It was a busy weekend in the NFS Tour. Saturday’s fourth stage, comprised of 3 mini races, certainly took its toll on riders ahead of a pivotal GC day packed with points. As the sweaty basement smell settles, we ask…what the hell happened?
Need for Speed Stage 4
Broken up into three fun-sized events, Stage 4 combined a points race, a team time trial and a game of Prisoner’s Dilemma, with teams sending riders to two different maps and two very different routes.
Points Race – Crit City. Go fast. Points at the prime. Simple and unforgiving. With points on the line each time through the prime, most of the field came up slinging, although it’s worth noting a few riders took it easy…a tactic that may have paid off later. Due to a Zwift Power snafu, team totals weren’t ready before this recap…and I’ve got other stuff to do.
Team Trial – Interestingly, every team ended the 9.9km TTT quite sure they’d won…and of course three of those teams were wrong. The Warthogs put down a blistering 13:44 on the time of their 8th rider across, Carl Copenhaver. Tomcats were incredible close, scoring on the time of Kevin Soules with 13:50.
Vipers did just enough to avoid the basement, but admittedly came up short on a stage most would have expected them to win. They turned in a 13:58 on Nate Benke, who turned in what were pivotable performances Saturday and Sunday. Wild Weasels scored a 14:11 on Mike Hughes with Wes Stocker on the same time.
Split Race – Vipers used their brains and their minds for the win here. Noticing first that many, many more riders had opted for the sprint stage, James Gawecki did the unthinkable: arithmetic. Drawing on more than a decade of public education, he noticed that he could finish 19th out of 20th and still score more than a similar result in the 30+ rider sprint race. So, he did. It helped that Vipers also put 3 riders in the top 6 and 6 in the top 12, of course.
Al McWilliams took the most points, a big haul for Tomcats on a stage that looked precarious for them.
They also took top points with Ted Schneider on the sprint side, with Chris Ostberg leading 4 Warthogs in the top 10. Tomcats put Jeremy Karel and the endlessly versatile Collin Snyder in the top 5 on points, keeping them in the team competition hunt.
Need for Speed Tour Stage 5
The Climbers from the Split Race were probably having déjà vu all over again on Sunday morning. For Stage 5 road stage, riders were back in Neokyo for a two-lap, 26 mile drag race featuring 2 KOMs and 4 sprint points.
But with a twist.
After a successful test during the Roasted Chestnuts Tour, race organizer reprised the “handicap” of putting A riders on mountain bikes, B riders on gravel bikes, and C riders on road bikes. Again, it worked perfectly. Again, it was brutal.
Most of the field survived to the foot of the Rooftop climb near the end of the first lap. McWilliams took the first KOM ahead of Jeb Stone, who’d just nabbed the first spring prime. It was a wide mix of faces on the top of the primes chart, with Wes Sovis, Jesse Brennan, Jaden Drews and Joey Bianchni all taking top points.
As the lead group dwindled to 21 riders, it looks like a set piece, drag race ascent of the Rooftop KOM to the line.
Dim the lights. Cue the music. Start the waterworks.
With just a few kilometers to go, Wes Sovis and Jaden Drews went clear. The best pals eeked out a 10 second lead. Then 15. Behind, no one wanted to chase and most assumed the pair would be caught early on the final climb.
Jaden delivered Wes with a healthy lead that hardly budged even as the peloton started to accelerate. Wes went all out and, just as Chariots of Fire started playing out of nowhere, crossed the line for his first Zwift (or any kind of bike race) win. Drews was rewarded with second place with a furious peloton hot on his heals, led home by the incredible Jeb Stone. McWilliams, Leah Thorvilson (yes, that one), Jon Roobal and Brian Harville were next home.
Vipers put 8 riders on the top ten, more than a third of the final selection. Thanks to big rides from Nate Benke, Alex Ralston, Spencer Mendel, Sam Wittbrodt and a surging Trevor Gibney, the team looks set to win the team competition if they can hold it together next weekend.
The Need For Speed Tour concludes with the longest stage of the race (by 700 meters). Riders will take on two laps of Downtown Titan, a 50km mostly flat race the will take on the Titans Grove Reverse KOM and Zwift KOM two times apiece. Sprinters will have their time to shine on the Watopia Sprint as well.
With Yankus out of GC, he’ll be a wrecking ball next weekend, while Al McWilliams holds yellow by 12 seconds over Jeb Stone. While they have 5 riders in the top 11, Vipers will be all-in to get Stone a second Tour win of the winter. They’ll also be looking to make sure McWilliams’ Tomcats don’t sneak up and swipe the team competition, which would be a total Tomcat thing to do, LOLZ.
Probably the GC standings.
Catch up an all the DIRTy Mitten Racing League action and stay tuned for the final Tour of the season in mid-February. Dig what we’re doing? Sign up for Off The Back, our weekly-ish newsletter. You can also get MERCH, including a Need For Speed Coffee Mug!