SOL

At a glitzy, star-studded gala at a trendy Burger King in TC’s East End, the big names of Speed of Light gathered to unveil the first Grand Tour of the season. 

It’s been a year in the making, but organizers can confirm the route, features and dates for the 2014 Speed of Light Giro Competition. Racing begins on May 8, just a day before the Giro d’Italia begins in Ireland this year. Stage One of the SOL version will announce the return of TC’s biggest off road group ride, and signal the start of perhaps it’s most illustrious edition yet.

Last year’s winner Bennett Paul wore a white suit and tie and even reportedly showered before the engagement, joined by runner-up Scott Luca, and third place finisher Cody Sovis. Last year, Paul and Luca spent much of the Giro in a Wiggins-Froome scenario, with Paul eventually proving himself the more consistent rider over the four stages. With Luca moved to the new KEEN squad, there will be no such in-fighting in Einstein’s line-up.

With Bennett Paul focusing on the Tour this year, the troops will likely support Ryan “Mr. President” Kennedy for the Giro. He’s expected to make a run at a Giro-Tour double this year, and, provided he can make all the starts, should be a big contender to be the first to do the double. He’ll be supported by a whole slew of riders, including an on-form Jason Whittaker, Jason Lowetz, the Kushman Brothers (with Chris a polka dots jersey winner) and the cyclocross-mounted Sovis Brothers, in addition to John Leach, Nate St. Onge, Bennett Paul and Eric Pollard.

Hagerty Cycling took an ever-increasing interest in SOL last summer, spearheaded by the success of Craig Webb. Webb took the Best Old Rider prize easily in his Grand Tour starts, but his ambition is to swap that title for that of overall champion. He is currently taking on a heavy dose of altitude training in North Carolina, flanked by some of his trusted lieutenants, including Dan Hofstra. Dave Bucholtz, Tim Jenema, Steve Andriese and Lars Welton, all SOL regulars, are expected to serve as super powered domestiques for Webb’s run at the win.

Also on that trip is the team leader of KEEN, Eli Brown. The new squad has a deep stable that includes Brown, Tim Pulliam, Scott and Shawn Luca, and Mike Powers as top ten contenders. The depth and talent will have to catch up with the experience of other riders, but if spring results are any measure, KEEN isn’t backing down from anyone.

Tour winner Ty Schmidt is also expected to start in his Carter’s Compost/Norte! outfit. He’s going to be a tough man to beat, and without any teammates, he’ll be a wildcard throughout the first few stages with little reason to do anything than wait and pounce.

The race this year has some big changes from 2013. Race organizer Edward Snorkletwister says the goal is “to make the truest race” possible.” It turns out, that means that no time bonuses will be on offer, a departure from last years’ event, where GC men could try and peel back chunks of time by performing well on sprint and mountain stages. This year, those stages will only be weighted with points in those respective competitions on two occasions.

Rob Goepfrich will lead the way in challenging Webb’s Best Old Rider dominance, though Lars Welton battled him pedal stroke for pedal stroke in 2013. The KOM and Points jerseys will be decided on their featured days, with both Chris and Ryan Kushman expected to target points for the squad.

The Women’s starters have not been confirmed, but watch for starts from Stacy Smith, Rachel Decker, Lauri Brockmiller and plenty more.

Check back in the next two weeks for more in-depth coverage of the 2014 Speed of Light Giro Competition.

Stage One. May 8. 6.15 pm

Stage Two. May 15. 6.15 pm Double Points for Sprint Competition (Power Section)

Stage Three. May 22. 6.15 pm Double Points for KOM Competition (Hill On Iceman Course)

Stage For. May 29. 6.15 pm Podium Ceremony and Lantern Rouge Gathering.