Elite eRacer Anders Foldager Races to Win and Tell About It

When Covid lockdown turned Anders Foldager on to virtual cycling, it wasn’t long before he realized that he was good. Then he took 2nd in the first-ever UCI Cycling Esports Worlds.
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I appreciate the opportunity. Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do? Where do you live? Family life, that sort of stuff.

Hi, my name is Anders Foldager. I am 20 years old and live in Vejle, Denmark. I grew up in a small Danish town with my mother and father, sister and brother.

 

I moved to Vejle 4 years ago to have the opportunity to study and cycle more intensively. Last year I graduated from the business school campus Vejle.

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What is your cycling story? How did you get involved in virtual cycling and eSports? Tell us about your eSports team.

I started cycling when I was eight years old. I have always ridden road cycling and love both training and competitions. In particular, it is the competition section that motivates and inspires me.

 

Therefore, corona lockdown was very tough for me athletically as I lost the opportunity to get out to compete. So I grabbed an exercise bike and started on Zwift. I quickly found out I was good at it and was contacted by team PO Auto Ceramic speed which I ride today on zwift.

 

It is an ecycling team composed of other road riders like myself, mtb riders, track riders, and pure Zwifters. We have raced all seasons in the Premier Division, which is the best league. At the same time, we also had 3 out of 3 possible selections to race the World Cup for the Danish national team.

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The indoor specialist season is here. Are you excited? What have you been doing during the ‘off-season?’

My results aside, I love racing on Zwift. However, my primary season is still on the road. I have therefore taken a good break from ecycling and focused 100% on my road season.

 

Now that the weather is getting worse and the Zwift season is starting up again, I have started on Zwift. I am looking forward to that part of my training and using Zwift actively towards the upcoming road season.

 

That being said, I race to win, also on Zwift. So I have and manage ambitions to do well on Zwift, get well up on the world rankings, and ultimately I hope to improve my world cup result and end up standing with the rainbow jersey.

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What are your goals for the upcoming season, personally and for the team?

My goal for me is to become a world champion. I really want that sweater, and it applies to both Zwift and the road. The team’s goal is still to fight for victory in the most prominent international Zwift races.

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You have accomplished so much in eSports. What is it that sets you apart from other virtual cycling athletes?

Ecycling is about w / kg. So since I am a reasonably light rider and have high power, it has given me an advantage. At the same time, I have managed to adapt to the platform we race on, Zwift.

 

I think it’s hard to say what sets me apart from the others, but I just think I’m good at what Zwift is all about. To have good power and a good finish because it almost always ends in a sprint.

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You are considered one of, if not the best pure finishers in eSports. I want to take a deep dive into the topic of sprinting in virtual cycling. For a frame of reference, how tall are you, and approximately how much do you weigh in competition?

It means everything to have a good finish in Zwift. The races finish in a sprint often. I am 181 cm and my weight when I am in race condition is between 65-66kg.

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What is your Peak Power and 15-second Power on the road and virtually? What is your PB during a race? Why do you think they are different?

My 15-sec peak on the road is at about 12-1300 W, and on Zwift, it is about 1100. I set both peaks during competition. I think as I said, the competition part makes me perform better.

 

There is adrenaline and others to race against, making me ride up to my absolute highest level. Due to the difference between peak outside and inside, I think it is because you can not move the bike in the same free motion when it is strapped to a Wahoo.

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What is your go-to sprinting training workout, and when during the season do you focus on it? Do you do any specific off-the-bike training to improve your sprinting?

I usually practice my sprint when I ride out on the road with others, where we then sprint for fun towards each other towards, e.g., a city sign. I do some strength training to increase my explosiveness and thus achieve higher peak power in the off-season.

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There are many theories on proper form for sprinting indoors? Some say it is more up and down than side to side. Some stress the upper body, seated, standing, that sort of thing. Describe what gives you the most power when sprinting indoors. How does this differ from on the road?

Yes, as mentioned earlier, there is a big difference. I generally sprint with a high cadence which is where I get the highest power output. It is also true that on an exercise bike, you drive more up and down with the upper body, which also sets conditions for other muscle groups both in the legs and upper body than on the road, where it is more from side to side.

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Conflicting views on cadence and the ramp-up to the sprint also exist. Some feel you should drop to your heaviest gear and stomp, while others go for a high cadence spin-up. What do you do? Do you think it is dependent upon the type of trainer you use? Does the Zwift trainer's difficulty setting make a difference?

As I said, I like to ride at high cadence – +100 rpm. But it also depends a lot on the type of trainer you ride. Some trainers give a heavier resistance, and you can ride a little heavier cadence on them.

 

The difficulty setting only makes a difference when going up or down. On a flat sprint, it has no significance as it just wants to simulate the flat road no matter if it is at 0% or 100%. But it is clear that the higher it is set on an uphill sprint, the harder it will be to maintain the high cadence.

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Success in esports depends largely on making the selections. What is your strategy with respect to pre-race preparation and training? Do you train for a specific power profile when you move indoors? If yes, what areas do you stress, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes? How does that differ from outdoor racing and training?

I do some specific intervals, but instead, try to vary it, so I become more all-round. I’m still not quite sure what type of rider I am, so I’m trying to develop broadly. Thus also on the short intervals.

 

It is essential to have a high 5 min in Zwift, so therefore, of course, I also train it, but it is not the only thing.

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How much do you factor in the gamification side of eSports? Is there a learning curve that you must master? How vital are power-ups and other things unique to virtual cycling?

It definitely has considerable significance. And I think those who get good at Zwift are the ones who can see through the dynamics and how to use the game in the best possible way.

 

I often find that powerups ruin the fairness of the bike race because you can hardly win a sprint without the proper power-up. It’s part of the concept, but I sometimes think it takes the competition out of it and puts chance over strength.

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Many finishers have a mental checklist that they go through approaching the finale of a race. Pack position, timing, distance, visual cues, and such. What items do you check off as you prepare to unleash the beast?

Before the finale begins, I tighten my shoes and have a drink. Then I start focusing on sitting in the top 30. Then I go down into the curves of the handlebars. So with about 15 sec left, I begin my sprint standing all out.

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Do you believe that sprinting indoors is a skill that a racer can learn, or is it a matter of physical makeup and genetics? If yes, what did you do to perfect the craft? What tips would you give someone who wants to improve their virtual sprinting power and results?

I believe that you can become good at everything if you train enough. Of course, there is something genetic that makes it harder or easier for someone. But all in all, I just think you need to train.

 

My advice is to determine how long a sprint you can ride and in what position on the bike you can get the greatest possible effort, and then train based on that. On Zwift, there are often long sprints, so it is necessary to train sprints of up to 20 sec.

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You can’t win the race if you don’t make the front group. What is your training approach to endurance and sub-threshold work? What strategies do you use to conserve energy during the initial stages of a race? What do you do to smother the fire if you find yourself in the red early in a race?

Most of my training takes place on the road, and thus I get a lot of endurance which gives me a significant advantage in the longer and more lean races.

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What do you consider to be the most challenging finish on Zwift? Why does it give you so much trouble?

It’s the flat or slightly downhill finishes that give me a hard time. I do not have high enough watts and too few kilos to stay with the big boys when they open up.

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It must be a ton of pressure to be the racer that everyone on the team depends upon to be there at the end and bring it home? Tell us a bit about that. How do you mentally approach a big race? Does a sprinter have to have a different mindset than a climber or breakaway specialist?

I do not know if I feel any extraordinary pressure from my team. It is clear that I am in a good position. We have a strong, broad squad which means that we can all share the pressure.

 

I race Zwift because I think it’s fun, and of course, I prepare, but only as much as I feel is necessary. I always go into a competition focused and determined with a mindset of winning.

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There are many other tremendous eSport talents. How closely do you monitor the other powerhouses in the game, during the season and before a race? Is there a specific racer you know always brings it and that you will have to be on the top of your game to beat? Who do you consider to be your greatest rival?

Before I came to PO Ceramic Speed, my teammate Nicklas Amdi and I fought against each other in the Danish leagues. It’s fun to have some rivals who you beat, and sometimes they defeat you. It keeps me motivated and gets me out to work out every day.

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In entertainment, the saying goes that actors want to be rock stars and rock stars want to be actors. What type of rider do you consider yourself? Do you ever wish you were a climber or a sprinter if you are the opposite? Are there any other sports you wish you were great at?

I see myself as a puncheur. I’m too light to be a pure sprinter and too heavy and powerful to be a mountaineer. I win my races with shorter and challenging climbs and preferably climb to the finish line.

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Some cynics and detractors don’t trust the legitimacy of eSports. What do you say to those who question your veracity and the ability for the playing field to be leveled between competitors? How about those who wonder why what they see on their screen doesn’t always look the same as the final results?

There are still some areas where Zwift can improve. The validation is challenging to do at the moment when you are not sitting in the same room.

 

I think a lot has been done to get a clean sport, but at the same time, I also feel that Zwift should do even more to get rid of the latter.

 

But in general, I think it’s fair competition, especially for the world cup where we all rode on the same equipment. I felt it was 100% fair.

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Virtual cycling and eSports have come a long way in a short time. What do you envision eSports will be like in five years? What is your vision for the future of eSports? What do you feel it will take to get it there? What are the challenges that eSports faces in becoming recognized as a trusted competition venue?

I believe that the sport will grow and that with the right initiatives and better opportunities for exposure for sponsors, there can be opportunities for professional esports riders.

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Okay, I need a juicy exclusive. Tell us one of your virtual racing secrets. Something you haven’t told anyone else before that helps make you better than the rest. Please?!?

Hmmm. I don’t know if I got any.

Thank you, Anders!

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