No Tour stage, or SOL for that matter, has had such a big effect as the 2014 Queen Stage.
All the buzz heading into Stage Four, the Finale, is about the first-ever double navigation of the SOL course. And with so many competitions still undecided, there’s a lot on the line for the jersey contenders and GC men. Everyone, however, will have to take careful measure of their efforts early to simply survive the second lap in a solid group.
Two battles are under the radar, with the overall win just 27″ seconds out of reach for Keegan Myers. He’ll have to ride a perfect race to take the maillot jaune off Ryan Kennedy, who has led the race from Stage One, claiming a 5″ bonus and collecting time in little chunks in the consecutive weeks. Myers has left it late, but over 25 mile of SOL, no lead is safe.
The other fight is amongst the elderly. Scott Luca enters the final stage with a slender lead over Lars Welton and a minute over Rob Goepfrich. Welton and Goepfrich, however, will be able to call on deep reserves from teammates, with Welton recruiting no less than three teammates last week, and Einstein Racing putting on the call for three riders as well to help Rob in the finale. Wes Sovis, Austin Johnson, John Leach and even Jake Ellis could toe the line to support Goepfrich, with Luca countering with his trusted baby brother Shawn and Eli Brown to give KEEN a good chance at keeping white.
A number of other skirmishes are still expected, including the mountains jersey now held by Ryan Kennedy. Myers is the closest challenger, but he may have to choose his battles and let the jersey go if he wants to take the overall victory. Jason Whittaker stands to gain the most if he can over come a four point deficit. The green jersey is held by Tyler Kelly, though he has just two points over Cody Sovis. Still, Kelly needs simply to score points to defend, and with Einstein using men to protect Kennedy over two laps, he should have green on the finish line.
A big part of the overall picture will be shaped by how aggressively riders take the first lap, especially the KOM and Sprint points in the first half of the lap. Einstein Racing will look to control the pace in the first 40 minutes of riding, calling on Eric Pollard, Nate St. Onge, Chris and Ryan Kushman, Cody Sovis and Jason Whittaker, the latter pair ready to give up their GC positions in the effort to keep Kennedy safely in yellow.
Riders are expecting an exceptionally tough day in the saddle, with estimated finishing times ranging from an hour and twenty-five to over two hours. The time gaps are sure to be massive no matter what the early pace is, though a number of riders admitted they are taking it easy heading into what is essentially a regular race.
Trisha Manion enters without opposition for the GC victory in the women’s race, but it’ll be a point of pride for her to complete the two laps first of the ladies on the night. She’s setting herself up nicely to become the first-ever two time Grand Tour women’s winner with a run at the Vuelta later this summer.
Stage Four of the Speed of Light Tour Competition leaves Ec at 6.30pm, or the Vasa 25km Parking Lot at 6.45pm. A reminder to please seed yourself according to GC position. If you are not in the GC, please move further back, at least for this week.