The biggest names in fake cycling in Traverse City gathered (they didn’t, because of the pandemic) for the dramatic unveiling of the 2021 Manfred Memorial Tour route. Presented with all the glitz and glamour due the final virtual Grand Tour of the season, it’s a more balanced route that combines plenty of elevation with a collection of flat stages and key time trial efforts.
Now just a week away from getting rolling, the Manfred Memorial Tour has already raise over $100 for the two chosen non-profits, Great Lakes Humane Society and Cherryland Humane Society. Some of the strongest riders are back, though Winter Is Coming Tour winner John Burmeister has already announced his plans to call it a season and take a short break before spring. Kyan Olshove, Al McWilliams, and a few others who proved themselves GC contenders are non-committal, though top five finisher Andy Weir has already thrown his hat into the ring.
It’s a route that may suit riders like Weir, as well as rouleurs like Mike Anderson, Wes Sovis, and Brad Pauly. After a mountainous Winter Is Here Tour, Brad Hochstetler has rolled out a parcours that presents plenty of elevation, but only one mountain top finish and plenty of time trial kilometers for the more powerful riders.
February 7. Stage One. Things start off over the pond with a long, 46km stage on Greatest London Flat. Riders will only catch a glimpse of the Surrey Hills on this fast route that offers only a few speed bumps while taking in every flat road in London.
February 8-12. Stage Two. Sand and Sequoias. Expect the roulers to tuck away a bit more time midweek with the individual time trial. The race hits the desert, but with the inclusion of Titan’s Grove and its KOM, there’s just enough elevation to keep some of the lighter climbers in the mix. On paper, this looks like a route tailor-made to a rider like Mike Anderson or Wes Sovis, and if either has lost time early, then here’s where they can steal it back.
February 13. Stage Three leaves Valentine’s Day to the lovers, with a Saturday start. It’s back to the British Isles and north to Yorkshire for another long 43km stage on the Royal Pumproom 8 route. This will bring riders over the KOM from each direction, but with hardly a meter of flat road, there’s plenty of elevation and surprises to open up gaps. This will be the first stage where there are big gaps on the road.
February 14-20. Stage Four is a question mark. Literally. Riders have all week to hope in a Tour de Zwift event.
February 21. The climbers will have waited nearly all month for this one. If Mount Ven Top blew the Winter Is Here Tour apart, then a short and grueling assault on the Alpe du Zwift should have something like the same effect. There is a lot of time to be found on a climb this long and this challenging.
February 22-27. A unique take on the TTT. Instead of slip squads, teams will divide into two-man (or two-woman) units on the Champs-Elysees for a 20km drag race. With sprint points on offer, teams will have to balance their pairings to defend general classification placings with any ambitions to take the green jersey. For riders like Brad Hochstetler, Carl Copenhaver, Spencer Mendel, and certainly the reigning Sprint King, Spencer Nemecek, this has to be circled twice on the calendar.
February 28. Finales don’t always get this grand. The Queen Stage may not be on the slopes of the Alpe, but instead, on the four category five climbs and whopping 67km stage along the Big Foot Hills course to end the Grand Tour season. The five climbs include Titan’s Grove, Zwift KOM, plus a jaunt up the Volcano Climb neatly in the middle of the route. This one is sure to see big gaps, and having a strong, organized team will be decisive. The ability to rally riders to work together and minimize (or maximize) damage could tip the scales on the final day of racing.
Registration for the Manfred Memorial Tour ends at 5pm on Wednesday, with draft day coming just 24 hours later. If you’re in, make sure you’re signed up here. Your unofficial entry fee is the purchase of a Manfred or Disco sticker, with proceeds from each going to support Great Lakes Humane Society and Cherryland Humane Society.