How virtual racing has come to the rescue for Kiwi ambassador, who delivers masterclass performance from home

How virtual racing has come to the rescue for Kiwi ambassador, who delivers masterclass performance from home

‘PIVOT’ has been the buzzword to describe how people have adjusted to life in the wake of COVID.

Our ambassador, Kath Kelly, like many athletes, had their race plans derailed in 2020, when a dream trip to race in British Columbia went to the wall with COVID.

Cyclists have been taking to online alternatives and Kath joined the pack of competitors who joined the virtual single track mountain bike racing event on ZWIFT.

Here, Kath reveals how she found a new online community:

"July 2020 was meant to be an action-packed month beginning with seven days of sweet single-track mountain bike racing in British Columbia, followed by three weeks exploring Canada with my good pal and fellow athlete Peg. 

Organisers of British Columbia Bike Race announced they were running a virtual seven-day stage-race on Zwift instead. This seemed a great idea to get some motivation and training kicked into gear for some local spring racing. Although getting up at 3:30am for a race warmup for a 4am start wasn’t quite so appealing, it was surprisingly easy and convenient, with respect to not interfering with the rest of my day’s study and activities.

With Covid19 causing the cancellation of many events worldwide, organisers are unsure what the future holds with staging them, especially the ones that attract overseas competitors. Zwift is one example that has brought many riding communities back together. For example, local road-racing clubs have organised weekly race and ride meetups on Zwift.





What is Zwift?

Zwift is a virtual training programme that provides state-of-the-art technology and is one of the most motivating and quality training tools to date. It is a turbo-device trainer game that works by linking your turbo (indoor) trainer to your computer, letting you ride with other cyclists from all around the world in a virtual environment. 

It provides resistance and gradients that replicate real-life experiences such as hills, cobblestones, and bridges. 

There are many options you can explore on Zwift, from racing other riders in graded categories to seeking specific interval training sessions that are completed at efforts at the same intensity based on a percentage of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Professional coaches and riders can design their own training programmes. Or you can just go for a ride on a specific route in a virtual world. Many of the virtual world courses are based on real topography, such as the Alp Du Zwift replicating Alpe D’Huez, one of the famous road climbs in the Tour de France. 

There is always someone to interact with, or virtual characters on route such as, yeti, deer, sloths and dinosaurs to keep you amused. It also has gaming features which add to tactics when racing.

Although I am used to riding and training outdoors, Zwifting has provided an alternative method of training. It has been especially advantageous over the winter, and when I am time-poor in the spring during my seasonal artificial insemination work. It is exciting, challenging, and motivating.

...Back to the virtual BC Bike race:

On Saturday, I completed all seven stages of racing on Zwift. There were no prizes, but I scored myself a virtual BC Bike Race cycle jersey, and I made some acquaintances who are planning on racing next year’s BC Bike Race in real life. 

Like all races, it was a buzz to finish and a real sense of achievement.

I found myself placing in the top third of my grade (the majority were men), and managed a 4th place on the Alp Du Zwift hill climb stage, which was the same course I 'Everested' a couple months ago.

I found my legs surprisingly fresh on Sunday’s recovery ride, which I credit to CurraNZ. This product is great for recovery! I believe it is what assists me through day after day racing, strenuous training, and long hours of physical seasonal work.