In the darkest days of winter, a bright light beckons. The Second Tour starts on January 3.
All of the heavy-hitters from the Winter Is Coming Zwift Stage Race are expected back on the line this weekend for the opening salvos of a three-week fight for virtual supremacy. Three weeks, seven stages, and a plethora of titles up for grabs make it, well, the most real fake racing around right now.
Last Tour’s top three are already confirmed for another run at the title, including yellow jersey winner John Burmeister. Garrett Jenema and Wes Sovis, second and third, respectively, enter as contenders as well, though the much more rolling parcours expected this month mean we may see a very different top half of the general classification. It’s a route that suits fourth-place finisher Drew Cummins, who ceded over two minutes on the final stage of the Tour to lose his podium spot to a ferocious and relentless Wes Sovis. That stage, and many others, showed just how important a deep and coordinated squad is even in virtual racing; Wes’s move never would have worked without teammate Dan Ellis pinning it from the line and snapping the elastic in the opening kilometers of Stage 7.
Along with teamwork, experience is also an important element of success, and the Tour’s architect, Brad Hochstetler, has plenty. Combining real-world tactical nous with nearly 400 Zwift races worth of fake world experience, he was a vital part of Team Gray’s second-place Team Competition finish. Team Blue’s win came on the strong rides of Jason Johnson, Drew Cummins, and the guiding, selfless efforts of Carl Copenhaver, who did nearly enough to defend Drew’s podium on two separate road stages and a critical team time trial.
The other competitions should also be interesting, with the green jersey winner Spenser Mendel expected to defend against a slew of tough challenges, including both Hochstetler, Copenhaver, and new-comer Andy Humphrey. One of the unpredictable elements of forecasting winners heading into this Tour will be simply composition; we don’t know who is on which team yet, and if two of the best sprinters are drafted into the same squad, how it will affect each rider’s approach and the team’s focus.
Those teams will be decided before Stage One this week, with a fantasy draft led by four predetermined captains.
John Burmeister, Team Ineos (Black/Red)
Al McWilliams, EF Cannondale (Pink)
Wes Sovis, TREK-Segafredo (Trek Jerseys)
Drew Cummins, Team Jumbo-Visma (Black Yellow)
The order will be Drew, Wes, Al, John, then John, Al, Wes, and Drew, much like a fantasy football draft but likely without the pizza and cheap Coors Light.
Picking the right squad will be tough, especially with the promise of a full-scale mountain assault near the end of the Tour. Rumors from race organization HQ say that the much-rumored and universally-feared Mount Ventoux stage will make it into this edition, and an altogether more mountainous route is in the works. That should be welcome news for the climbing specialists after an opening Tour that saw just two stages with climbs over five minutes in length, and only one included on two separate stages.
This week, make sure you sign up to race by Wednesday, December 30. If you don’t sign up, you won’t be included in the draft and won’t be assigned a team.
No, really. Sign up.
Also, you’ll need to follow Brad Hochstetler on Zwift for Meet-Up invites. That’s here.
You should also join the TC Zwift Stage Racing club on Strava. That’s here.
And you’d be disappointing yourself and others if you didn’t join the Discord group here.