It was the first truly dusty, sandy, gritty night of Speed of Light for the summer, and the Giro winner came out looking unbeatable once again.
Maybe it was the night off on Tuesday, but Giro champion and heretofore Tour second place Jeff Owens looked like a man reborn Thursday night. At every climb and with every pedal stroke he looked imperious, and he used Stage Two to stamp his name on the race with the Queen Stage looming next week. It was a point well taken and a lesson hard-learned for his remaining GC rivals, who may be wishing for the miles to run out rather than take more of a beating.
Owens was the race heir apparent before the gun even went off, with former yellow jersey wearer Garrett Jenema not lining up. While we’d like to see a bit more respect for the jersey, G was one of many riders who opted to skip last night in order to save their legs for the TCTF on Saturday. Nearly a dozen riders from Stage One bailed, and it had some lasting effects on the stage and the WorldTour picture, too.
After Cody Sovis’ traditional start, Owens punched it over the CC Climb with O’Hearn and a panicked Sovis scrambled back on over the top, towing an on-form Sam Holmes and Dan Ellis back into touch as they swept left onto the 10km. Behind, women’s GC leader Emma Schwab found some daylight ahead of Erica O’Hearn and Bridgit Widrig, tucked into a strong group and clawing out some more time ahead of the Queen Stage, where she’ll likely be able to focus on helping the Team Competition with Todd Vigland and Max Mayer.
Up front, Cody dangled again and picked up maximum points and solidified his green jersey, now leading by 14 over Kyle Macdermaid and John O’Hearn. By then, Holmes and Ellis had been dropped, with Owens, Sovis, and O’Hearn going clear. Onto the Boonenberg, Owens laid into it, with O’Hearn holding on and Sovis getting dropped like a ton of bricks. The effort gave the pair double points over the top, but it cost O’Hearn, who was dropped. Sovis pulled past and got back with Owens, only to get shelled again over Anita’s. O’Hearn recovered like a champ and nearly caught Sovis on the line. The damage was done, however; Owens is now 45 seconds clear and looks assured of another Grand Tour win.
kolo t.c.’s day was made with the return of Dan Ellis. He put in some big pulls and tacked on a strong time to move the squad into the lead in the Team Competition. Norte left Drew Cummins out to dry; after putting in the ride of the week on Stage One, Drew was left to battle the wily old kolo t.c. veterans by himself. He put in a gutsy ride to minimize the damage and pair with his brother, Reese, to keep Team Orange in the hunt.
Todd Vigland is looking strong in the Best Old Rider category and should be able to help Hagerty focus on the Team Competition on the Queen Stage. With G back, Brent Wiersema, and a flying Max Meyer, they’ve got the horsepower to post some top times.
It’ll be all about the GC next week, with normal points on the Power Section and Boonenberg. The Queen Stage has always delivered some of the most thrilling nights of the year, from Kennedy’s famous yellow jersey defense on a borrowed bike to the stop-start drag racing of Bennett Paul and Scott Luca. It’s one of the toughest rides of the year, but always the most fun. If you’re on GC, you have to do two laps, so be ready!
Results from all SOLs are here, with the up to date Tour standings here.