Sam Holmes easily defended his 40 second lead on the final stage of the final Grand Tour of 2018.
Never troubled, never ruffled. Sam Holmes takes his first Grand Tour with a commanding display over four strong weeks, but perhaps none was so casually impressive as the finale. With a strong field of over 25 riders still toeing the line and the return of Jeff Owens to SOL action, nothing was easy, but Holmes certainly made it look like a rather leisurely roll in the park.
Joining the start list for the first time was miniSOL World Champion Grady Ellis. The Ferocious Teddy Bear decided to dip his toe into the deep end of the pool alongside Norte teammate Austin Schwartz. The two stagiares were strong, coming around the hour mark and looking to build for 2019…already. Norte also welcomed new signing Sam Simon to the start line, a rider who will look to figure heavily for Team Orange this fall.
After a pedestrian start due to Cody Sovis’ inability to clip in, Dan Ellis launched a huge move off the front. He held a sizeable lead until the leaders decided enough line had been let out and the reel was turned in anger. John O’Hearn and Garrett Jenema, the riders closest to Ellis on GC, dragged him back over the top of the Vasa CC Climb, where Sovis countered off his teammates’ move to stretch the field. Over Wood Chip and it was still a sizeable group of nearly a dozen riders before Jeff Owens took the reigns on the Power Section.
Apart from a few short pulls, Owens put a stranglehold on proceedings, essentially eating up the road with which others might try their luck to pressure Holmes. Finally, Sovis offered an acceleration that stretched but never truly strained the front group. It wasn’t until Garrett Jenema rolled through and Sovis sat up that any chance of drama was born. As Jenema almost unwillingly rolled ahead, it was the perfect situation for Sovis; Holmes was forced to ride tempo to control the move, while Jenema was finally taking some wind. It wasn’t enough, with Holmes easily and carefully winding Jenema in, while the youngster was still bubbly enough to fly up the Boonenberg.
Holmes was second fastest on the climb and added the Mountains classification to his Vuelta bag of booty, with Jenema’s 20 points enough to put him into second place in that competition ahead of Dan Ellis and Cody Sovis. Kyle Macdermaid rounds out the top five there, picking up a valuable WorldTour point in the process.
It was over the Boonenberg that Sovis tried again, storming past Jenema and Holmes and pushing around a pair of hikers staring at…something? It was enough to gap the likes of Josh Zelinski and John O’Hearn, but the top three on GC, Owens, and Kyle Macdermaid were together as Sovis attacked again into the base of Anita’s, only to be swallowed up by Owens, Jenema, and Holmes.
Sovis did enough to erase the gap over the top, with Macdermaid battling to get back on as well, but when Sovis put in his final attack, Holmes was across and onto the wheel with a few calm pedal strokes. Macdermaid, looking for all the world like Thor Hushovd in his pomp, came through for a stunning stage win ahead of Owens, with the top three GC riders essentially hitting the line together. Macdermaid and Owens are the heavy favorites for the World Championships next week, though that list is a solid six riders deep.
Sovis will have to be content with second on GC after winning the Vuelta, Giro, and Tour all on the trot, as well as perfect points in the Sprint classification during the Vuelta. He wins that competition ahead of a non-starter last night, Ryan Kennedy, by 30 points.
With no Best Old Rider or Women’s GC finisher, the only other WorldTour points will come from the Team Competition, won by a healthy three minutes by Hagerty Cycling. Ryan Kennedy played a huge part for the team on stages two and three, with Garrett Jenema scoring all four weeks for the team with some appearances from Steve Andriese and Josh Zelinski to seal the deal. kolo t.c. relied on Sovis and Dan Ellis to take second, with Norte third on the efforts of Junior World Champion Will Unger, Drew Cummins, Ty Schmidt, and Will Haalpala to score.
Last night also saw a peek into the future for SOL, with riders like Max Meyer scoring in both the Sprint and Mountain classifications, the youngest rider to do that since Cam Owens and Braiden Voss. Max is looking to be an outright terror heading into the fall race season, and he’ll be a top ten rider by spring of next year.
We’ll tabulate the full WorldTour points haul before next week Speed of Light World Championships, which leave the split rail fence at 6:15 (SIX:FIFTEEN) on Thursday, September 13. Please make sure to kill all the bees/wasps you see on the Vasa between now and the start time. Thanks.
You can see the final Vuelta standings here.
You can see all the SOL times of 2018 right here.