Sometimes it comes down to this: .97 seconds
That was the largest gap between the top 10 cyclists on the uphill finish to last night’s Stage 3b of the Tour de Beauce. We argued there was a gap of 1.1 seconds between 3rd and the group crossing with 4th place finisher; and that therefore riders 4th to 10th officially finished 2 sec back of the winner. The cameras and official timing proved us wrong. Why did this matter?
Riders finishing within a second of each other on summit finishes are awarded the same finishing time. So last night, riders 1-10 were awarded “same time” and those riders included Ty Magner (Rally) who entered the race 12 seconds back of our Nick Zukowsky in the battle for yellow. Just to make things exciting, Zuke crossed the line in a group that finished 12 seconds back from the winner. Zuke and Magner are now essentially tied for the lead but… Zuke is holding onto yellow by fractions of a second.
Fractions of a second here; fractions of a second there… and someone holds onto the yellow jersey by a thread. Where are those blinks of an eye won during a stage race? Magner just just just held off Zuke in Stage 1 for the win, and got an extra 4 seconds in time bonuses. Then Zuke took the fight to Magner in the rain and mist of Stage 2’s arduous summit finish on Mont Mégantic. With the whole team working for him, he took the race lead and had 32 sec on Magner. After Stage 3a’s time trial, the lead was down to 12 seconds and now it’s down to fractions of a second.
Is that lead from all the work done by teammates during each stage? Is it from our custom aero Garneau Vitesse helmets? Our DSD Composite wheels during the time trial? Our Biemme race suits? Pirelli PZero tubular tires? VeloToze shoe covers? The sleek efficiency of MaximaUSA oils?
There’s no algorithm to figure this all out. In fact it’s weird. Those fractions of seconds are out of place in the constant calculations of our data-driven times. They can’t be properly located but they are nonetheless recorded on the results sheet: tiny bits of time adding up to play a big role in the 2019 edition of the Tour de Beauce.
I guess the value of those little bits of time will be best understood in the future. Perhaps they won’t add up to much. But for now, as the up-and-coming 21-year-old Nick Zukowsky tries to hold off the experienced pro in Ty Magner, and 27-year-old 2018 winner James Piccoli, time is on his side. But the thing about time is that there’s always more to come. Stage 4 is today: the stunning crit in Quebec won last year by Piccoli and Sunday’s Stage 5 is the brutal urban circuit in St Georges which decimates the peloton. The history of the 2019 Tour de Beauce is barreling forward into the weekend. Oh, and if you take a quick glance in the rear view mirror, you’ll see our Serghei Tvetcov sitting in 3rd place… just 6 seconds back…