The Finale gave us yet another unforgettable Queen Stage in 2015, with more action than we could have hoped for.
Intentions were clear from the gun on Thursday’s fourth stage of the Tour Competition, but the outcome was always in question on an exceedingly tough evening of mountain cycling. With Alex Vanias riding with a solid lead, attentions were turned to the battle for the final podium spot and, perhaps as a point of pride, Einstein Racing pointed all their guns on the man in third position overall, Kyle Macdermaid.
If there was any doubt to how Einstein Racing would take the day on, the presence of a full seven riders on the front cleared matters up over the opening salvos of climbs. Two full laps of 11.6 miles meant that some caution was taken, but only in small measure. First Cody Sovis, then Ryan Kennedy, then Chris Kushman himself moved to the front, the rider looking to move into third and make up an 8 second deficit. His early gap was closed down, and it was an elite group making the twists and turns onto the Power Section.
A near-crash that saw one of Einstein’s big engines, Jason Lowetz, spun around 180 degrees but somehow upright, and that triggered a renewed sense of intent from the squad. Sovis went to the front of the group, comprised of the full top six on GC and some domestiques ready to work.
As the Power Section ended, Jason Whittaker moved up to control the tempo, leading all the way to the Wall Bypass before ceding the front position on the Boonenberg, job done for the day. On the Boonenberg, Macdermaid closed a gap from the descent and took top points on the climb, although Luke Tjosvold’s lead was never in doubt. Tjosvold takes his first KOM jersey on the heels of a perfectly-timed win on the double points stage.
Over the top of the Boonenberg the group finally splintered, with Whittaker and Lowetz out of contact, leaving the top five general classification riders to battle the remaining lap and a quarter. After some glass cranking and looking around, it was fifth placed rider Cody Sovis, nearly four minutes down to Macdermaid, to sneak away over the top of Anita’s Hill and build a solid lead that tipped over 40 seconds at one point. Unconcerned, Macdermaid marked wheels, with Vanias finally revving his engine and eating up Sovis’ lead that lasted just under three miles.
The move ultimately served to put a rider up the road to better survive an attack from Vanias, which came in his typical measured and devastating form. As they caught Sovis, Kushman made a move to bridge up, with Sovis trying to help him open a gap. The move didn’t work, but as Vanias upped the pace on the Truee de Madeleine’s, a bike length opened that saw daylight spilling through between the first three riders, Vanias, Kennedy and Kushman, and the dogged duo of Macdermaid and Sovis. The pressure and pace of the day finally began to tell, with Macdermaid losing the wheel and watching Kushman disappear into the trees, grasping at the coattails of a raging yellow jersey.
Vanias stomped his authority on this Tour in the exact spot he’d earned it; over the Power Section he stretched the lead to the two dropped GC men to well over a minute, with Kennedy playing the role of super domestique, helping to pace Kushman all the way in. The pair came back to within six seconds down by the end of the stage, while Macdermaid and Sovis lost three minutes, time immaterial on the final stage.
Kennedy takes home not only a second place overall, but a green jersey as well, a worthy token for his solid efforts this July and a nice addition to his yellow from 2014. He and Kushman also paired to deliver nearly every team time for the Team Competition, which Einstein Racing won comfortably, keeping a perfect record in that category.
Second in the Team Competition and winners of the yellow jerseys in both men and women’s, Team OAM’s Alex Vanias and Kaitlyn Patterson kept their stellar 2015s rolling. Patterson made history with a new women’s World Record, the first woman under 40 minutes, and the first woman to score in any points competition…which she has now done twice.
Rob Goepfrich claimed Hagerty Cycling’s biggest claim to fame at this Tour, the white jersey for Best Old Rider. Hagerty also finished third in the Team Competition, with solid rides from Susan Vigland keeping them on the board.
Next week is the Team Time Trial, the first WorldTour event in a month and a shot at 20 points for the team with the fastest three times.
You can see the final Tour standings and results here.