How to ace an e-race: top tips ahead of the British Cycling E-Racing Championships

Getting your Zwift on this weekend to compete in the National Championships? Here's some tips from an Elite rider

The weather forecast for this weekend is looking unseasonably sunny, but a sizeable peloton is expected to stay indoors to take part in the inaugural British Cycling E-racing National Championship event.

Qualification rounds take place on Sunday February 24, kicking off at 10:30am GMT.

The races will be hosted on Zwift and will take on the ‘Watopia Figure 8’ loop, covering two laps of the course, to a total distance of 59.2 kilometres with 234 foot of elevation.

The 10 best placed men and women will qualify for the Championships, pending verification (including a weigh in) – and three reserve riders per gender will also be invited to take part, presumably in-case of illness of failure to match up to stated weight.

The finals will consist of three races – an elimination, points and scratch race – much like a track league event, but not on the boards!

If you’re taking part, and want to do your best, here are some tips from Cameron Jeffers who rides for Cornwall’s first elite cycling team, Saint Piran:

Research the course

Image: Zwift

The course has been announced as two laps of the Figure 8 course on Watopia, the Zwift Island in the South Pacific.

One lap of the course is 29.8km, it has two noticeable lumps in it, the first around a four minute effort and the second steeper Watopia Wall will take around 100 seconds.

Knowing the course beforehand will be really important.

After that fast start there will be around 6km of flat racing before the first climb, Reverse KOM – 2.5km at 2%. There’s 9km around the Island before returning to the Watopia Wall – 0.9km at 6%.

Both of the climbs don’t appear too painful gradient wise, but their profiles both provide areas to break up a group, starting steep and ending relatively flat if you can hold on for the first half it gives you a good chance to make it over the top in whichever group you start the climb in.

After the Watopia Wall you have the 2.5km descent and around 5km back around to the downhill finish line. Whilst most of the course is rolling, be sure not to get caught out on the uphill after the sprint, or losing touch as you go through the eases towards the end of the lap.

Use the Aero PowerUps

Image: Zwift

What do they say about bringing a knife to a gunfight? The same could be said about bringing anything but an ‘Aero PowerUp’ to the sprint finish.

A ‘Truck’ might help you hang on and a ‘Feather’ may increase your initial kick but nothing beats 30 seconds of reduced drag in the sprint for the line.

‘PowerUps’ can be gained by going under banners in the game and if picked up in the warm-up they can be taken into the start pen. They can be used at any point and on the race course you will have 11 chances to pick up a new one, but I hope to be getting an Aero and holding on to it until the sprint finish!

Zwift Power Ups available: 

  • Large Bonus: +250 experience points, or the equivalent of riding 12.5 kilometers.
  • Small bonus: +10 experience points, or the equivalent of riding .5 kilometers.
  • Lightweight (feather): reduces your weight by 15 pounds for 15 seconds. Use on climbs, when weight matters the most.
  • Draft Boost (van/truck): increases the draft effect you are experiencing by 50% for 30 seconds. Use at higher speeds (flats and descents) when you are already drafting off another rider (since this power up only helps when you are drafting.)
  • Aero Boost (helmet): makes you more aerodynamic (reduces your CdA by 25%) for 30 seconds. Use at higher speeds (flats and descents), especially when no draft is available (although it is still useful when drafting.)

Prepare your workout station

Image: Wahoo

I’m supported by Wahoo, and will be taking part in the race on a KICKR Smart trainer. 

Before the race, and this comes down to personal preference/habit, I will be getting everything ready and handy for when I am on the bike, workout playlist selected with maybe a go-to song for the final 2km, plenty of water to stay hydrated, maybe a gel to pop after the hour mark.

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I am expecting the race to take between 80 to 90 minutes. Its amazing how much a Zwift race takes out of you and you have to replace that loss somehow and finally making sure you have a fully functioning bike and a towel at the ready to mop that sweat away!


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Conserve your energy

Sit on a wheel where you can. Image: Zwift

If you are considering taking part in the Zwift nationals then it is likely that you have dabbled in Zwift before and you will know that you can draft. During the race, you should be looking to do this as much as possible.

This doesn’t mean hanging right at the back, but sitting in the bunch and making sure not to have too many ‘close the gap’ prompts. This does take some practice and testing, but it mainly comes down to trusting that you are in the draft and easing off the pedals a little to get some rest.

Positioning

The bunch will stretch out on the climbs, don’t get stuck at the back. Image: Zwift

Related to my previous point but more directed towards trigger points in the race, you don’t want to be out front, but like real life, you don’t want to be too far back when a climb starts.

Sure, you’re in Zwift-land, but like outdoors, you can get stuck behind people that are slowing down on the climb rather than accelerating away with the front of the field. Once the gaps have formed, with everyone motivated, it will be hard to close them down again on Zwift.

I will be looking to do as little as possible but positioning myself in the top quarter of any pack I am in when it comes to the climbs and lumps around the 59.6km course.

Equally, when it comes down to the sprint, you don’t want to leave yourself too much work to do, position yourself well and go with the right wheel, engage that ‘PowerUp’, put your head down and sprint for the line.

Enjoy it

Try and smile! Image: Zwift

I think the biggest takeaway from the e-racing Nationals is to try and enjoy it.

It is crazy to think that bike races have moved into the virtual world on platforms such as Zwift and whilst it is growing it clearly has a bright future.

Not everyone will be up at the pointy end of the race, everyone will be on different equipment in different parts of the country and everyone will have a different aim for the event, but most importantly everyone will be riding together, young with old, pro with amateur, all with a chance at taking the win.

Terms and Conditions of the British Cycling E-Racing Championship events:

All UK Zwifters are welcome to join the British Cycling eRacing Championships Qualifier but in order to qualify for the British Cycling eRacing Championships final participants must abide by the following rules:

  1. All participants must be a member of British Cycling and as such are bound by the terms and conditions and the regulations of British Cycling including, but without limitation, the Code of Conduct, Anti Doping-Policy and any other relevant policy
  2.  The top 10 men and top 10 women will be requested to show their valid British Cycling membership to qualify for the British Cycling eRacing Championships Final