The third stage of four brought on a new race leader in a dramatic display of aggression and artistry.
Entering the day ten seconds out of the maglia rosa, Bennett Paul vowed to race himself into a lead by the end of the 12 mile circuit. After his improvement last week, the result seemed possible, and it took just a few hundred meters to confirm his new place atop the leaderboard.
From the gun, Bennett Paul clawed his way onto the wheel of Ryan Kennedy, who dragged Paul away from a chasing pack that included Scott Luca, Jeff Craven and Steve Andriese. The group got about ten seconds up the trail in a mile before it began to slowly unravel. Craven was the first to crack, with Luca next to slide off the back. It’s been a consistent theme for Luca, who usually rallies hard to return to the front over the VASA Power Section.
This time, he was joined by an absolutely flying Mickey Humpula and Cody Sovis, with Spencer Payne latched onto the small chase group as well. Luca found third place in line, with Humpula putting in a Herculean effort to keep Bennett Paul and Steve Andriese in sight. Kennedy was long gone, though a late crash reduced his lead to just a handful of seconds on the line.
Humpula, astride a cyclocross bike, pulled clear of the Luca group with Sovis in tow. Sovis had vowed not to contribute in any efforts that might bring Luca back to his Team Yellow captain, Bennett Paul, who was still only about 15 seconds up the road. With Luca dropped and losing ground, Sovis went to the front to let Humpula recover. The pair worked well for the final four miles, putting more time into Luca as Sovis looked to try to improve on his third place finish.
Bennett, however, had had enough time to attack on the descents and pulled out over a minute on Luca, and even swept up the 15 second time bonus for taking second on the stage. Sovis came through in fourth, thinking he was third and looking for the ten second bonus, which had already been used up by Andriese. Spencer Payne wasn’t far back either, with an encouraging performance by Wes Sovis also in 11th place. Craven, Kickbush and Bucholtz all nipped into the top ten, as well.
With a comfortable lead, Bennett Paul needs only to defend next Thursday, but knowing the plucky youngster, he’ll look to take another top three finish and stamp his authority on the event. There’s already talk of a Giro-Tour double. The competition will begin in July, and though Ryan Kennedy would be the overwhelming favorite, the team may decide to defend a quest for a double. (Seriously, I’m making another Froome/Wiggins reference. It’s controversial)
The new GC picture sees Bennett Paul with a commanding lead heading into the final stage, next Thursday, May 30.
1. Bennet Paul 2:08:54
2. Scott Luca 2:10:12
3. Cody Sovis 2:14:14
4. Sean Kickbush 2:20:02
A special thanks to Jason Lowetz for skipping the ride in order to mark the course. Look for the yellow triangles if you would like to check out the course.
The Team Competition is not even worth calculating, with Einstein almost 20 minutes ahead of Hagerty, and Hagerty almost fifteen minutes ahead of McLain’s.