A confirmation, but not a coronation. Stage Three’s trip to London was always going to be decisive, but the overall general classification has shifted considerably after a demonstrative second stage win from Braiden Voss.
There’s nothing set and nothing settled with four stages remaining, but Braiden Voss has grabbed yellow with both hands after an impressive showing on the third stage of the Winter Is Here Tour. With twin ascents of Fox Hill and Box Hill both coming in the final third of the race, there was every chance of fireworks as memorable as, say, the Fifth of November.
Rolling out for the mostly-kind-of-somewhat neutral start, it was one of the largest fields yet, with substitute appearances from Ryan Kennedy and Collin Snyder. From the gun, two teams seized control, with Ineos and Trek both putting a number of riders near the front. Two moves from Ineos, one from John Burmeister and another from Mike Anderson, signaled their intent, while Trek was hoping to keep their two top GC riders, Andy Weir and Wes Sovis, out of trouble in the opening sprint.
Coming just a few kilometers into the official start of the stage, the opening sprint saw a long stretch of the field, but by and large the elastic held, with a complete of roughly 30 riders together for a flat but taxing drag race to the first climb of the day. At 31km into the stage, there was plenty of sting in the legs for most riders, but nothing to frighten a move from Voss. Trusting his legs, he opened up at the base of Fox Hill with Kyan Olshove, Burmeister, Al McWilliams, Anderson, and others slipping second-by-second back. There was hope that a regrouping on the descent and a spirited chase across the 12 kilometers flat section to the next climb might offer hope for a catch, but a mix of disinterest and inevitably saw nothing of the sort.
On the GC, Drew Cummins saw himself slip out of GC contention, though two strong climbs may see him scoring plenty of points in the KOM competition. Indeed, a number of riders with GC ambitions already fading decided to focus on sprint and KOM points rather than contest for stage honors or time.
Of course, the inevitable mechanicals marred the day for some riders, including Ted Schneider, Doug Millison, Drew Martin, and Jason Johnson. The digital gods are invariably cruel.
A frequent victim of those deities’ ire, Dan Madion, found himself with a strong Bluetooth and Wifi signal, and perhaps even stronger legs. His performance alongside teammate Doug Mastrionne saw Trek put six riders in the top twenty, a sign that they may be on the move out of third place in the team competition.
Up front, however, the great and the good were largely present. Behind Voss was Olshove, ceding 22 seconds but pocketing a further 44 ahead of McWilliams. Ryan Zamzow-Masters and Lucas Van Drunen rounded out the top five, while the aggressive Ineos duo of Burmeister and Anderson lost some time, but nothing a strong team time trial won’t fix.
That’s the hope of Trek’s Andy Weir and Wes Sovis, who finished eighth and ninth, respectively. Jaden Drews was next home for tenth place, on exactly the same time as Brad Pauly, with the jury making a decision based on a photo.
Delivering what could too easily be an unsung performance was Andy Shloech, who has committed totally to tackle sprint points. He appears to have nabbed the top time on the opening sprint, as well as delivering solid times on both climbs and the second sprint of the day.
Brad Hochstetler, Dungeon Master and Herder of Zwift Cats, also showed his stuff with two dynamic climbs and some strong sprint efforts, all while still having the legs to slide home in twelve overall on the stage.
Braiden’s savvy attacks on the London climbs brought back significant GC time and Kyan sits just 15 seconds ahead of him for Yellow. Al, Burmeister and Mike Anderson in a tight bunch for third. With Ventoux looming in the distance, the final podium is still wide open.
Spencer Nemecek padded his Green Jersey lead with consistently high placings on both Sprint segments. His lead is comfortable but still well within striking distance of Carl, Ted, the OG Spencer and the Clan Korienek. The Points shootout Stage 4 looks to provide some fireworks for the Sprint competition as most Sprinters will plan to light it up Saturday and then hope to make the time cut Sunday…
Braiden is the current KOM Jersey leader by virtue of his dominant performance winning every single KOM segment so far. He’ll be looking to swap colors atop Ventoux and Al, Lucas and Zamzow will be ready to shoulder those colors if that comes to pass.
Despite putting up strong point totals each week, the Jumbo Visma team managers lobbied to add riders to their undermanned roster. The addition of new-to-biking Alex Theophilus and Wave One Iceman Legend Ryan Kennedy gave Jumbo a dominant performance, out-scoring second place AG2R by over 100 points. The point spread from 2nd to 5th place, however, was less than 50 points, with AG2R, Trek and Ineos all dinged up by absent riders or techmechanicals.
The Stage 4 Omnium is up on Saturday and will count ONLY for points. Teams may approach this with varying strategies based on the aspirations of their GC leaders. Who will light it up and who will keep their powder dry for Ventoux?
For the current GC, team, KOM, and Points classifications head here.