After a Cleveland Browns-like run of futility, Cody Sovis finally won a stage at SOL and a Grand Tour title.
Under dry but threatening skies, it was a hearty few who made the start line for the Vuelta finale Thursday evening. Attired in rain ponchos, it was an intimate setting for what has been an intimate battle all summer long. Sovis and John O’Hearn were settling not just the Vuelta score, but also the World Tour title on the night, as well as testing the legs ahead of O’Hearn’s chance to become the first back-to-back SOL World Champion next week.
Jackets set aside in the low ferns, the start quickly saw Sovis to the front, joined by Jeff Owens, O’Hearn, and kolo t.c.’s second rider, Dan Ellis. The foursome were quickly out of sight, tackling the opening salvo of climbs behind Sovis until Owens took the rains near the bench. Sovis looked weak on the climbs, but battled back to the trio and hopped into third wheel.
Ellis was cruelly gapped on Mount Gary, sentenced to finishing the night on his own. He did so, and helped to cement another kolo t.c. team competition win, this time by a whopping 33 minutes. Ellis also ensured a high World Tour finish with his fourth place overall.
Owens did the controlling in the lead group, with Sovis offering one attack early on the Power Section. O’Hearn deftly covered, and it was a status quo until the Rock. Sovis went again, and this time O’Hearn looked to Owens to chase, who politely (he does everything politely) declined and nodded to the open road ahead. O’Hearn sprang to action, pulling Sovis back just across the Saarlock pit and opening a gap of his own on the Wall Bypass.
Owens and O’Hearn hit the Boonenberg with a small gap, but Sovis made touch near the top. O’Hearn’s last card to play was Anita’s, and he played as best he could. He and Owens gained ten seconds on Sovis, and things looked precarious. Winding up the 50t chainring, Sovis slowly reeled them back in, setting one of the fastest times on the Go! segement and taking top points in the Points Classification, a clean sweep of all four stages. Back in touch, O’Hearn let a gap open to Owens, and Sovis went. That was it, with Owens and Sovis rolling to the line ahead of O’Hearn in third, with Ellis fourth.
Kyler Bradley, in his SOL debut, was next across the line ahead of Jaden Drews. Kent McNeil had a flying time, but started late because of life, but it was enough to move him up on GC after improving every week all summer.
Sovis and O’Hearn tied for the Mountains jersey, with O’Hearn getting the nod on countback. Jeff Galsterer was like the last man in the nursing home to take the Best Old Rider classification, with Rob Frank showing that with age comes wisdom, and the desire to be warm and dry. Galsterer will take the points, as well as second placed points in the Team Classification for ERSB, after a strong ride from Jaden Drews and two strong weeks -and wins- from Ryan Kennedy on Stages One and Two.
There was no Women’s GC again this year, and there’s no telling who will take the title of Women’s World Champion next week. Last year’s winner Susan Vigland has opted to end her SOL season, while Lauri Brockmiller insists she’s looking at other targets this fall. If you are a woman, or know if you know one to tell this to, showing up next week might be all you have to do to don the rainbow jersey for all of 2018.
We’ll have the updated WorldTour points next week, I gotta go fix a Honda Accord.
The updated and final Vuelta standing are right here.
The updated weekly SOL times are updated over here.
The FINAL Speed of Light for 2017 is Thursday, September 14 at 6.30 from the Split Rail Fence. Who will be crowned the Men, Women, and Master’s 45+ World Champions? We’ll see.