Every year, the double lap Speed of Light provides the stage for some of the most exciting, dramatic and thrilling racing of the year. 2016 was certainly no different.
Entering the night, the plot was already thick as Richard Virenque’s blood in 1998. Aside from normal competitive tension, race leader Ryan Kennedy faced a tough crash this past Sunday. He was still limping when he came to pick up his bike, only to discover that it wasn’t rideable. Luckily, team mechanic Dan Curnayn made a quick switch to get him on a Balthazar with B+ wheels, just in time.
If “Mr. President” was a bent and broken man, he was well protected at every stage of affairs. Off the line, he was immediately surrounded by a phalanx of teammates, and the front of the race soon took on a Team Sky-esque line of black jerseys. Swap Henao, Thomas and Kwiatkowski with Whittaker, Tjosvold and Sovis, and you have the perfect image of the night. Jorden Wakeley took off over the Vasa CC Climb, but with a big gap to make up, the chase was never taken up.
Instead, it was a revolving door of teammates in front of the yellow jersey, with third placed rider John O’Hearn, fourth place rider Mark Brunette, and top ten riders Jon Zelinski and Steven Terry holding on. Jason Johnson was eager early, mixing in a fast turn on the front over the Power Section, but with Whittaker tiring and smartly tacked on for emergency use, it was Tjosvold and Sovis keeping the pace going. A clever move from Tjosvold to let a gap open caused Johnson to sprint to bridge, and another handful of riders trickled off the back.
Behind, the much anticipated Best Old Rider battle was entering its ill-fated conclusion. After barely making it to the start line, Rob G. was tucked in with two powerful teammates in Susan Vigland and the diesel engine of Tim Jenema. They went hard early, and an obviously nervous Steve “Love Is A” Lagerquist was gapped. He leaned heavily on Wes Sovis and Craig Fortuna, who scrambled to get him back into contention after an early crash. A bit of sportsmanship made the chase back slightly easier, and it was game on as they hit The Boonenberg.
Fortuna struck out first on the Boonenberg, pulling Steve clear. Susan Vigland survived the move but immediately eased when she noticed that Rob was dropped, with a lurking Wes Sovis on his wheel behind. It all came back together over the top, but just as they neared the start/finish for lap two, Lagerquist crashed hard into a tree. Everyone stopped immediately to make sure he was okay, and after a few minutes, he was up and crumbled, but left the race under his own power, his trusty lieutenant Wes Sovis, who has spent this whole Tour in his service, helping him out of the woods.
All of this was unknown to the other riders, although a near miss changed the face of the GC group. John O’Hearn, needing to move to gain time, tried an attack at the end of the Wall Bypass, only to skip off the trail and drop a chain. He would chase back on, but the effort left him gasping, and over the Boonenberg his rival on GC, Cody Sovis, leaned into the pace and open up a gap.
From Anita’s to Madeleine’s, Tjosvold and Sovis gradually applied some pressure, and every time they looked back, there was another rider dropped out of the group. Jason Whittaker was smartly positioned at the back, ready and able to see any problems for his teammates, and hand over a bike if needed. Halfway through the Power Section, Kennedy made his first committed pull and put the nail in the coffin on anyone hoping to get back on. Over The Boonenberg, Josh Zelinski and Jason Johnson, two riders looking extremely strong in the face of the grinding pace, put on the first bit of pressure since early on. Kennedy, riding on guts and pride, countered over the top and got a gap, turning Johnson’s attack into Johnson’s desperate chase, albeit now giving a flying Tjosvold and Sovis their first arm chair ride of the evening.
It was enough, and Luke got the green light to go over Anita’s. He dropped Johnson and pulled the yellow jersey, now simply golden with two miles to go, to the line, with Tjosvold taking the most well deserved second place in SOL history. Sovis followed Johnson home to retain second place overall and put some time into a battling O’Hearn in third.
Wakeley’s solo ride off the front gave him well deserved wins in the Points and Mountains Classifications, an impressive result and one that should do him some good in the WorldTour standings.
Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing took the Team Competition win ahead of M22. Wakeley’s big lead held them in good position ahead of Hagerty in third.
Hagerty does take home the Best Old Rider jersey, with Rob G. taking his second white jersey in as many years. Hagerty rallied to the mustached cause, and there will be some serious pride when the Vuelta starts for three intense stages in August and September.
There was, yet again, no Women’s GC winner. Ladies, if you show up for four weeks, you could win. Do it.
It’s Kennedy’s second Tour win and his team’s first Grand Tour since that win in 2014. They also righted the ship, taking another Team Competition win after M22 ended the streak at this spring’s Giro. It’s also Cody Sovis’ highest GC finish ever, finishing in the top five of every stage of this Tour.
Next week, it’s the Team Time Trial as a part of the WorldTour. Each team’s third best rider’s time will count as their double points. The more riders from each team, the more chances to score. The TTT is followed by Jason Whittaker Night, where we’ll honor our friend in his last Speed of Light before he moves to Tucson, Arizona, at the end of August.
Watch for an updated WorldTour post early next week, and thank YOU for Speed of Lighting.
The final Speed of Light Tour Competition standings are here.
Don’t miss the miniSOL Tour finale here.