It was an important week in the Manfred Memorial Tour, with the race favorites making the most of an early individual time trial to prise out some time gaps after a tight and tough opener.
Stage Two offered riders a chance to either create separation or make up ground with a race against the clock. To a man (and woman), the Sand and Sequoias route drew almost rueful admiration, with the long and flat opening miles turning into a tilting, hilly finale that included the Titans Grove KOM. It proved to be an extremely rough course to measure and provided some surprising results.
After finishing third on Stage One, Alex TenElshof put down a strong time midweek that always looked like it would hold up. Still, he couldn’t be too comfortable in the hot seat until the time of his teammate, Dan Yankus, and second-overall Kellen Caldwell was on the board. While both had some of the top times of the week, Caldwell’s 26:34 put him second on the stage and now second on GC, though Alex’s nearly minute-long gap on the stage pushes him into yellow. Yankus’ third place on the stage wasn’t a disaster by any measure, however, and he’s less than a minute behind Caldwell at the start of Stage Three.
After the time trial, Motorhead’s brilliance is on full display. After some mechanical issues ruined their Stage One efforts, the depth of Wes Sovis’ squad stole the show. They put five riders in the top twelve and three in the top ten, enough to easily give them the team stage win and put them in a tie for second place in the team competition, level on points with Guns’n’Roses. Motley Crue leads by two points thanks to plenty of depth but also some inspired riding by Spencer Nemecek.
Heading into Stage Three, all the talk was about targeting what was a bevy of points. Two KOMs and two Sprints made stage three vital for anyone with an interest in the Mountains and Points Competitions. Alex entered the stage with his polka dot jersey under his yellow leader’s jersey as a result of winning the only KOM on offer so far in the Tour. Nemecek, however, looks to have a Sagan-level of sprint mastery right now, though his GC improvement might make him decide just how much he’ll be able to divide his attention.
For Guns’n’Roses, disaster struck before the first chord was twanged. Slash, better known as Kellen Caldwell, suffered a technicanical and was unable to join the meet-up. That left GnR without its team leader, though the squad was quick to rally around the strong duo of Jon Roubal and Drew Cummins.
That pair had its hands full early, and when Poison sent Yankus and then Tenelshof up the road, the script of the day was set. Behind, the two teams tied for second in the Team Competition, Motorhead and GnR, balanced something of a nuclear standoff, alternating chasing the pair up the road and staring each other down in the bunch. Motley Crue was not rocking, however, with only Tommy Lee (Brent Wiersema) in the mix behind. As that chasing group winnowed, shedding strong riders like Ryan DeFour and Jaden Drews (riding under the privateer/pop banner of “Cyndi Lauper”), the showdown for the Points jersey took shape behind.
Keegan Korienek, Spencer Nemecek, Carl Copenhaver, Brad Hochstetler, and Kent McNeil are all almost entirely focused on the green jersey, and that competition won’t just be about the shirt; points there could also decide the Team Competition, which has already been hotly contested.
In the Mountains, Yankus and Tenelshof nabbed top points early on the KOM, but keep an eye Ryan Zamzow-Masters. After missing the opening stage, he’s going to be all in on polka dots and can wrack up plenty of points between now and the finale. He also picked up max points in the first sprint and is on pace to help Poison take all three jerseys.
As far as depth, Motorhead again takes the cocaine (instead of cake). They slotted in four riders in the top ten with Brad Pauly, Ted Schneider, Andy Weir, and Wes Sovis, with GnR only able to counter with three, though one of those riders, Jon Roubal, confirmed his contender status with third place on the day.
Aside from the midweek Stage Four, more than one wary eye is already looking ahead to Stage Five’s assault on the Alpe du Zwift. For the lighter riders, there’s a lot of pressure to find time on the hallowed slopes of the Alpe and open up some daylight early. Those rouleurs have a two-man TT race afterward and will be leaning hard on the final two stages to make up any time lost.
For the full standings after Stage Three, head here.