Some quick notes as the Tour nears its grand finale…
The Age of the Fat Bike…
With sand on the VASA reaching its August, beach-like depths, more and more riders are adopting fat bikes as the answer. Jason Whittaker as been a sworn believer in the fat bike since early last season, and quickly reverted to his fat bike after just one attempt on a mountain bike. Last week, Bennett Paul made his second fat bike start, while Nate St. Onge also went to his Beargrease. Eric Pollard and John Leach made the move to the new Surly Krampus, a 29+ rig with 3″ tires. Dave Walston and SOL regular Stacy Smith have also sworn their allegiance to the fat bike flag, as has Dave Mann. Fat bikes have been consistently in the top half of the standings, and it’ll be interesting to see just how high up a Beargrease could finish on Stage Four, especially with Whittaker getting faster and more dangerous each week.
The Kushman Konspiracy
Einstein Racing’s sibling duo is now solidly in the top of things with a stage to go, and Chris Kushman can rely on brother Ryan to bury himself should the occasion arise. Ryan has been improving each week, and with Chris now just 32 seconds from a possible Einstein 1-2, Ryan could be a big part of any winning move on Stage Four. Ty Schmidt watched and waited while Craig Webb limited his losses to a flying Chris Kushman on Stage Three, and if the same scenario plays out in the finale, Kushman could have a shot at the win as well. Ryan Kennedy is returning to his stellar self after a brief stint off the bike, and could be the key to pounding out resistance in the last stage.
The Old Man Digs Deep
Craig Webb’s single-handed determination over the past few stages has been impressive, especially considering the swarm of Einstein racers around him. The Hagerty veteran has weathered some massive challenges in the past, and the SOL has seen him riding as cool and as calm as humanly possible. He’s yet to truly play his hand on any stage, and his careful measure of Chris Kushman’s move on Stage Three was almost perfect. He may need a helping hand from Steve Andriese to mark everything, but in the end, it will be Webb against the world when the gun goes Thursday. Never count the Marine out.
All In The Family
In the Johnson household, Austin finally took the upper hand on Stage Three. Chasing solo much of the race, he clawed out a comfortable lead over father Ed with one more stage to defend. It’ll be interesting to see if he goes on the offensive or lurks behind, playing defense as Ed tries to gain back time. The two were neck and neck through the first two stages, with Austin only just showing his strength on the sandy, challenging SOL course. He has just 12 more miles left to safely take top honors on the car ride home.
The Dangerous Pete Skellenger
With his eyes on the green jersey, “Pistol” Pete Skellenger might just sneak off in search of a podium on the final stage. If he sets his normal pace on the Power Section, he should have the green jersey under wraps with a half a lap left to race. If the podium boys start to watch each other, Skellenger may just be able to sneak off the front and go for a stage win. While he’ll need over two minutes to supplant Chris Kushman, that buffer may also work to his advantage, with the other riders giving him a long leash late in the race.