The 2023 Need for Speed Tour is cleared for takeoff. The Top Gun-inspired, month-long showdown across four Sundays plus a Stage 2 iTT. It’s the biggest Tour to date, with four strong teams with clever callsigns based on the coolest thing ever….JETS!
Kick the tires and light the fires, Big Daddy, we’re heading into the Danger Zone.
Four BIG squads were sorted out by MATH just 24-ish hours before the official start of hostilities.
- WILD WEASELS (A real thing)
- TOMCATS (Not a Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes reference)
Equally dangerous, Iceman, but arguably not real, are the two dozen or so RED AIR BOGEYS, or unaffiliated racers that hop into a few dogfights here and there and bounce.
The Flight Plan
- Stage 1 – Battle of Britain – London Loop 2.5
- Stage 2 – Clean the Rails – iTT
- Stage 3 – Tactical Intercepts – Road to Ruins 1.5
- Stage 4 – Red Flag – Omnium!
- Stage 5 – Danger Close – Neokyo All-Nighter 1.7
- Stage 6 – The Merge – Downtown Titan 2x
Stage 1 – The Battle of Britain
London, Calling. Finally. London has somehow gone unused in nearly 3 years of DIRTy Mitten Racing League events, but finally got tagged into this month’s flight pattern. Named after the dire Battle of Britain, things were only slightly less tense than the summer of 1940.
After a chaotic “neutral” roll out, (stay behind BRAD HOCHSTETLER until he says go, people) things stretched as the race hit the first sprint point of the race. The bunch easily covered another speculative Cody Sovis attack early to sweep up points, Dan Yankus, Chris Ostberg, Al McWilliams and a flying Spencer Mendel pocketing points.
The sprint caused a big split in the bunch and it was a group of roughly 20 riders that made it through the Tube and onto the first of two ascents of Box Hill. Marc Walters eased off the front early, sparking a long and cruel dash to the top. The group split and split hard, with gaps of well over a minute created an unusually clear GC picture on the first stage of a DMRL stage race.
Yankus, McWilliams, Ben Shields, and Jeb Stone were clear while Jon Roobal was in no man’s land ahead of a strong chase group. He’d eventually sit up to join a group that included Walters, Brad Pauly, Collin Snyder, Alex Ralston, Martin Harris, Ostberg, Cody Sovis, Ted Schneider and more.
Behind, Kevin Soules, Wes Sovis, Jesse Brennan and almost every single rider spent the rest of the making snap tactical decisions as different groups split, came together and split again. Teams were constantly having to decide when to chase, when to sit, and when to walk away, although we might be mixing in some Kenny Rogers lyrics there.
The group of chasers kept the front pack in check for the second lap, or at least until the second trip up the climb. Neither bunch was totally committed and the gap hovered around 30 seconds, which was probably closer than anyone felt comfortable with ahead of Stage 2’s iTT; Roobal can always find that kind of time.
Yankus won Box Hill again, this time ahead of Stone, and the lead pack spilled to the final 10km to the line with about a minute’s lead. Yankus takes the stage ahead of Stone with both riders on 1:14:19, 9 seconds clear of McWilliams and 16 seconds ahead of a flying Ben Shields.
Roobal was fifth home and gives up 1:04 to the yellow jersey, but it’s a long, long way to the end of this one.
At the end of this, Leah Thorvilson’s amazing basically-a-TT effort to go from 30th to 17th may be a game-changer. She slid into the top 20 and pushed two Weasels and two Tomcats out of the way in the process. That could end up being the difference!
Thanks to their putting 5 riders in the top 20, VIPERS takes Stage 1 ahead of WEASELS by less than 30 points. It’s Tomcats in third, also just 30 points ahead of Warthogs. WEASELS have to be excited about their squad going forward; Yankus won the A pen while Canada’s Own Doug Millson pocketed the C pen win ahead of Ben Price and Joel Smith, both of TOMCATS.
- VIPERS 10
- WEASELS 8
- TOMCATS 6
- WARTHOGS 4
Stage 2 is a short quasi-mountain TT of 4.7 miles. It’s a tale of two halves, with racers barreling down the gravel Jungle descent before taking to the lower slopes of the Alpe du Zwift. It’s a stage that offers up plenty of equipment decisions and strategies, plus riders will likely rely on vital intel from teammates. Don’t expect to get much work done this week, people.