As has become the tradition, it was a small and ragged band of indomitable souls who braved the sand and the quickly setting sun in search of immortal glory.
The World Championships are always a massive challenge, with a reduced field and a long, long season of riding already in the legs. We saw 19 editions of SOL this year, the most of any season yet, with no cancellations. We saw the first ever VST TT this past July (and working with NMMBA, we’ll do it again!), plus a total of 72 different riders score WorldTour points this season.
Out of all that, it all comes down to one last loop of the course, which we can confirm will see some substantial changes in 2019. All the race favorites were on hand, including Ryan Kennedy, Jeff Owens, John O’Hearn, recent Vuelta winner Sam Holmes, plus the rider with the shortest odds, Kyle Macdermaid.
On the women’s side, Bridgett Widrig played hookey from Brockmiller Elite Endurance to make it out for the last SOL; with that effort, she’s completed every SOL in 2018, albeit with a couple coming a bit before the 6:30 start. She was joined on the line by Emma Schwab and Sara Nestor, with three women vying for the title.
From the gun, it was quickly apparent that the cautious World Championship race formula of previous years was out the window; first Cody Sovis, then Sam Holmes put in big pulls on the front, eventually prising out the group of favorites with a slew of Norte riders, Will Unger and Kyan Olshove among them, desperately trying to regain contact. It was Wood Chip Hill that saw even the powerful likes of Josh Zelinski and Max Meyer gapped, leaving the race favorites elbow to elbow onto the Power Section.
Emma Schwab was safely ensconced in a big group headed by the rumbling Wes Sovis, how spent much of the ride on the front with a gaggle of youngsters (and oldsters) bouncing along in his wake. For Schwab, the selection was solid, and with Widrig behind and Nestor not on her best day, it was a matter of staying upright.
Kennedy and Owens kept the pace astronomically high over the Power Section, with Sovis gently pulled teammate Dan Ellis back into touch. Everyone knew that they’d likely need to force Macdermaid’s hand and force a bit of work to have a chance. When a reshuffle saw Macdermaid unhappily on the front, Sovis attacked, playing his card that other would make Macdermaid work. Instead, Sam Holmes simply couldn’t resist, coming to the front and bringing back Sovis from his only meaningful contribution to the night.
That move all but sealed the group’s fate. Macdermaid has been untouchable in the final mile of SOL for the past month, and when he easily scampered up the Boonenberg, with Sovis and Ellis dropped, it was perhaps only Owens who could match the pep and pop of the bearded sprinter. In the end, Macdermaid went earlier than usual but held to take his first Speed of Light World Championship ahead of Owens, Kennedy, Holmes, and a determined John O’Hearn.
Emma Schwab pounced late, too, albeit it more for the honor of hitting the line first from her group. Coming up the second to last climb, she and a half dozen others emerged from the safe, comforting crysalis of a Wes-paced cocoon to sprint for the line, with Schwab earning her World Champion’s jersey with a fair dose of aplomb.
Widrig rolled in shortly after to earn a silver medal (which we don’t have, by the way) with Nestor third on the night, pedaling it in after riding the whole night solo but never giving up.
Looking ahead to next year, we have plans to rework the WorldTour and Grand Tour points structure, make a few course changes, and work to make SOL even more fun.
We’ll have the final WorldTour standings finalized in the next few days, but it looks as though Cody Sovis keeps the title. That’s one of the changes we’re going to make; just showing up a lot shouldn’t always be enough!
On behalf of the whole race organization, thanks for a great year!
You can see the World Championship results and ALL the times from 2018 right here.
You can also check out K-Mac’s race-winning numbers here.