It all comes down to this. One of the tightest Team Time Trials in the history of Zwift has only brought the general classification and team competitions closer with one stage remaining.
In spite of a slew of technical difficulties, the Race Director and Race Jury, Brad Hochstetler and Carl Copenhaver, untangled the web of times and corrupt files to deliver the final results from a dramatic and decisive sixth stage.
The RGV course was expected to be a 25km, forty-minute effort with some yawning gaps expected. That was certainly not the case. Team Ineos and Trek-Segafredo entered as stage favorites, but the true heroes of the competition this week came from what have been described as the ‘B’ teams, for the lack of a better moniker.
For Trek-Segaredo, the TTT was a stage the entire team was picked for. The team captain, Wes Sovis, said early on in the Tour that his squad was selected on two criteria; first, riders who would actually show up, and second, riders that can put out power in the long, sustained efforts of stages like Ventoux and the TTT. While the A team of Sovis, Sovis, Weir, Plamondon, and Mastrianni came up well short of the stage win, their strength in depth shone brightly. Madion, Wentzloff, STRIKEFORCE, Schneider, and an absolutely heroic Jack Klau put down a time that challenged the A-squads and delivered the team a much-needed stage win.
The margin could hardly have been closer, with Team Ineos leaning on Mike Anderson to set the fastest squad time of 33:37. Ineos would be the only team to go under 34 minutes, with AG2R and EF posting the second and fastest A times. Trek’s fourth place time for A was salvaged by the blistering 35:47 from its B team, a neat 59 seconds faster than the AG2R B team, giving them third on the stage behind Ineos.
On GC, the AG2R success paired with something close to a disaster for Team Jumbo Visma, last for the team standings on the day, even though their averaged times put them less than a minute behind first! The real trouble comes not from the team competition, which Ineos may have put on ice, but on the general classification. Braiden Voss has seized yellow by a single second over Kyan Olshove with one stage remaining, and it’s a course that should pit the two teen titans against each other to wrestle for both that single second, the yellow jersey, and almost certainly the stage win.
That may be Al McWilliams’ opportunity to strike. Safely in the rearview on GC, he may get a bit of a leash from the two riders ahead of him on time, with Olshove and Voss daring each other to chase, especially on marquee climb of the day, the EPIC KOM. There are just a few GC spots still up for grabs, with Brad Pauly twenty-one seconds behind Ryan Zamzow-Masters for fifth place, and Brad Hochstetler forty seconds behind Dan Madion to slot into the top fifteen.
Sunday’s Seventh Stage is the Bigger Loop, a 33 mile race with the Epic KOM coming in shortly after the end of the race’s 9 kilometers of neutral rollout. That leaves a long way to go for riders, including a lap of the Jungle Circuit and a loop around the Volcano to boot.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s impossible to choose between Voss and Olshove, although something like a bold prediction might include the almost certainty that one will win the stage and, in doing so, win the Tour. Keep an eye on how teams play that climb up the KOM, with squads perhaps better suited to staying together and pacing finding it easier to stack more riders onon GC for points. There is also a Sprint jersey up for grabs, and if Ted Schneider can somehow take top points for the stage, he may not only take the green jersey title, but also deliver second place in the team competition in the process.
Check the standings after Stage 6 here.