Things were tight before the Queen Stage, but an early selection on the hardest night of the summer quickly saw race favorites flounder.
It was hot, it was dusty, and it was the decisive day of this 2019 Tour Competition. As always, the brutal Queen Stage lived up to expectations, with gaps through the top ten now looking more like yawning chasms rather than cranks in the armor. The GC lost a number of riders, including 2/3s of the women’s podium and a number of top ten riders like Andy Weir and Brent Wiersema, but stagers Jorden Wakeley, Ross Williams, and Tim Coffey, plus the return of Bryan Warner and Jamison Sheppard, assured there’d be plenty of horsepower.
kolo t.c.’s plan was apparent from the gun, and we mean that literally. Dan Ellis was straight to the front and lining things out, and as the race hit the opening salvo of climbs, his teammate in third overall, Cody Sovis, was in prime place to go with Wakeley’s opening move. That pulled yellow jersey Jeff Owens clear, with Jamison Sheppard and John O’Hearn the last riders in touch as they hit the final climb of the CC and poured onto the 10km. Sovis scrambled across to the leaders and found a big gap in the process; down by 6 seconds to O’Hearn at the start, he immediately set to opening up daylight with Wakeley and Owens first sitting in, then quickly contributing to a strong Power Section. That trio saw top points in the green jersey competition, with Sovis now mathematically assured of the classification win ahead of next week’s finale.
Behind, Ellis, Wes Sovis, and others were collecting the remnants of the early casualties like Max Meyer and Garrett Jenema, as well as Sheppard and Warner. The group would swell and shrink throughout the day, with kolo playing cruel, shrew tactics to make sure they took as much time as possible in the Team Competition. It paid off, and with one stage to go they hold over ten minutes on Hagerty, who suffered a blow with the DNS of Brent Wiersema, one of the only riders to score every week throughout the Tour.
Their bright spot was the persistence of Todd Vigland, who easily held his white jersey for Best Old Rider. He’s comfortably ahead of kolo’s dogged veteran, Tom Jewell.
Erica O’Hearn, too, was ensconced in the Women’s GC lead with two non-starters, but that didn’t mean she took it easy. She’s looking to be the first woman to win a Grand Tour in nearly three years and do it with a top ten overall! That will also be a huge haul of WorldTour points, and it’ll be interesting to see where she lands in that season-long competition come September.
As riders took on the second lap, Wakeley distanced Owens and Sovis over the final ascent of the Vasa CC Climb, with the chasing duo recovering enough to keep their gap pegged at twenty seconds until the Boonenberg. Sovis had already taken top points in the Mountains Classification on the first lap, and that effort came due; the pair lost 20 seconds before Anita’s, where Owens leaped away from a struggling Sovis to come in about 40 seconds down, but putting more time into the new runner-up.
It was John O’Hearn who lost the most time, going from 6 seconds clear of third to assuming that position with a nearly five minute deficit. Still, he’s had an incredible Tour and looks ready to pick up another Grand Tour Podium as he turns his attentions to the SOL World Championships in September.
Next week offers up a few time bonuses on GC, but none that look to be useful to make up much ground. The closest gaps are over two minutes, but that means it’ll be all or nothing for the remaining Points and Mountains Classifications on offer, all worth valuable WorldTour points at race’s end.
The Finale comes August 1, followed by the Random Relay and, crucially, the NMMBA VST TT on August 15. It’s an all out time trial on the Vasa Singletrack, with the start positions decided by the WorldTour standings. That ride leaves at Supply at 6pm, with the later riders expected to start no later than 6:40.
The season-long Speed of Light results are up here.
The Tour Competition standings are up to day, and they’re right here.