Virtual bicycle training company Zwift held its popular online race between users from 15 different countries on Saturday. Each country had races for men and women, with entrants hailing from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Sweden, South Korea, Denmark, Switzerland, France and Poland. The countries were selected based on the numbers of local Zwift users.
The races were held on February 24; the winners (to be announced in a week) will get to wear virtual National Championship gear for a year. The race was streamed on Facebook, with the occasional update on the official Zwift Twitter page. Australia did not compete, though a race is forthcoming. Zwift says that more countries will compete next year.
Awesome to see @LSandersTri duke it out in the Canadian Zwift National Championships! ???????? #ZwiftNationals
— Zwift (@GoZwift) February 24, 2018
All contestants in the 2018 race tackled the Watopia Volcano Climb, with men competing on three laps covering a total of 42.6 miles and an elevation of 2,007 feet, and women going two laps, equivalent to 28.4 miles with an elevation of 1,338 feet. Zwift said it based the courses on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) road races. A poll among female racers who wanted to compete in the virtual event revealed that they would rather not match the men’s three-lap course.
Riders are required to wear a heart rate monitor. To prevent cheating, anyone producing over 5w/kg average will be automatically disqualified, though they can be reinstated if they can provide real-life performance data to back up their virtual performance. These riders must go through the Zwift Anti-Doping Agency (ZADA) to do so.
Launched in 2015, Zwift is a massively multiplayer online fitness program that allows anyone to compete and train with people from all over the world. Members use the program for group rides, workouts, and races. Coaches have also incorporated Zwift into their athletes’ training regimens.
To get started, all you need is the company’s trainer — there’s a “Classic” model and a pricier “Smart” model — and a device to run the Zwift app (iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, or Apple TV). And of course you need a bike to attach to the trainer.
The cheapest bundle goes for $630, while the higher-end bundle will set you back $1,260.