The 2017 Arcadia Grit’n’Gravel was a drag race, and that certainly suits former world beater and current heartthrob Brad White of Velo City Cycles. The forecasted rain turned to sun and wind on Saturday, with one of the biggest AGG fields on hand for yet another edition of a race that Steve Andriese would likely call “fascinating”. No race is so neatly divided to two different skillsets; the opening 11 miles of gravel and pavement suit road riders and gravel riders, with two sections of simply brilliant singletrack divided by another two miles of gravel, with a pavement sprint. You can to do everything well, you have to be lucky, and you have to have just a bit of brains, too.
With the deepest Elite field in the race’s history, including locals Craig Webb, Jeff Owens, Nick Wierzba, Cam Owens, Braiden Voss and Scott Quiring. Imports included the bulk (ha ha ha) of the Leadout Racing squad with 2 of the 23,405 Korieneks, THE Mark Hotchkin, Michael Maher, Tom Linck, plus Brad White, Tyler Weston, and the return of Mike Simonson.
The women’s field started tucked in with the men on a neutral roll out to the first turn, with Kaitlyn Patterson, Erica Zeboor, Susan Vigland, Laura Webb, and the rest all looking for wheels. The right turn that opened racing took riders out of a head wind and into a light crosswind.
Almost by accident, Cody Sovis was off the front at kilometer zero. With a small gap, he just kept going, because he always needs a REALLY good reason to actually get included in the write-up. The field were unconcerned behind, with Sovis leaning into it with the hope of taking the Erdman Road climb at his own pace.
Over the top, he still had a huge gap, while Scott Quiring and Jeff Owens stomped up the climb and popped a few riders from the large lead group. With a long block headwind to contend with, the group was fanned out and going largely easy with Sovis rolling along up the road.
Ten miles later on Taylor Road, Sovis was able to ride his own steady pace, rather than have to react to the stronger climbers like Owens or Quiring. It worked, and the elite selection of the day rode up to his wheel just before the lead group crested the top of the climb. After a brief shuffle, Scott Quiring and Dan Hofstra led into the first singletrack section.
Cody Sovis and Craig Webb had the same idea, which was to get to the singletrack and ride their own pace, rather than that of faster bike handlers. With Sovis first to the turn behind the lead pair and offering his best, slow efforts in the chase group with the better riders stuck behind, Hofstra and Quiring eventually built up a leave of just under a minute as they turned back onto the gravel. The chasers found Hofstra dropped and riding in no-man’s land, with Quiring almost out of sight. Brad White took up the chase, and with riders dangling off the lead group, Sovis and then Wierzba, and then White again went to the front to try to drive the nail in the coffin and reduce the bunch.
Behind, Patterson was making steady progress, working with de facto teammate for the day Dan Ellis, with Erica Zeboor also trying to make the most of her incredible singletrack skills to find time lost on the climb. Susan Vigland and Laura Webb were at least together, with Wes Sovis, teammates with Ellis and Patterson for the day, wisely offering no help. With no help coming back from their teammates, Vigland and Webb were up for a two-woman timetrial through the final half of the race.
Ahead, the massive lead group somehow stuck together through the second singletrack section, where bad luck clipped Quiring’s wings again. Riding away and completely out of sight, another flat tire saw him caught and passed, while a broken chain ruined any hopes of a heroic chase back into the hunt. Ahead but stopped on the side of the trail, Craig Webb won the sprint to the second singletrack and rode a controlled, if not aggressive race that kept the singletrack specialists at bay behind. Nick Wierzba was even able to remove his helmet and tuck away his cap while riding in the top ten, and gapped riders like Cam Owens got back into contact, along with Braiden Voss and a few others.
Spilling out onto the gravel, Jeff Owens made a dig with two miles to go, lining out the field and snapping just a rider or two from contention. Nearing the final mile, brains and brawn laid down the law, with Brad White perfectly timing an attack into a strong crosswind. Craig Webb made it across, with Sovis in the right position but simply lacking the watts to board the train.
White and Webb made the turn with five seconds and a whipping tailwind, with White on the front the whole way to the line. There wasn’t a second to spare for hesitation, and the former pro trusted his legs and his sprint against a looming Webb, who looked very much in control.
Behind, Cam Owens wasn’t resigned to settling for a top ten, and he ramped up the chase. Sovis made a final bid to make contact with the two leaders, coming up just a few seconds short and getting swamped on the final turn by a storming Alec Chau, Nick Wierzba and Dan Hofstra.
White took the win with a lunge by two-tenths of a second over Webb. The entire top 20 finished within a minute, with the top ten all within six seconds. Behind Sovis in 6th, Tyler Weston, Braiden Voss, Mike Simonson and Jeff Owens rounded out a compact and impressive top ten on a day when almost anyone had a decent shot at the win with 2 miles to go.
Patterson proved she’s still the woman to beat, winning her third straight AGG by over four minutes, with Zeboor riding herself inside out on the singletrack to hold on for second place. Vigland and Webb made up some ground late, but ceded a little over two minutes to Zeboor, with their Hagerty teammate, Marie Voss, rounding out a tough top five. Lexie Mapes and Amanda Schaap slotted home under the 2 hour mark, solid rides on a very tough course.
And yep, that’s the kolo t.c. Pirate Armada winning the Team Competition thanks not just to Kaitlyn Patterson gracing us with our presence, but with Dan Ellis helping to keep the pace high as her faithful lieutenant the whole race, and Wes Sovis making sure that gap was always going up, even at the expense of his own finish time. The team committed to going for the team win, and rode as a team to do it.
You can see ALL the *FUN* results here.
You can see the Team Competition results here.
You can see Brad White’s #WINNING ride on Strava here.
Watch @kolotc on Instagram for more photos from the race.
Next up is SOL Giro Competition Stage Three on Thursday, and it’s double mountain points!