The first Speed of Light of 2018 was chilly, fast, and provided a solid breaking-in of a retouched course.
The only change to the 2017 route was skipping Madeleine’s Trail and staying due south on the 25km. Hitting Wood Chip Hill for the first time in three years, no one was quite sure how the gentle redirection would affect how SOLs play out. At least for the first week, we know it’s a BFD.
With around 40 riders on the start line, many shedding layers due to the 15 degree (NOT exaggerating, dudes) temperature swing from the base of Bunker to the parking lot, it was always going to be a tough night. Race favorites Jorden Wakeley, Jeff Owens, Susan Vigland, and Kasey Wierzba were all present and correct on the word GO, which was also the name of the Sprint segment offered up at double points.
Riders looking for an early lead in the Mountains classification had no time to warm up before the race smashed into the first KOM of the year, the Vasa CC Climb. Luke Tjosvold set the fastest time, but went off into the woods somewhere and didn’t finish the stage, leaving Wakeley his first of three jerseys picked up on the evening.
Heading into Wood Chip, the lead group included nearly a dozen riders, but the combined weight (or lack thereof) from Wakeley and Owens saw the wave smash as if on a pier, with John O’Hearn, Luke Tjosvold, Keegan Myers, Dan Ellis and Cody Sovis all left floundering in the wake. Okay, that’s all of the nautical allegories I can think of right now.
Over the top, Sovis recovered to come move through the remnants and get into touch with Owens, who’d suffered in the wheel of Wakeley, now ten seconds ahead. The Sovis and Owens group gave chase, twice looking like they’d regain contact, but ultimately coming up short and paying for the effort. As they slowed, Steve Andriese got on, make it a three man chase group with Wakeley becoming an ever smaller dot up the trail.
Behind, Susan Vigland and Emma Schwab were mixing into other chase groups to establish some valuable gaps on the rest of the women. In a field that includes singletrack crusher Shannon Kochis, any early lead will be a big advantage, and both Vigland and Schwab did well to consolidate their time gaps.
Sovis combined with Owens on GO, but the pair were only able to drop Andriese and match Wakeley’s time solo, putting Sovis even on points for the Points classification. The chase gave up 44 seconds to Wakeley on the first stage, a margin that should be easily defended and almost certainly expanded by the Giant of Grayling. Wakeley holds the GC, Points, and Mountains Classifications, an impressive start to SOL season.
Vigland sits just shy of three minutes clear of Schwab, but the battle for second will almost certainly be tight, with Schwab, Kochis, and Wierzba all within 30 seconds. That podium could see some serious reshuffling in the next few weeks.
Andriese is well ensconced in the Best Old Rider lead, followed up by Norte’s Brad Pauly and SOL diehard/ABBA fan Jeff Galsterer.
Next week, it’s double Mountains points and a chance for the Team Competition, comfortably led by M22, to get shaken up!
FULL SOL results for the year will be here.
Giro standings are right HURR.