It all comes down to this, folks. Just once a year, we do it twice.
Two laps of the Speed of Light course are on tap, and there’s still plenty to fight for Thursday as the Tour Competition goes out with a bang.
Nothing is decided, riders were quick to point out, although some of the doubt comes from events outside of the race itself. Race leader Ryan Kennedy was involved in a crash this past Sunday, and while the yellow jersey received lesser injuries, he’s swollen, bruised and feeling the effects of a collision with another rider. Megan received worse injuries in the crash, with neither rider at fault and a combination of high speeds and blind corners contributing factors to the event.
In light of the crash, we’re reminding all SOLers to announce themselves at any intersections and to keep their eyes up the trail as much as possible to keep it safe. TART is working on some solutions to reduce the likelihood of these incidents, as more and more people head to the Vasa to enjoy riding.
For the race at hand, Kennedy has already confirmed he will start, but he’ll rely on a deep team to help control affairs. He enters with almost three minutes up on teammate Cody Sovis, and it’s another four minutes back to John O’Hearn in third, but with his injuries, there’s no way to know how he’ll respond. O’Hearn will have to balance his ambitions of leaping into second with fending off an on-form Marc Brunette, who would like nothing more than to slide onto the podium on the race’s final day.
The most exciting competition has been that for the Best Old Rider jersey, and the Queen Stage is the perfect stage for it all to play out. Steve Lagerquist showed his first sign of weakness on Stage Three, but still only ceded a single second of his lead to rival and former winner Rob Goepfrich. Rob has called in all of his Hagerty teammates to join the fray, and he relied heavily on Susan Vigland last week. Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing will be a man down, with Lagerquist’s faithful work pal and lieutenant Jon Throop missing the final stage. Wes Sovis, who has been invaluable since Stage One, will play a big role, and the team may call on Craig Fortuna to offer his services as well.
Almost an afterthought are the Points and Mountains Classifications, each separated by 2 points by the same two riders, Jorden Wakeley and Ryan Kennedy. Those should be Wakeley’s for the taking, and he is the favorite to win the stage with no GC concerns or teammates to worry about on the final day. The Power Section has brought out some incredible efforts this Tour, and with two trips over it Thursday, it could be the scene of the decisive gaps of the entire race.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the double, or how big an undertaking it is for the riders. It’s actually longer than Mud, Sweat and Beers, and sniffs the 2,000 feet of elevation mark. The winning time last year went to Alex Vanias at 1:16:32, with the bulk of the field closer to the 1:20 mark. And there was no easing into it, either; Cody Sovis was in the lead after one lap with a time of 38:28, twenty-one seconds slower than his fastest SOL in 2016. There’s nothing easy about it, and no one can predict who will crack, or when, or how much they’ll lose when they do.