This is a sponsored article in association with Zwift
But can Zwift get you ready for an event from the comfort of your home?
Over the last decade, perhaps only Strava has had as big an effect on the way people train as Zwift, hitting the mainstream and capturing the zeitgeist to a similar degree.
When Zwift interviews people about their training, it’s rare that Zwift doesn’t get a mention. Like turbo training has done for decades, Zwift is able to give you a hard dose of training when time or the weather might not allow.
But it’s Zwift’s capacity to gamify training and its effectiveness as a social network that’s made it catch on as it has. Human beings are social animals and the ability to hook up with friends for training rides and races in Zwift’s virtual reality world has always been its calling card.
It might sound like an unusual proposition, to the uninitiated at least, in the midst of the hottest summer in recent memory, but our friends at Cycling Plus were asked if a team would be willing to take on the challenge of riding training platform Zwift’s virtual reality mountains to train towards tackling a real life one.
For section editor John Whitney, the answer to the challenge was an easy yes. For years he’s trained indoors on a bike, regardless of the time of year, as a means of supplementing his cycling and never as a substitute.
He has for a long while had to fend off comments from colleagues as he’s headed down to the Cycling Plus ‘dungeon’, the dingy car park beneath our office, at the height of summer for a blast on our resident Wattbike, but he’s always recognised that the work put in during those short, sharp sessions pays dividends when on the road.
Over the coming months, Cycling Plus will be diving deep into Zwift’s game world, with the aim of improving its real-life performance, which will be tested in the autumn on Tenerife’s Mount Teide, one of Europe’s most iconic climbs.
While it’s not a climb used in professional races, it’s a favourite training haunt for the likes of Team Sky, who take advantage of its year-round warm climate and high altitude. Teide is also a volcano, and the team chose to best reflect this on the iconic volcano climb of Zwift’s Watopia island course.
Cycling Plus will be following its three riders, John, Adrian and Hannah, as they prepare to go toe-to-toe with Teide. They’ll regularly meet up for group rides, in person on the road and in pixels on the game, to check on their progress. So, let’s introduce you to the team…
- Volcano climb (4km @ 5%) PB: 08.29
- Zwift level: 25
- Age: 38
Adrian is our most experienced Zwift user, having reached the top level (25) you can get to on the game. The more miles you ride the more XP (experience) points you gather, which then unlock faster bikes and equipment, as well as new courses.
He’s had plenty of time to do so this year, as his family has welcomed a new addition and his free time for big miles on the road has taken a hit.
“Zwift allows me to ride late at night or over a lunch break, which has meant I can keep my fitness at a decent level, so when I do get out on the tarmac I feel good,” he says. “Riding indoors can’t compare to riding through the countryside, but Zwift manages to keep my mind engaged.”
Why has Adrian decided to take on the challenge? After hitting big targets last summer, including the Maratona dles Dolomites gran fondo, he’s been largely without any goals this summer. “Like anyone, I need something to motivate myself to train, so this challenge seemed like a good fit for my life at the moment.”
- Volcano climb (4km @ 5%) PB: 16.52
- Zwift level: 02
- Age: 32
Not just a Zwift newcomer but also new to cycling, Hannah only started riding last year. In the space of 12 months the five-mile commute to work on her Specialized Dolce has turned into sportives and bike-packing, so climbing one of Europe’s most formidable ascents will be breaking new ground.
It’s a daunting challenge for someone who’s only conquered the relative molehills of British and Irish mountain passes, but her increasing confidence will stand her in good stead.
Of this challenge, she’s feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension: “I do lots of virtual reality cycling at spin classes, and have a nice long climb to finish off my daily commute back from work — training on Zwift’s mountains for climbing Mount Teide is just a bit more of the same, right?”
- Volcano climb (4km @ 5%) PB: 10.34
- Zwift level: 02
- Age: 34
Despite reading and writing about Zwift for years as a Cycling Plus staffer, it’s only in recent months that John has started using Zwift regularly, with the arrival of a Wattbike Atom in his home, which comes ready-made with all the technology to get started on the game.
John’s always enjoyed blasting away alone on a turbo trainer but Zwift’s immersive gameplay has added gloss to the indoor experience.
“I’ve not been any sort of gamer since university when days and nights would be lost to Football Manager, but as Zwift gives far more than my thumbs a workout I’ve been able to make an exception,” he says.
Another reason he’s embraced Zwift is because of circumstance — he’s waiting for an operation on his shoulder to repair a dislocation injury that is limiting the time he can spend riding outdoors. In the meantime, Zwift is proving a lifeline to help him keep in shape. He’s an experienced cyclist, indoors and out, but is keen to see how Zwift can improve his ability to ride uphill, fast.