The die has been cast. Over the course of a tense forty-seven minutes yesterday, the teams for the 2021 Winter Is Here Stage Race were decided, with big names being rather evenly distributed across five squads all focused on fake, virtual glory.
Five captains met online to determine their rosters for the Winter Is Here tour, just days before the race kicks off on Watopia. This Sunday will the first chance to see the squads in action, though the long and storied palmares of several riders signed up to participant give some indication of the quality of the field.
It’s far too early to say how each captain fared, but on paper, a few squads seem to be the strongest. No matter what the line-up looks like, however, the fake road won’t lie; it will take teamwork, communication, and a clear schedule on Sunday mornings to really make the difference.
Team Ineos, John Burmeister.
It’s impossible to overlook the yellow jersey winner from the Winter Is Coming Tour, and he’s built a strong team around him. His first pick was former Barry-Roubaix winner Mike Anderson, but Burmeister also grabbed proven Zwift veterans in Spencer Mendel, who may also go for the green jersey. Add in Brad Pauly, Jim Jackovatz, Chad Black, and Drew Martin, and it’s a deep squad that, if focused on yellow, should be tough to contend with.
Team EF, Al McWilliams.
If Ineos are the favorites, these are the challengers. McWiliams himself leads the GC, but he nabbed both Dan and Keegen Korienek, either of whom could target green as well. Adding Dan and Jay Ellis was a strong of familial genius, though the high pick of Lucas Van Drunen, a complete unknown rider in these circles, was more of a gamble.
Lucas Van Drunen
Shreddy Van Railin
Team Jumbo-Visma, Drew Cummins.
Some might consider Carl’s squad stronger, but there’s too much upside in Cummins’ selections. Even hustling through O’Hare on his way home from a holiday training camp, Drew showed a solid eye for the types of riders who will simply shine on the slopes of Mount Ventoux. If he can rely on a few rouleurs and the lessons learned from the first stage race of the year, his squad of youngsters will certainly be in the mix by the time the race hits the high mountains. Drew is joined by fellow wunderkinds Kyan Olshove and Ryan Zamzow-Masters, with some proven workhorses in Jaden Drews, Kent McNeil, Dave Buchholtz, and Spencer Nemcheck. They’ll likely dedicate Andy Humphrey and the selfless Andy Schoelch to the green jersey competition, something either could win.
David Paul Bucholtz
Carl Copenhaver, Team Sunweb.
While having Braiden Voss in the team for GC might make it appear Carl has all his eggs in one youthful and basically professional-quality basket, there’s more here than meets the eye. Brad Hochstetler could challenge for green without requiring much help, and he and Carl are by far the most knowledgeable Zwifters in the league. They added a lot of horsepower with Jason Johnson who, it’s worth noting, is like a wind-up bulldozer; set him in a direction and let him go. Add in Brent Wiersema, Chris Johnston, and Tom O’Hagan (on a functioning bike) and having Josh Zelinkski is just the icing on the cake.
Trek-Segafredo, Wes Sovis.
The original goal was to get all the kolo t.c. riders, but that plan was foiled early. Still, the getting was good on Wes’ first pick, Andy Weir. A surprise mercenary late in the WIC Tour, Andy is a solid yellow jersey contender who will form a two-pronged leadership approach with Wes, himself third overall last month.
Wes’ pick for Cody Sovis next seemed high, but at least he’ll get a proven road captain who worked tirelessly against him last Tour, pulling Drew Cummins around on the flats for a number of stages. Wes got more quality in picking up Ian Plamondon, another workhorse, plus the Velo City Cycles duo of Ted Schneider and Mark Strikwerda. The squad also gets plenty of experience with Dan Madion and Jeff Wentzloff, plus an ace up their proverbial sleeve with Jack Klau, who will almost certainly be given the green light to go on the Mont Ventoux stage.
Cody J Sovis
Last to-dos for the squads.
Read the Race Guide.