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The biggest Grand Tour of the year is up this week, with the coveted maillot jaune up for grabs Thursday night. 

It’s the biggest challenge of the season. Four stages, almost 60 miles of racing, and the best riders going after the same prize week in and week out. The Tour Competition starts this week for all SOL categories, and it’s going to be a relentless month of racing.

Serving as a sort of prologue, Stage One is the only night with time bonuses on offer, with 5, 3, and 1 second to the first three riders across the line. After last week, it’s hard to look past the top three from Cyclocross Night, where youngsters Braiden Voss and Garret Jenema went toe-to-toe with Giro winner and reigning SOL World Champion John O’Hearn. That trio will be at it again Thursday, but there will be plenty of other contenders.

One of those returning to action is another driver of the Youth Movement, Cam Owens. He’s battled injury and illness after an Oregon training camp, but proved recently he’s nearing his normal fitness again. Jeff Owens is also expected to return to action for the Tour, as is former Tour winner Ryan “Mr. President” Kennedy.

Both Owens and Kennedy are big favorites for the Mountains classification, with the Polka Dot jersey being contested based on the Boonenberg for the Tour. Kennedy took the classification at the Giro, but he’ll be looking to add another yellow jersey to his collection.

The Power Section is back as the segment for the Points Competition. It’s always a fight for green, with Wes Sovis rumored to be focusing on Stage Two to make a run for that classification.

The Tour is also a big point of pride for the local teams, with the first two riders’ times counting toward the Team Competition each week. After two years of complete dominance, Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing has struggled to stay competitive, with Keen and M22 battling with Hagerty Cycling for the titles for the past four Grand Tours. Norte should also be in contention this year, as will the kolo t.c. trio of Cody Sovis, Wes Sovis and Dan Ellis. Wes has been sick for a week, and he may look to build fitness before the Queen Stage.

That infamous stage caps off the Tour Competition on Stage Four, with only riders still in the GC picture required to do two laps. Somehow, the Queen Stage always thrills, perhaps most famously in the Tour’s first year. Yellow jersey wearer Ryan Kennedy broke his frame, and his teammates rallied. First, Nate St. Onge handed over his bike, then Cody Sovis emptied the tank to pull Kennedy close to the FULL M22 team of Sean Kickbush, and the Myers Brothers, who attacked the race leader during a mechanical. Kennedy bridged the final 50 meters solo and successfully parried the attacks to take the Tour victory.

The women’s GC, too, should be a tough battle, with Hagerty fielding Susan Vigland, Marie Voss and Kasey Wierzba against Lauri Brockmiller. Shannon Kochis has been very competitive, and the Schwab ladies are starting to find their racing legs as well.

The Tour Competition leaves the split rail fence at 6:45 from the Bunker Hill Lot. miniSOL and Junior SOL riders should sign in with Peter Worden at 6:30. If you’re riding up to SOL, join the 5:45pm train from the Norte Clubhouse, or the 6:00pm EXPRESS train leaving from the same spot.

Tour Competition
July 6 Stage One Time Bonus
July 13 Sprint Stage
July 20 KOM Stage
July 27 Queen Stage Double*

*If you aren’t on GC anymore (you missed a stage) you don’t have to do two laps.