There have been comments online regarding the significant placement changes posted at the end of Leg 2. A significant factor in the placement changes was the Santa Monica Pier (CASM) bonus worth 16,431 points. Building a route around that bonus was apparently the key to moving up on Leg 2. Riders who found a way to collect that bonus, by riding a generally southwestern route, in a clockwise direction to hit a few timed bonuses, with minimal backtracking, were able to super-size their points per mile. Those who did not see this opportunity did not fare as well.
Even collecting a jumbo-sized serving of the bonuses along a route including the Farm Discovery Center in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, worth 12,334 points, did not yield as many points as just sampling small bites from the Santa Monica loop. Lew Ballard was one of the few who took a heaping helping of the points available on the Wisconsin loop, moving from 16th to 12th. However, many riders lost significant places as a result of skipping the grande meal available on the west coast.
Some riders dropped 40 places or more on Leg 2 from their Leg 1 position, with some dropping over 70 places. Route choice was part of that tumble. However, covering too many miles on Leg 1 may have played a role in frying up some of the meat-on-a-stick conditions seen at the Leg 2 checkpoint. Some of the highest miles logged on Leg 1 correlated with some of the largest placement drops at the end of Leg 2.
Excitement and exuberance can tempt riders to bite off too much too early. The euphoria of finally starting the rally can overshadow the reality of higher value points on subsequent legs. Turning up the heat too early can, and often does, leave riders too stewed (or cooked?) to plan and/or ride Leg 2 effectively.
The Leg 3 recipes some of the top riders are cooking up appear very interesting. We will allow our thoughts about what we see developing to simmer, as there are still too many unknown ingredients to draw meaningful conclusions. The proof will be in the pudding on Friday, for all to see.