The cancellation of cycling events has done little to dampen the competitive spirit of bike racers across the globe, as is evidenced by the upsurge in eRacing popularity.
Typically adaptable and robust, cyclists seem to have taken to social isolation well, with many cheerfully posting videos of some great ways keep busy (some being pretty left-field). When it comes to eRacing, the happy-go-lucky veil drops and the switch flips to race-mode. Two of the teams SwiftCarbon supports compete at UCI Continental level: W52-FC Porto and SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling, based in Portugal and the UK respectively. When the challenge came up, riders from both outfits jumped at it. Sports marketing manager Pedro Dias says, “When we came up with the idea, we wondered if the guys would be keen. We sent off a message to the team managers and they answered ‘yes’ almost straight away!” At 15h15 GMT on Monday 30 March Andy Turner and Alex Braybrooke from SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling battle Francisco Campos and Jorge Magalhães from W52-FC Porto.
Paul Lamb, owner of team SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling, is delighted to keep his riders keen and primed. “I think it’s a great idea to help riders from both teams maintain fitness and motivation as we get through this.” Lamb suggested a series of events, with differing lengths and disciplines. “We’ve got a good response from the guys, so we are keen to go ahead and plan a whole programme.”
Manager of W52-FC Porto team, Pedro Duque, is a keen cyclist himself and the idea immediately appealed to him. “The guys who just came off the Volta ao Algarve have form and so do others who were targeting the later races. This is a fun way to use that form!” When pushed to predict a result, “Let’s see, I back our guys but the UK guys have some good experience on Zwift,” he smiled.
News reports of other pros battling it out on the online platform reveal that neither top form nor elite-level athleticism is a guarantee of virtual glory. Confined to home training, New Zealander George Bennett of Team Jumbo Visma has admitted he’s yet to crack a top 10 on Zwift. Of course it is possible for participants to manipulate one’s ‘performance’ (considered highly unsportsmanlike), but it’s still a lot of fun (and some decent training effect) in pushing out several hundred Watts for a few hours a day, jostling with amateurs and other pros alike.
Riders from the British team are already competing in the weekly British Cycling Zwift series, with this week’s race leaving Andy Turner slumped over the bars at the end. “It was hard! It’s the sprint at the start that’s the worst bit.” A pro bike rider placing 26th out of 500 odd tells us the level is high, and that there are plenty of other riders ready to unleash their spring form on the virtual world of eRacing. We can certainly expect there to be more.