The Speed of Light WorldTour hots up on skinnier tires, and Eric Pollard claims the crown as King of Cross.
After double-points for fat bikes one week ago, it was a SOL for the ‘crossers Thursday. Rains over the past few days had done much to firm up the trail, but with the SOL course still marked by sandpits, it was never going to be simple for the riders looking to stay in the WorldTour hunt.
The big decision of the night was down to Jason Whittaker, one of the few riders capable of going after double points all three nights in June. He stuck with his cyclocross bike and managed to haul down 20 points, the same amount as if he’d won on a mountain bike, a big move up in the standings as the series hits his new specialty next week, singlespeed.
The current WorldTour leader, Ty Schmidt, was present and correct early as he joined a lead trio of Keegan Myers and Ryan Kennedy. The latter pairing rode the entire course looking to break the 39 minute mark, and so focused was their effort that Schmidt popped from the leaders. He was caught by the chase group, which included Tom White, Eric Grassa, Cody Sovis and Eric Pollard. Sovis went to the fore on the Power Section but lacked the pop to have it all his own way, with big pulls coming from a recovering Schmidt, Grassa and White, with Pollard testing his rear wheel for a flat on the various rock and roots.
The leaders were in sight over the final few hundred meters of the Power Section, but they were soon gone as the chasers struggled to find a rhythm through the sandy Power Line section (hereafter referred to as the Saarlock Pit) with White going to the head of affairs as the cross bike struggled to hop back onto wheels.
White had a gap, but the revelation of the evening was the resilience of Pollard, who gamely gave chase, dropping the others in pursuit of a podium place. Pollard credits his great form to switching back to “yellow, fizzy beers” instead of heaver lagers and ales. The Hamm’s he slammed before the start was just the ticket, and he cruised in just under 41 minutes behind White for 4th place. Ryan “Mr. President” Kennedy and Keegan Myers went sub-39 for the first time, setting a 38:51 benchmark to gun for next week.
Sovis lost a chain with a half mile to go, losing the chance to mix it up with Schmidt and Grassa in the finale. The pair rolled home under 42 minutes, with Sovis just over the mark. Whittaker’s 10th place spot came behind Chad Jordan and Jason Lowetz. Lowetz put in an aggressive opening two miles to string out the group, settling in for some hard tempo over the remainder.
It was also an historic day in the tandem world. Ryan Kushman and Langley Schearer put in the first-ever tandem finish, with two other attempts failing last year. Their 45:35 sets the mark for any challengers out there looking to shove their names right up the annals of cycling legend.
The WorldTour will get interesting next week, with SingleSpeed and Ladies’ Night capping off the June series of the WorldTour. All SSers in the top 20 will get double points, an incentive that surely has Pollard, Whittaker and a few others chomping at the bit. For the ladies, the reward is even bigger, being scored with 20 to first and -1 down to 20th place of jut women. Susan Vigland, Lauri Brockmiller, Laura Webb, Beth Craven and Trisha Manion should put on a veritable show in hot pursuit of a big points haul.
Below are the WorldTour standings as of 6/20.
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