The final Grand Tour of the Speed of Light season is the perfect lead into the SOL World Championships.
Just like the more Spanish Vuelta, the Vuelta Competition is the final chance for riders to nab a big result, take some WorldTour points, or improve their fitness ahead of the World Championships. At this time of the season, there can be some diverse and dynamic ambitions for both riders and teams, and this season is no different.
For Hagerty Cycling, it's a chance to defend and confirm Rob Goepfrich's Best Old Rider win from the Tour. Rob's battle with Steve Lagerquist reached a sort of anti-climax when Lagerquist crashed on the final stage, and it may be another week or two until we see Lagerquist back on top form as he recovers from yet another crash's effects. Hagerty can also look to the vacant women's GC, where Susan Vigland would be a favorite regardless of who shows up to ride. It's also time to see Cam Owens and Braiden Voss enter a Grand Tour not just as precocious anomalies but serious contenders, and contenders they certainly are. The duo, plus some old guy, combined to win the Team Relay at X100 this past weekend.
Einstein Racing-Short's Brewing, too, could look to the women's race, which failed to have a finisher again at the Tour. There's plenty of attentions from reigning World Champion Luke Tjosvold, who will enter the Vuelta with the full support of the team. He'll be supported by Wes Sovis, Cody Sovis, Mike Walters and Craig Fortuna. Cody Sovis is slated to use the Vuelta as cyclocross prep, so you'll likely see him back on his Kona Private Jake for the next three weeks. The team is hoping to see the return of Ryan Kennedy, the Tour champion, who is still recovering from a nasty crash in mid-July.
KEEN has proven their up for anything, and their hopes rest on an on-form Marc Brunette. He'll be aided by a freshly married (he says he's already feeling slower) Kyle Macdermaid, and the pair should be formidable in the Team Competition as well. Watch for Macdermaid to be a serious contender in the Mountains classification.
M22 have heavy favorite Jorden Wakeley in the ranks, and he's more and more supported with Jason Johnson and Chad Jordan. After going 1-2 at the Giro, we've seen hide nor shiny, healthy head of hair from the Myers Brothers, and a return from one or both would make M22 the biggest favorites of the race, especially if joined by Sean Kickbush.
Stage One is for the sprinters, with double points on GO!, the flat and fast run to the finish. It'll be normal points awarded for the Boonenberg. The course's points are decidedly back-loaded, meaning riders may have to decide where their expend their energy and prioritize between Points, Mountains and the general classification.
Due to the shortened days, the final two stages of the Vuelta will start fifteen minutes earlier, as noted below. The World Championships, too, will leave Ec from at 6.15 or the Bunker Hill Parking Lot at 6.30 to keep it safe and Speed of Light, instead of Speed of Dark.
Stage One: Sprint Stage. 6.30 from Ec, 6.45 from Bunker
Stage Two: KOM Stage, 6:15 from Ec, 6:30 from Bunker
Stage Three: Sprint Stage, 6:15 from Ec. 6:30 from Bunker