What it takes to win a Zwift national championship
Racing on the Zwift virtual platform continues to grow, with national championships in 14 countries being held for the first time on February 24th. BikeRadar caught up with Adam Zimmerman on what it took for him to best the US men’s field of 300+ riders, and American Ellen Tarquinio on her two-woman breakaway with teammate and winner Claudia Behring.
The national championship was held on a course that featured a 6min climb. Men raced for about 90 minutes and women for about 66 minutes.
Zimmerman raced the Zwift event like an outdoor race – with a team, a strategy, in-race communication and a lead-out – but while on a Wahoo Kickr.
“This race was very fast from the start with over 300 riders,” Zimmerman said. “Each time up the six-minute climb it was very difficult. Then it was steady hard until hitting the climb once again. Overall this race wasn’t very high in average watts per kilo. It was much more tactical.”
Zimmerman raced the Zwift US national championships as a team, complete with a team director, Scott Cunningham, who talked to the riders on the Discord appCourtesy Adam Zimmerman
In order to be given an official placing, Zwift required that riders use either a power meter or a smart trainer (instead of a standard trainer with calculated wattage) and a heart-rate monitor.
In the US women’s race, Tarquinio’s preparation wasn’t quite as intense – although the effort was arguably more so.
“The forecast had another cold, rainy day in [Washington] DC, so I decided to join the national championship race to see if I could ride with Claudia Behring – we are both on Team Vision – and help a teammate potentially by making or covering a break,” Tarquinio said. “I knew she was an incredibly smart rider and strong racer and could win. The team aspect of Zwift is really engaging and motivating, especially on these longer races.”
“We talked a bit before the race about strategy and keeping a fast pace in such a strong field,” she said. “On the first climb, Claudia went off the front and I did my best to try and keep up. Luckily she slowed for me near the top. After that we pacelined, and just tried to keep an eye on the women behind us and grow the gap as much as possible. When we got to the bottom of the last hill Claudia took off and I just held my pace through the finish. We had about three minutes ahead of the field going into the climb, so knew we would get 1st and 2nd if we could hold that pace. It was the hardest I’ve raced in Zwift – or on the road in a long time – and I’m really proud of the teamwork and results.”
Teammates Berhing and Tarquinio attacked together and held off the field to take first and secondCourtesy Ellen Tarquinio
Adam Zimmerman’s Zwift race-winning stats at a glance
Weight: 129lb / 59kg
Average watts per kilogram: 4
Race duration: 1:31:06
Elevation gained: 2,024ft
Average power: 234w
Normalized power: 264w
Average heart rate: 171bpm
Max heart rate: 197bpm
Claudia Behring and her teammate took off in the US women’s race and never looked backCourtesy Claudia Behring
Claudia Behring’s Zwift race-winning stats at a glance
Weight: 133lb / 60.3kg
Average watts per kilogram: 4.5
Race duration: 1:06:32
Average power: 274w
Normalized power: 282w
Average heart rate: 171bpm
Max heart rate: 187bpm
A quick Q&A with Adam Zimmerman
BikeRadar: Congratulations on your win. How long have you been Zwifting?
Adam Zimmerman: I’ve been on Zwift right after it was out of Beta and released to the public. So I would say approximately 2.5 years.
What is your cycling background?
10 years of road and criterium racing (Cat 2 Road, Cat 1 Track, Cat 1 MTB). The past two years I’ve taken up racing XC / endurance MTB races to give myself a break from the road. I now run my own coaching business here in Colorado, Endurancecoaching.net, and the majority of my time goes into my Junior Development Cycling Team called Prestige Imports Junior Development.
Zimmerman waited until the final meters to come out of the virtual draft and came across the line firstCourtesy Adam Zimmerman
Were there any tactics to the race, or was it basically a time trial?
Huge amount of tactics. So much that we have a dedicated team director, Scott Cunningham, on our Zwift Team, Team Draft.
Our team uses Discord, similar to what gamers use and Scott feeds us information about the race, riders off the front, and most importantly riders stats in the race. (heart rate, power, cadence, etc.)
In Zwift you can click on and watch any rider during the race to see their current heart rate and power output. This gives us essential info if a rider is hurting or feeling fresh.