A blazing fast night opens up the 2019 Tour Competition, and there’s every reason to think this one will go down to the final stage.
For the first time, the Tour is scheduled to stretch through July and culminate on August 1. If the opening stage is any indication, it’s going to take all four weeks to separate what is a closely matched mix of riders. Last night, five riders upped the course record to new heights (or lows) and the GC picture has just a bit of shape. Usually, SOL times start to creep up in July, with sandy conditions making spring’s firm trails a happy memory. In spite of the growing sand pits, riders threw down PRs left and right in the fight for the maillot jaune. (ALSO: If you have the maillot jaune from two years ago, we need it back)
From the gun, it was clear that a dozen riders would be in the mix. In what has become the script this year, Cody Sovis held the front to the base of the final bump of the Vasa CC Climb before Jeff Owens took over. Most of the top twenty was still in touch by the base and nerves were understandably frayed; a brief dust up and tire rub between M22’s Luke Tjosvold and Cam Owens briefly caused consternation, but no harm was done nor gaps opened.
With Sovis back on the front turning onto the 10km, the biggest group of the year made it to Special K, including Jeff and Cam Owens, Jenema, Kyle Macdermaid, Tjosvold, John O’Hearn, Brent Wiersema, with Wes Sovis, Drew Cummins, Kyan Olshove, Kent McNeil, Sam Holmes and others just ten seconds back at the turn. Once onto Special K, Sovis went to the back of the bunch to dangle for Sprint points, with Jeff Owens setting a firm pace up front. Once Sovis made it back to the front, the two served as a veritable engine room, bringing riders across the Power Section in just a fuzz over 8 minutes, with Sovis taking double points and starting his green jersey defense on the right foot.
In fact, until the last 10 feet of the stage, it was either Owens or Sovis on the front. With the rest spat out the back due to 20+ mph speeds, O’Hearn, McDermaid, and Jenema were content to sit in and let the Giro’s 1-2 finishers put in a pace that saw five riders best the previous course record. Onto the Boonenberg, it was Owens up over the top first, but the KOM was taken hours earlier by Jamison Sheppard. Sheppard becomes the first person to ever score points while not at the 6pm start.
Emma Schwab was back on the line, and while the men’s leaders were duking it out, Emma was getting started in building her Grand Tour lead. Riding in a nice bunch, she posted her fastest time of the season and slid under the illustrious 40 minute mark. She’s over two minutes clear of Erica O’Hearn, with Bridget Widrig back on the SOL train and sitting third.
Todd Vigland was right with Emma for much of the night and he leaves Stage One with the Best Old Rider’s white jersey. He’s ahead of a number of contenders, including the Ceder Run Eye Center rider Carl Copenhaver.
Copenhaver and Brad Hochstetler have CREC on the board, albeit bringing up the rear. Hagerty leads the Team Competition by 43 seconds thank to Jenema and Wiersema. In second, kolo t.c. got a huge ride out of Wes Sovis to keep them in the mix, and they’ll get reinforcements next week with the return of Dan Ellis. It’s then M22 and Keen, followed by a demonstrative ride from Norte’s Kyan Olshove and Drew Cummins. Cummins called the his effort the “SOL of his life” in interviews with reporters afterward, and it helped to put Team Orange in the hunt with three weeks to go.
There was a little discussion at the line after the finish. Immediately after sprinting past Owens for the in, Jenema apologized for sprinting after sitting in the whole lap. That apology was quickly waved off by Owens, through it will be interesting to see if Owens allows Jenema or anyone else a chance to even be in a sprint next week. Kyle Macdermaid showed the restraint Jenema couldn’t choke back; after they were both gapped on Anita’s, Macdermaid got a free ride behind Sovis and tactfully let him cross the line first. In a sport favors are often returned, all the little assists and slights can come back to help or hinder over the course of the summer.
Stage Two is offers up double points for the Boonenberg and will give us a really good look at who has a serious shot at the Mountains classification. It’s also another chance to shake out the GC before Stage Three’s Queen Stage!
Full SOL and Tour results are here.