Skinny tires and sand, the perfect combination for an entertaining night in the drops.
With July-levels of sand coming a few weeks early, an impressive number of riders were willing to risk it all with 35c tires and drops bars last night. In fact, a very unscientific poll found that more riders rode cyclocross bikes than last year, which may have been the 700+ days they needed to forget how tough it can be.
Last year’s Cyclocross King, John O’Hearn, was back on his Focus Mares and rubbing elbows with a strong front group that included not one but two Zelinskis, with Jon on a mountain bike and Josh on his new gravel bike. Although the tire width looked suspicious, no micrometer was employed for testing. Some notable other ‘crossers include Norte’s Will Unger and Grady Ellis, as well as Hagerty’s Rob Goepfrich, who may have threatened a top ten if it weren’t for a flat. Dan Ellis was also in the mix on his Santa Cruz.
After a controlled start, Sam Holmes took up the lead heading into the Vasa CC Climb, with Jeff Owens springing past and prizing a gap between a large lead group and some chasers. As the race hit the Power Section, Cody and his 50t chain ring went to the front, whittling off both Zelinskis and teen heartthrob Garrett Jenema. Owens contributed to the pace, with a 8:18 time on the section, even with copious amounts of sand.
Crossing the Saarlock pit cost O’Hearn, with Sunset attached like a big M22-styled limpet to the back of the group. Owens’ next forcing on the Boonenberg saw Holmes looking simply imperious on his wheel, ceding not a single inch, while Sovis was briefly gapped, the fourth and final rider left in their wake.
Even after an attack from Sovis there was nothing between the lead quartet until Anita’s. With Sovis trying to make himself wide at the base, first Owens, then Holmes, then Sunset stormed past. While Sovis would catch and drop Sunset, the other two riders stormed away, putting in an awesome show of strength to the line. Sam picked up yet another SOL win and some valuable WorldTour points ahead of Owens, with Sovis doubling up on third place to cushion the lead.
The ride of the night, however, has to go to Kyle Macdermaid. After months of dealing with injuries, the Keen rider finally made his SOL debut and certainly didn’t disappoint with an 8th place finish. Reports indicate he did all 11.6 miles no-hander to preserve his nagging wrists. We are quite sure that’s exactly what the doctor recommended.
Jason Whittaker returned like some ancient vision of righteousness. It’s been a long time since the Man in Black experienced so much sand and humidity, but he still ably rode in a big chase group and still had the wherewithal to poise rather dramatically for camera post-race.
On the WorldTour, Sovis picked up the most points, but the most important may have been the 32 nabbed by O’Hean, which puts him just 9 points back of Holmes and 10 points clear of Dan Ellis. All three WorldTour leaders should be on single gears at Singlespeed Night next week, with Holmes pulling out his trusted Surly Karate Monkey.
All the Speed of Light times are available right here.
The up-to-date WorldTour standings are right here.