What has otherwise been a flawless MiniSol Tour was finally marred at the start of its fourth and final stage, after an accident closed Hammond Road at the same moment that half of North America was driving into Traverse City to catch a movie. The resulting gridlock entangled the riders, team staff, race vehicles, motos, broadcast equipment, and everything else associated with the Tour, preventing almost everyone from arriving at the start line on time.
Without any assurance as to when racers and race officials could arrive, or even if they could arrive — Marie Voss, the evening’s designated sweeper, is reportedly still trapped on Three Mile and is subsisting on saltines and water as of the time of this posting — there was talk of cancelling the fourth stage altogether. Fortunately calmer voices prevailed, and after a half hour delay the minipeloton finally rolled to the start line. Impressively, none of the racers seemed the least bit anxious over the delay and uncertainty; they say that finishing a Grand Tour changes a rider, and the raw recruits who had started the Tour just four weeks ago were now prepared to roll into Paris and circle the Champs-Elysees as the consummate professionals they had become. A few stoic nods of the head and whispers of chapeau to one another, and they were off.
Ashton Edson took the stage win, albeit only after testing the first rule of MiniSol, which is to never drop the lead out man. He took off from the start line like a rocket only to blow up on the first hill; but he still managed to fend off the rest of the field, coming in 30 seconds ahead of Arielle Jean who was closely followed by Griffin Schwab in third, making it another Hagerty sweep of a Tour stage podium.
As expected there were no surprises in GC as Arielle Jean became the top overall finisher of the Tour. Arielle again put in one of her patented consistent rides, never taking the bait of anyone else’s provocation and just grinding out a pace she knew in the end would leave her competitors behind. Her sister Abigail ended second in the overall, while Peter B. Worden, III came in third, making it a clean Hagerty sweep of the GC podium. (P3’s accomplishment proved the old adage that just showing up is 80% of life; while not always one of the fastest racers in any given stage, he was one of the fastest racers who had raced in all four stages. Some of you other kids, take note; this is the only way you can do well in a Grand Tour).
There was also no drama in the Green Jersey points competition — the steady consistency that won Arielle the GC crown also earned her the coveted Green Jersey. Abigail and P3 were again in second and third, respectively.
There was ample excitement, however, in the Most Improved Rider competition, awarded based on how much riders improved upon their first stage times in the subsequent stages — Hagerty’s Peter Worden III and Norte’s Porter Kochis had been neck and neck throughout the Tour, and only last week P3 narrowly overtook Porter to take the lead. Porter however did not take this lying down and uncorked another breakout ride, shaving almost 10 minutes off his stage 3 time, and almost 15 minutes off his stage 1 time. He overtook P3 in the competition by a mere 12 seconds. And he did it on a single speed, with wheels about the diameter of a depression-era serving platter. (Porter’s effort brings to mind the other 20% of life). Porter’s sister Sophia came in third, having also improved her time from stage to stage.
There was also a big upset in the Team Competition. After last week Team MBS22stein appeared to have a lock on second place after Hagerty, with Norte a distant third; it was written here that the order should not change absent an asteroid striking the earth. An asteroid of sorts did strike, however, when Oleg Tinkov’s checks bounced and the MBS22stein team, formed and announced with great fanfare just four weeks ago, abruptly imploaded; Little Belt decamped to Florida and Hunter Frank announced he was going to try his luck on Broadway, leaving it to Maximus Jordan to bravely soldier on alone. Maximus put in another strong performance — he’s improved his time steadily each stage, finishing only just off the Most Improved Rider podium; and he improved his Stage Four time even though he flatted and had to take a replacement bike from his team car. But in the end one rider can’t do the job of two, and Norte was able to slot into second place.
After stage four was over, it was time for Moomer’s ice cream and the podium presentations! Many thanks to Einstein Cycles for providing some swag; the first place finishers in the GC, Green Jersey, and Most Improved Rider competition each got an EC water bottle that Hagerty Cycling had filled with M&Ms (there is some kind of meaning in that); second place in those competitions got an EC hat filled with candy; and third place got steak knives . . . no, just kidding, third place got an EC sticker affixed to a giant hershey’s chocolate bar. This is what MiniSol is all about, folks, getting the kids revved up on ice cream and chocolate and then turning them back over to the parents just before bedtime. As GC winner Arielle also got some sweet EC pink socks and a nice bouquet of yellowish flowers, and something tells us this will not be the last time she stands on the top step of a podium holding flowers.
And so the inaugural MiniSOL Tour is over. The racers and their support teams dispersed, some looking forward to the Olympics in Rio; others with their minds on the Vuelta, or perhaps the World Championships. Still a lot of MiniSOL racing to be had before school starts, every Thursday, 6:30 pm.