Stage One of the 2014 Speed of Light Tour Competition kicks off four straight Thursdays of high-speed, overly-serious and ridiculously fun times on the Vasa. The Competition includes a general classification, a points classification, a mountains classification, a best old rider classification, and a team competition as well.
General Classification: This is the big one. It's the battle for the yellow jersey, the exact same as Le Tour. Simply, the person who spends the least amount of time on the course wins. Your SOL time each week is added up, and whoever has the smallest time is the leader. You must attend each week to be in the hunt for this one.
Last July, Ty Schmidt rode a consistent and smart race to hang tough against Craig Webb and Ryan Kennedy and held on to take the first ever yellow jersey. He'll be the big favorite this fall after claiming the Giro Competition title this past May. Webb, Kennedy, Jason Lowetz and Jason Whittaker are the men expected to challenged, with Keegan Myers a dark horse, depending on his attendance. Two stages will dictate the overall the most, and they bookend the Tour this year. Stage One is the only stage with time bonuses, 5, 3, and 1 seconds on offer to the top three. The final stage, the Queen Stage, is a whole other story...
Favorites: Ty Schmidt, Ryan Kennedy, Craig Webb
Points Classification: The green jersey is awarded to the most consistent rider which, more often than not, it goes to the fast men. The green jersey is based on points, not aggregate time. We use the Vasa Power Section to decide the top finisher, with points going from 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, and 20, 16, 8, 4 on Stage Two, the traditional Sprint Stage. You do not have to finish the GC to win the Points series, but it will be almost impossible to do without taking full points when you're there.
Favorites: Keegan Myers, Ryan Kennedy, Ty Schmidt, Austin Johnson.
Mountains Classification: This one is for the climbers. The top time over the Vasa CC Climb will net 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 each week, with the double points coming on Stage Three. This is an extremely tough competition, with the climb coming just over a minute into the race. It forces the pace up front, and also can help to open up gaps as riders spill over the second rise. The favorites for this competition are those capable of letting a gap open up at the base and coving the gap without getting dropped. It's risky, but impossible to counteract when done right. You do not need to complete the GC for this one, but again, you'll need all the points you can to be in it.
Favorites: Eric Pollard, Jason Lowetz, Sean Kickbush, Chris Kushman
Best Old Rider Competition: If you're over 45, you're eligible for the Best Old Rider jersey. Instead of rewarding youth like the Tour, this is for the fogies. Craig Webb is the big favorite, but Rob Goepfrich is a dedicated rider who won't miss Speed of Light for anything. John Ammond and Don Marsh will also be in the hunt. You will need to finish every stage to have a shot, and with the highest placed rider over 45 on GC wearing the white jersey.
Favorites: Craig Webb, Rob Goepfrich, Don Marsh, Lars Welton
Team Competition: It's back to the Tour. The top three times from each team will be added up each week, with the fastest team taking home bragging rights for the rest of the year. In 2013, Einstein Racing took a narrow lead on stage one before ultimately coming home safely with the crown over Hagerty Cycling.
The Queen Stage: The big finale of the biggest Grand Tour is unlike any Speed of Light in history. The final stage on the final day of July will open up huge gaps on the general classification, and almost surely decide the overall title. For the first time, we'll do two laps of the SOL course. Those still in the GC hunt will need to be ready for a grueling race, and call on their teammates to do the work and keep the jerseys.
There's also an interesting twist for the mountains and points jerseys; each rider's fastest time will be the one used, no matter which lap it came on.
Who will take the Queen Stage? Riders will a proven engine and some tactical nous should be in good position, so watch for Ryan Kennedy and Ty Schmidt to be closely watched.