The first stage of the Tour Competition is in the books, and the contenders have opened up some early daylight.
The elite selection that might well decide the GC at the end of July took all of a minute to happen. One of the largest Speed of Light Rides in history assembled on the VASA to a grand assemblage of dignitaries and a helicopter flyover, while World War One biplanes wrote “Vive le Tour” in billowing smoke high above.
Near the front were race favorites Ty Schmidt, Nate St. Onge, Craig Webb, Jason Whittaker, Spencer Payne, Eric Pollard and a whole slew of riders more than capable of taking a win. After Faith Hill finished up a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”, it was all business as the race began in earnest. From the gun, Pete Skellenger took an early lead before giving way to Cody Sovis. Sovis lead onto the first sandy powerline crossing, a tactic he called “bloody brilliant”. As he fish-tailed wildly through the sand, Jason Whittaker pulled past astride his Beargrease. Almost immediately on the other side, the big names took flight on the VASA CC Climb. Schmidt, Webb, St. Onge and Chris Kushman pulled clear, while a select chase group formed behind. Sovis, Skellenger, Scott Luca, Spencer Payne and Jason Whittaker queued up to hit the VASA Power Section, with the figure of Kushman giving up ground on the horizon.
Schmidt, Webb and St. Onge pulled steadily away, while Sovis and Skellenger did their worst to rip apart the chase group before the sand and descents late in the race. Their efforts rode Scott Luca and Bennett Paul off their wheels, as the Giro 1-2 duo later suffered mechanicals. Paul’s Giro-Tour double bid ended on Stage One, and the Einstein racer will now target segments and help defend Ty Schmidt late in the race.
As the leaders rode to the line with a secure podium already in place, Skellenger and Chris Kushman left Sovis on the slopes in pursuit of a top five finish. Behind, a new chase group emerged, consisting of Spencer Payne, Ryan Kushman, Dave Bucholtz and Eric Pollard. The crew slowly reeled in Sovis and, on one of the final descents, Payne pulled off a daredevil move to pull a few seconds clear of the bunch. Payne made quick work of Sovis, who crashed in the final corner as the rest of the chase group poured over the final turn in a mad-dash to the line. Sovis appealed to race officials to be given the same time as the group, following the final 3k rule in the UCI regulations. The officials declined, leaving Sovis a few seconds back.
Riders outside of the top three will be left scrambling to make a top five, though the front of the race is certainly interesting. Craig Webb leads the way for Hagerty Cycling, with Einstein Racing fielding Ty Schmidt and Nate St. Onge as their top options. The duo couldn’t be more different; Schmidt is all power while Nate is one of the region’s most celebrate bike handlers. Schmidt is at his best over the climbs and wide open flats, while Nate has the ability to open massive gaps when he’s willing to let it all go over the rough descents towards the end of each race. The wildcard going forward could be the willingness of Ryan Kennedy to help Ty and Nate take the GC win. If so, Einstein should be able to field three on one, though they’ll be taking on the ageless, wiley Webb at perhaps his best form in years.
With Sovis on the ground, Dave Bucholtz rose to the occasion to score in the team competition, though already Einstein is moving out with a sizeable lead. McLain Racing isn’t too far back after a brilliant ride and brave chase from Spencer Payne and a surprise ride from Matt Harris. With Kennedy back in the mix in two weeks’ time, Hagerty will call in reinforcements from Wes Sovis and Steve Andriese as they look to better their second rider’s time for the competition.
Eric Pollard has emerged as a great threat for Brooks Saddles, while Jason Lowetz Comeback 23234.231 is slowly coming along.
The Best Old Rider Competition may end up being Webb’s by a mile, but strong rides from Rob Goepfrich and Gary Chastain are also looking solid.
Heading into the two-week hiatus for the 23rd Annual Pancake Ride on July 4 next week, Einstein’s Ty Schmidt will wear the yellow jersey with a one second lead over Craig Webb. It’s just over a minute and fifteen seconds back to Nate St. Onge in third, with Chris Kushman and Pete Skellenger rounding out the top five. Spots six through twelve are within forty seconds of each other, which means the final top ten is in no way decided.
Craig Webb will wear the white jersey as Best Old Rider, looking a bit like a whizzen Teejay van Garderen. Chris Kushman will wear the King of the Mountains jersey, while brother Ryan has the honor of being named Most Aggressive Rider on Stage One by a panel of his peers. He put in numerous attacks en route to a 0:42:21 and an 11th place finish. Pete Skellenger will wear the green jersey, with Schmidt and Webb both wearing jerseys from other competitions.
Ty Schmidt 0:39:17 Einstein MTB
Craig Webb 0:39:18 Hagerty MTB
Nate St. Onge 0:40:30 Einstein MTB
Chris Kushman 0:41:04 Einstein MTB
Pete Skellenger 0:41:05 Priority MTB
Spencer Payne 0:42:03 McLains MTB
Dave Bucholtz 0:42:08 Hagerty MTB
Jason Whittaker 0:42:10 Einstein FAT
Eric Pollard 0:42:15 Brooks Saddles CX
Ryan Kushman 0:42:21 Einstein MTB
Cody Sovis 0:42:38 Hagerty CX
Dave Walston 0:43:45 Einstein MTB
Jeff Galsterer 0:43:46 Einstein MTB
Rob Goeprich 0:44:12 Einstein MTB
Lars Welton 0:44:13 Hagerty MTB
Pete Worden 0:44:21 Hagerty MTB
Sean Luca 0:44:50 McLains MTB
Jason Lowetz 0:46:50 Einstein MTB
Gary Chastain 0:47:04 Einstein MTB
Jimmy McKenna 0:47:06 Einstein MTB
Scooter Luca 0:47:30 McLains MTB
Grant Woods 0:48:12 MTB
Keith Conway 0:50:00 Einstein MTB
Rachel Decker 0:50:20 Hagerty MTB
Bill Gehringer 0:52:25 MTB
Ed Johnson 0:52:30 MTB
Dan Lyczak 0:52:31 MTB
Austin Johnson 0:52:32 MTB
Mike Walters 0:53:00 MTB
Mike Sutton 0:53:27 MTB
Matt Harris 0:55:02 McLains MTB
Todd Labonte 0:55:20 MTB
Dan Pihala 0:56:26 MTB
Brian Emmons 0:58:45 MTB
Stacy Smith 1:05:00 FAT
King of the Mountain Standings
Ty Schmidt 10
Pete S .5
Peter W .5
Points Jersey Standings
Webb 8:31 10
Ty 8:34 7
Pete 8:46 5
Cody 8:50 3
Ryan 8:58 2
Best Old Rider Competition
Craig Webb 0:39:18
Dave Bucholtz 0:42:08
Rob Goeprich 0:44:12
Lars Welton 0:44:13
Pete Warden 0:44:21
Gary Chastain 0:47:04
Bill Gehringher 0:52:25
Ed Johnson 0:52:30
Todd LaBonte 0:55:20
Team Competition (Top Three Finishers)