As expected, a number of contenders abandoned ahead of Conquer the Village, but those on hand put together one heck of a ride.
With a number of top Giro contenders missing Stage Two to focus on Conquer the Village Thursday, it was a smaller but dedicated crew of racers look to bounce themselves up into the overall picture. Jorden Wakeley, Keegan Myers, Craig Webb and a host of others did not take the start line, but it paved the way for a few break through rides.
Ryan Kennedy was in the driver’s seat from the gun, prizing out a gap with only Ty Schmidt able to make the juncture over the Vasa CC Climb, the KOM of the day. The pair did enough early to go 1-2 time-wise, which rode Kennedy, the reigning SOL World Champ, into the blue climber’s jersey as well, with Schmidt six points back in that competition.
Behind, the chase group of Hal BeVier, Jason Whittaker, Rob Goepfrich, Eric Grassa and Jack Kline was towed along early by Cody Sovis, who refused to go hard and bring anyone back to his leader’s wheel. After a few minutes, however, that wasn’t an issue, with the bright white rainbow jersey of Kennedy and brilliant orange of Schmidt’s NORTE! jersey disappearing into the forest. Sovis kept the pace, but it was Eric Grassa with his best ride ever. He took a few pulls at speed, and collected Sovis after the cyclocrosser had jumped away to take third on the Power Section, picking up some sprinter’s points. But it was Grassa who, after poking and prodding across the power lines, eventually opened up a gap and put down a blistering time of just barely over 42 minutes.
Kennedy was able to put some valuable time into Schmidt in the end, with Grassa finishing third on the stage for his most impressive performance to date. Behind, Sovis rode in with a very strong Hal BeVier, with Jason Whittaker working miracles on his singlespeed. A slight change in ratio made all the difference, and JW slotted in for sixth place, on of the highest ever finishes by a singlespeed. Rob Goepfrich did well to ride solo to the line, and move himself into the lead of the Best Old Rider’s jersey with non-starts from Dan Hofstra and Craig Webb.
The women’s race is looking even more interesting, with Marylin Kamp now into the driver’s seat with a five minute lead over Stacy Smith. Kamp is also in the running for Most Consistent, putting together times within fifteen seconds of each other on the first and second stage. Smith made a big jump and is now comfortably under the hour mark, and if she can continue the strides forward she could certainly challenge over the next two stages.
It was a double sprint point stage, and leader Kennedy made the very most of it, taking 16 points to sit four points clear of Schmidt at 20, who won the sprint on the day by 6 seconds. Non-starters are not eligible for the GC, but can come back to challenge for the jersey competition, and it could be a great showdown to see if riders like Sean Kickbush and Keegan Myers can mop up points, which may actually help keep Kennedy and Schmidt clear. Currently, Kennedy’s teammate Cody Sovis sits third in the competition after finishing in that same spot on the sprint on Stage Two.
The KOM jersey is also meant for Kennedy’s shoulders, where he sits six points clear of a trio of riders that include Cody Sovis, Ty Schmidt and Keegan Myers. Next week will be the big test, however, with the VASA CC Climb going for double points, from 20 to 16, 12, 8 and 4.
The GC picture is looking solid for Kennedy, who leads by 3:28 over Ty Schmidt, and it’s further 2:59 to Eric Grassa, who has vaulted into third. The battle for fifth place might be the most excited one left on the overall, with Cody Sovis, Jason Whittaker and Rob Goeprich all within two minutes, but perhaps more focused on making sure Kennedy stays in pink all the way through the final stage on June 5.
Stage Three will pick up next Thursday for the Queen Stage, with double mountains points on offer.