It was a small but powerful pack on the line Thursday night, with all the pomp and pageantry you’d expect from a fake bike race in the woods.
As plenty of kids enjoyed (sure they did) walking in the Kid’s Parade and the adults tried to feel 25 years younger by soaking up the sun with Sheryl Crow, those with dreams of a maillot jaune made their nervous way to the start line for Stage One of the Tour Competition. With a compact field, the gaps were always going to be big, but it took a lot of action to make it happen.
There were plenty of noticeable absences, including Jeff Owens, Sam Holmes, Susan Vigland, and Jason Johnson, all of whom would be Tour contenders. However, these riders and more still have a chance to target the other classifications, and it’ll be interesting to see how that affects the GC race next week.
After a rather pedestrian start, Sovis tempo on the front was finally accelerated by an eager and willing Josh Zelinski as the group hit the base of Wood Chip Hill. JZ pressed forward, with Sovis attacking over the top and opening a gap. Of course, pre-race favorite John O’Hearn was attentive and well placed, and seeing Sovis’ teammate Dan Ellis distanced, went to the front to cement the daylight emerging in the front group.
O’Hearn pressed on, with Sovis, Zelinski, and a resurgent (and admittedly limp-wristed, literally) Kyle Macdermaid moving clear of Garrett Jenema, Ellis, and a slew of other riders, including GRBC’s Allen Wheeler and RBS’ Rob Frank. Sovis decided to help, sinking his teammate in the hopes of also putting time into the always-dangerous Jenema.
O’Hearn and Sovis exchanged pulls, and when Josh Zelinski moved clear after the Power Section, the two began to play poker, each daring the other to work or try to bridge the gap. It was the hubris of two confident riders, and they were playing with fire. O’Hearn gambled on his top-level descending skills and pounced in the Wall Bypass, but he crashed hard. Sovis, who’d lost three bike lengths, piled over the top. Both were okay, but Sovis the okay-er. After a brief confirmation that neither rider was dead, they both set off, panicked not to lose too much time.
Sovis picked off Zelinksi over the top of Anita’s but O’Hearn’s steady chase earned him the points on GO, with Garrett Jenema the victim of the resurgence. On the line, it was Sovis and Zelinski, with O’Hearn now 66 seconds behind. Another crash in the exact same spot saw Kent McNeil donate some skin to the Vasa, with Good Guy Ellis stopping to make sure he wasn’t dead. (He wasn’t, his time just didn’t show up).
Sovis and O’Hearn split the night’s two sprint points, with both sat on 18. Kyle Macdermaid recovered from the fast start to pick up all 10 points on over in the Mountains classification, with Rob Frank leading the Best Old Rider Competition. Zelinski and Jenema paired up to give Hagerty Cycling a strong lead in the Team Competition, over two minutes clear of kolo t.c. in second.
The women’s race has confirmed that the Emma Era has begun. Even on a slow and sandy night, Emma Schwab posted a 43:32, giving her over two minutes on teammate Brigit Widrig. Both have been riding incredible strong this summer, and we’re hoping some other women show up to give them more to race than just each other.
Next week, it’s a double points night for the climbers. The Vasa CC Climb and the Boonenberg will both be worth ten points. It’s a perfect night for Kyle Macdermaid to try to wrap up the competition, but with plenty of fast riders expected to return and target the Points and Mountain Classification, he’ll have his hands (and noodly wrists) full.
We’ll have the miniSOL and Junior SOL recap up soon.
The Tour Competition standings are here.
The full SOL results from each week are available here.