For the past five weeks, the script was as predictable as a John Hughes movie. This week, Fat Bike Night went full M Night Shyamalan.
There’s no better way to throw a wrench in a well-oiled machine than making every bit of its function harder. On the fast, wide open 25km, four inch tires are great if you aren’t trying to do 20+ miles per hour, but that’s exactly what was expected of them last night. It completely changed the shape of the race and brought out some incredibly fun fake racing.
The wide tire impact was telling almost from the start. Cody Sovis’ trademark hole shot barely survived to the corner, with Jeff Owens, Cam Owens (hey, Cam!), John O’Hearn, Garrett Jenema, and Sunset Scott cruising past and opening up a big gap. G’s forcing couldn’t quite keep things apart, and Sovis reeled it back in with Wes, Will Unger, Sam Holmes, and a slew of others comfortably in touch.
Susan Vigland bravely brought her fat bike out to party, the only woman on a fat bike for the evening. It was a strong ride and a huge effort, but one that will set her up for brighter glories later in the year.
The Owens’ moved clear on the CC Climb, with G and Sunset gamely giving chase, only to pop shortly after. For Sunset, it was hardly a gamble; he was able to slip back into the chase group and stay well in the hunt for the first fat bike across the line, albeit it in a crowded and fast group. Sunset and Cody tried to keep the pace moving, but the extra rubber was extra work; they ceded over 40 seconds to a flying Owens duo over the Power Section alone. The chase group picked up a lonely Jenema just as the gamesmanship behind began.
Cody, realizing that a strong John O’Hearn would easily trounce him in a sprint, began letting every rider on a mountain bike go clear, led by Wes Sovis who, ever the smart racer, was picking up what Cody was putting down. Wes, Kent, Will, Sam Holmes, and finally Sunset moved clear; that was a possible 10 points riding away, limited Sovis’ forecasted losses to just 2 if he finished behind John. O’Hearn bravely gave chase, making contact on the Wall By Pass. It was there Jeff and Cam Owens were making trailside repairs to a broken chain; Cam had been on pace to become just the third rider to break the 35 minute mark, but that will have to wait until next week.
O’Hearn’s effort took it’s toll, and he found himself gapped just before the Boonenberg. Garrett and Will forced the issue up the race’s most decisive climb, with Sunset eager to go, too. Sovis and Sovis survived and, coming over the top, went to the front. Wes Sovis had the best ride since Iceman; he absolutely drilled it to the bottom of Anita’s to break up the group, riding to a near stand still, reminiscent of Michal Kwiatkowski.
Sunset made the most of it and drilled it over the climb, with Will Unger finally losing ground in what will be remember as his break through ride at SOL. Kent McNeil went for it on Go!, but Garrett had already went; G picked up his first SOL win, with a flurry of riders finishing within a minute.
The WorldTour picture is shaping up, but next week is another chance at a big haul of points. It’s Team Time Trial Night, with the third rider from each squad registering as your club’s time. So, for example, if Keen enters Jeff Owens, Tim Pulliam, and Marc Brunette and Marc is third across the line, Jeff and Tim’s times don’t matter; they need to stick with Marc so he has his fastest possible ride. It’s a unique challenge and some squads have proven more capable of making it work than others.
For the full SOL results all year, head here.
The up-to-date WorldTour standings are here.