, the pressure cooker finally broke for O’Hearn. First Whittaker, then Sovis, and finally Kennedy upped the pace incrementally, and O’Hearn fell victim to the same root that, as SOL fanatics may recall, took out Hal BeVier at the 2015 Vuelta. Resilient, O’Hearn was up and back at it, pressing hard and crashing again in the wall bypass, with an attendant Jason Whittaker offering nary a pull, letting his teammates build a gap.
Kennedy put on a clinic ahead, grinding out his spindly tempo like Chris Froome, with Sovis taking a full token pulls but largely just hoping to hold on. The duo’s efforts put Kennedy almost three minutes up on Sovis, with second place now 55 seconds ahead of O’Hearn in third, a brilliant result with his two crashes. It also means Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing has a decent buffer in the Team Competition as well. Wakeley’s stage win gives him something to point to that belies his ninth place on GC.
Hagerty’s organization and effort shook but never broke Lagerquist, and while Rob G slipped across the line ahead of Lagerquist, the all-out assault yielded a single second gained back. There’s nothing safe about next week for Lagerquist, with the Queen Stage promising to open up gaps left and right.
Wakeley safely took the double points on offer for the points classification, although Kennedy’s second place keeps him two spots ahead with a single stage to go. Cody Sovis moves into third ahead of Owens, Marc Brunette, and Kent McNeil.
The position and points are perfectly flipped in the Mountains classification, with Wakeley two points clear on Kennedy, and he’ll be looking to pull another bunch of double points in the Queen Stage next week.
You can see the weekly SOL results here.
The Tour Competition standings are here.