The third stage of the SOL Tour Competition unveiled the Einstein motto in action: All for one, one for all.
Shades of Carlos Sastre and Frank Schleck on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez were on display, as the team in pink put in a new tactic in a bid to shake Hagerty’s persistent Craig Webb. Sitting just ten seconds down to race leader Ty Schmidt at the start of the day, Webb knew he’d be outnumbered in the elite selection. He didn’t know how far Schmidt would go to earn an Einstein victory.
Two fast riders stole headlines with surprise starts. Marcus Bush was flown in from Minnesota to contest the stage, opting for his cyclocross bike mounted with a thicker, 29er tire in front. Former Einstein Racing stud and current 616 rider Jorden Wakeley also made his debut for 2013, out to stretch his legs on a course where he owns the top time ever. He was perhaps a bit too late to play a massive role in the stage, blistering off from the gun. With Wakeley holding a gap on the field, Einstein seemed content early to let Wakeley search for his own PR, whilst keeping their attention squarely on GC affairs behind.
Together early, the elite group tore away over the VASA CC Climb, with five or six riders in touch over the top. Chris Kushman set the best time over that climb, punching it from the front of the chase group and catching the leaders by the second peak. He’s been wearing the jersey as safe keeper for Ty Schmidt, who leads the competition, though he’s deserved it by his consistent and measured efforts. On the day, Kushman takes the 20 second time bonus, with 15 going to Schmidt and a handy 10 seconds going to green jersey leader Pete Skellenger. Ryan Kennedy was ever-present, keeping a watchful eye on proceedings with a pink swarm on the front.
Skellenger has been outstanding over the Power Section, this week setting an 8.46 mark, only to be tied immediately by Chris Kushman and Craig Webb. The trio will split the green jersey points on the day, each taking home 7.3 with Ty Schmidt slotting in third on the section for 3 points. Cody Sovis was fifth for just one point after deciding to use a 26″ mountain bike on the stage, eschewing his usual cross bike due to the deep sand. Skellenger now holds a narrow lead over Chris Kushman and Ty Schmidt, with Craig Webb still in the game and Cody Sovis now mathematically eliminated from contention.
Webb does have the honor of the white jersey for best old rider, though he is more focused on going for yellow. Halfway through the Power Section, he lost a great amount of support in the form a Steve Andriese crash through the sand. Doctor Pain dragged himself out of the woods uninjured, but was unable to play a bigger role for Webb up the road.
In 2008, Team CSC’s Carlos Sastre attacked on the early slopes of the Alpe d’Huez, riding away with one Chris Froome nipping at his heels before ultimately riding solo to the top, and the victory on the stage. His teammate Frank Schleck, an Alpe winner himself, wore yellow and held a narrow lead over Cadel Evans on the GC. Evans had over two minutes on Sastre, but let the Spaniard ride away, in disbelieve that they would really let Sastra overtake his own teammate for the race lead. They did, and Frank Schleck lost his best chance at a Tour de France win in order to let Sastre take advantage at what was thought to be his last. Einstein played a similar tactic, sending Chris Kushman well up the road and letting Ty Schmidt simply watch wheels with Craig Webb riding to defend not only his second place overall, but his chance at yellow.
While Webb ultimately pulled back ten seconds on the day, but the Kushman move opened the door for Kushman to threaten the overall as well. He now sits just 31 seconds down on Webb and 32 from teammate Ty Schmidt. Kushman has made a living on nabbing up the time bonus, holding a total of 32 ‘free seconds’ so far in this Tour, with Webb and Schmidt each taking 20. Pete Skellenger has also picked up 17 seconds in time bonuses thus far.
Ty Schmidt will wear yellow on the final stage next week, with Craig Webb donning white yet again. Chris Kushman will retain his polka dot jersey, with Skellenger in green and looking good to keep it. That’s also the top four on the GC, with Ryan Kushman flying up the leaderboard to slot in fifth overall at 3 minutes back from Skellenger. Jason Whittaker has also shot up, moving from just barely in the top ten to a comfortable 6th place after reverting to his beloved Beargrease. Former third placer Nate St. Onge bowed out of the GC on Stage Two and has now turned attention to perfecting his fitness aboard his Beargrease as well. Dave Bucholtz, Cody Sovis and Rob Goepfrich round out the top ten.
McLain’s Race Team bows out of the Team Competition after failing to field enough riders on Stage Three. Spencer Payne had been the revelation of the Tour, though retires and giving up his top ten spot. Einstein Racing now sits well ahead of Hagerty, though the Blue Train holds first and second in the Best Old Rider Competition with Craig Webb and Dave Bucholtz safely ahead of Rob Goepfrich with one stage to go.
Stage Four will bring the exciting conclusion to the Tour Competition. It will be all about the general classification, with the top three riders separated by just 32 seconds and so much to fight for in all of the competitions. Stay tuned for previews next week as the grand finale looms large.
|Eric Pollard||0:44:47||Brooks Saddles||29+|
|Nate St. Onge||0:46:38||Einstein||Fat|
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3|
|Nate St. Onge||0:40:30||0:42:45||0:46:38||2:09:53||0:00:00||2:09:53|
|Power Section||Week 2|
|Sprint||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Bonus||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Total|
Ty Schmidt 34
Craig Webb 30
Chris Kushman 29
Pete Skellenger 13
Jason Whittaker 12
Ryan Kushman 10.5
Sean Kickbush 7
Spencer Payne 5
Marcus Bush 4
Cody Sovis 3
Rob Goepfrich 2
Josh Standfest 1
Pete Warden .5
Best Old Rider Competition