We’re getting precariously close to the end of the DMRL season. The completion of Stages 3 and 4 leave just one final stage left for the 2022-2023 campaign.
The third of 6 stages featured a 10km individual time trial on the Bologna TT. Somehow, DMRL hasn’t hit Bologna yet, but the short effort with a sharp sting in the tail generated as much Discord-ing and second-guessing as you’d expect from TT week.
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Those who put in early times avoid climate-related issues (more on that later), but times from Jason Johnson and Kevin Soules set the early benchmark. As the week wore on, the times dropped from the 18s into the 17s and dipped below 16:59 for Marc Walters. The Mapei man posted the top time from the squad and barely pushing a flying Collin Snyder into 5th. Mercatone Uno racked up points with Al McWilliams and Brad Pauly going 2-3 on the stage.
Jon Roobal took the win by a single second, posting an incredible 16:12. His Telekom teammates backed up the performace with riders in 5th, 7th, and 9th, plus Soules moving up a spot on GC with 15th on the stage and moving into the top 5 on GC.
It wasn’t enough to upset Mercatone, who pocketed their first team stage win after finishing in the basement on Stage 1 and 2. Mapei was left with just 10 points and losing its tie for first to Telekom, who have gone all-in on team points – and it’s paying dividends.
Points after Stage 3:
- Telekom – 70
- Mapei – 60
- Mercatone Uno – 50
The Queen Stage beckoned, with one trip up each of the two Innsbruck climbs to deal with. The stage featured just about the same amount of elevation gained in the three previous stages combined, making it the one opportunity for the climbers to have their day.
It was a stage of three acts, though anything by neatly sequential. First, it was an act of God. Winter storms put a big chunk of the Mitten out of action for several days, spoiling both a slew of time trial efforts and participation on Sunday.
Those with power had little time to ease into things, crashing into the base of the first climb and immediately splintering the pack. As groups formed up and down the Reverse KOM, three Mapei riders made the selection alongside Brad Pauly (Uno) and bandit Jeb Stone. After some pulling from Cody Sovis, Marc Walters moved clear. On the radio, another act of God; yellow jersey Dan Yankus lost connection and couldn’t get his signal to stick.
That put the race lead up for grabs, with heir apparent Brad Pauly in the move. Cody Sovis attacked to take the KOM and full points, but Pauly, Stone and Walters made it back on. The quadruplet spent the descent and the flat section steadily eeking out a lead.
Collin Snyder and Chris Ostberg were next on the road, riding like a two-man TT and focusing on every opportunity to pick up points, including on the sprint that marked the just-about-kind-of halfway mark. They helped to usher Kevin Soules to a top ten finish on the day and all but guarantee a top five finish on GC, putting more than 6 minutes into his closest rival heading into the stage.
Several groups combined, snapped and coalesced behind, each recalibrating tactics as the numbers in each group changed. Sam Wittbrodt and Jason Johnson showed a maturity that wasn’t evident when they first start racing DMRL; today, they rode a perfect tactical race to maximum points and conserve energy, showing just how deep the Tekekom tactical nous reaches through the squad.
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Heading up the final climb, Cody Sovis attacked from the bottom in a desperate attempt to drop Brad Pauly and make up the 2+ minutes he sits behind on GC. It was a matter of winning the KOM points and stage, but also keeping Yankus’ well-earned yellow jersey in the squad. After stretching the lead out to 15 seconds, Stone and Pauly came to within 3 seconds before Pauly cracked. Stone made contact with Sovis as the pair crossed the top and began a descent to the line.
Pauly hardly lost a further second in the final 9km, eventually finishing 42 seconds down to comfortably hold his new GC lead. It took an Act of Mercy for Sovis to net his first DMRL or any Zwift win, with Jeb Stone sitting up instead of sprinting. When you’re 1 for 208, you take the gimmes.
Walters finished 4th, giving Mapei 2 in the top 5, but it was more than 10 minutes until the next Mapei rider came through. Telekom put 5 in the top 11, with Uno putting 3 in the top 10, plus winning the C race. Mapei’s team competition chances were salvaged by a 2-3 finish from Mike Reeves and Joel Smith.
The Points (VERY PROVISIONAL)
Telekom’s Ostberg took top points, buoyed by Collin Snyder Snyder, Brad Hochstetler, Tom O’Hagan and Nate Benke, plus Jason Johnson’s stellar ride. That squad will be tough to beat on the sprint-heavy final weekend of the Dope AF Tour.
It’s a double-weekend finale, with Saturday’s elimination/omnium ahead of a Sunday stroll on the Champs-Elysees. It’ll be another one for the sprinters Sunday as the Dope AF wraps up on the bricks of Paris.
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