Teams have landed on Watopia

All the news is about hurricane Joaquin landing (or maybe not landing) on the east of coast of the U.S. While most people’s attention was turned to that landing, there was another landing taking place in the Pacific. Team racing has landed on Zwift’s Watopia.

I was excited to have an opportunity to participate in the historic event. Looking back it was really cool… even if I did make a fool of myself in the process. It was fun enough that I’ll be looking to get back to it whenever I can.

It was Frank “vEveresting” Garcia that put the idea out there. He suggested that we turn the Thursday Zwift Training Race Early Bird into a race featuring teams. Team dZi was already making itself noticed. Frank put out a call for other racers to counter dZi’s growing number of riders.

I figured I would jump in and give it a go. So, Frank connected with the team to give us our race instructions before the start. Here is what I was handed, “How do you feel about going hard at the gun and having them have to chase you?” I figured I could do that since that would mean I could be helpful early in the race when I was fresher.

Pre-race went something like this…

“JP is going to try and establish a bit of break at the start and try to hold to make dZi chase. When they come back one of us (I am willing can put in an attack and make them chase again) then standard tactics from there.”

“JP – make them work – We will enjoy the draft. :)”

Photos by James Gill

Photos by James Gill

And so we began. Frank Garcia, Casey Schumn, Neil Law, and Jamie Jj Alldridge were guys I recognized. James Gill was supposed to be on our team as well, but he was not able to make it because of work (not to mention he is riding injured.)

We were mixing it up with the dZi guys as well as Francois Coppex as a pirate. There were several other racers with no team affiliation and various categories of racers within each team. You could tell the difference between the teams by the kits they wore as well as the letters signifying their teams out to right of their names. dZi had… well… dZi. Our team was X1.

I was determined to do my part. So, I tried to stay near the front of the group as we did the warmup. However, Christian Wiedmann had some issues with we lost him as our marshall. He said for us to wait. So, I slowed down and somehow got gapped off the back. I guess Chris logged back in because suddenly he was in front of me in the lead group.

Once again I found myself sprinting to get back to the front group before the start line. I made it, but was already a bit winded from trying to get back on. As we hit the bridge to mark the start, I attacked down the left side of the group. Right away I started building a several second gap.

However, that is where things started going downhill… or I should say… uphill! The start of this race took us immediately into the 3 to 4 minute climb. In order to create a gap, I was having to lay down around 500 watts. Then I had to hold over 325 watts to maintain the distance.

I’m afraid that the plan didn’t work. Yes, I got a gap and riders had to work a bit to come up to me. However, in no way was I hurting any of them. It really was an exercise in futility and I ended up knocking up against 180 bpm within the first 5 minutes of the race!

Suddenly, I wasn’t the one creating a gap. I was trying to hang on for dear life! I did get across the KOM line and descend with the lead of the pack. Then a group of about 15 riders rode on as a group with no real attacks. Each team was using tactics to keep the other under control.

I continued with the group to the next lap. It was about halfway up the climb that I realized that I was not going to be able to keep it up. So, I eased up and decided to finish my ride and then go set up some sandbags to help control some of the expected 12 to 25 inches of rain this weekend.

It gave me an opportunity to see how I compared with some of the other riders. The guys who always kick my butt on these rides are weighing in between 120 and 155 pounds. At 174 pounds, I have to work even harder on the climbs. So when I’m killing myself at 600 watts, they are heading up the incline without having to put out nearly the same effort.

Then when it comes to the end of the race and they are throwing down 500 watts, I’m having to put out that much more. I’m not complaining. On the flats I can use that weight and power to my advantage. It is just on this hilly course my weight does not work in my favor.

Still, it was great fun! I want to try it again, but next time I’ll be a little more judicious in my efforts! I think I would be of more use working to just stay in contact with the group on the climb and then use my power to create a draft for a teammate on the flats or the rolling section.

Of course, Richmond is a whole different ball game! It is a course that better suits me. The climbs there sting, but they are not as long. I can power over them and take advantage of the flats and downhill. It is more of a sprinter’s course than Watopia.

Did I mention that Team X1 won? Still waiting for the official finish report, but we had two guys in the finish sprint (which was pretty cool!) and the first finisher wasn’t really a valid racer — best I could tell. Neil Law took the win for us with Casey Schumn finishing close behind. UPDATE: Race report is not out. If you want to see a very good blow-by-blow account of the race, check out Nathan Guerra’s Twitch.

So, team racing has come to Zwift. It works. It is loads of fun! I can see a day when Zwift will incorporate this structure into the game.

Now that I’ve helped make history, I’m looking forward to that future!