Fresh off a strong showing in the 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships representing her country of Australia.
An interview with Justine Barrow!
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do? What do you like to do for fun? Family life, that sort of stuff.
G’day, I am Justine from Melbourne, Australia. I started my career as a physiotherapist and am now a physiotherapist business owner with an amazing team of 19. I recently celebrated ten years married to my husband, Andrew. My fun usually involves bikes, training, racing, and exploring the world on two wheels. I also love good food and eating out. Time with my nieces is pretty special!
What is your cycling story? When did you start competing, and what is your racing history? What is your most significant accomplishment racing on the road?
I found cycling pretty late in life. I became progressively more injured as a runner and joined a cycling club at age 35 just to have people ride with me. I actually didn’t know that a big focus of a cycling club was racing and had my arm twisted up my back to enter my first race; I was pretty resistant and refused several times before I finally relented.
I raced my first D ( Cat 4?) grade crit (with my husband) and, very surprisingly, I was the fastest female and won $50. I was hooked. My second race was a road race which ended with a 16km climb, I was in C grade (Cat 3) women, and we were also racing with B grade ( Cat 2) women. We got to the base of the 16 km climb, and 1 km into the climb, I never saw anyone again (I had ridden off the front of the Cat 3’s and 2’s ), and that is when I realized my love for climbing.
My most significant accomplishment racing on the road is a silver medal at the 2020 Australian Road National Championships and winning the QOM jersey. At 40 years old, I was the oldest ever podium placer at an Australian National Road Championships. I also won the QOM jersey at the 2022 Australian National Championships. Other accomplishments include a podium at the Tour of the Gila and winning a couple of the Australian National Series Tours.
What is your virtual cycling story? How and when did you get involved in esports? What is your most significant accomplishment racing virtually?
I found Virtual Cycling and Zwift with injuries ( 4 clavicle surgeries in 2 years), and it was so good during COVID lockdowns for training and connecting with people around the world and 10 km away. I think Melbourne was one of the most locked-down cities in the world.
I did a couple of the ZRL Premier Division seasons and really enjoyed the quality competition and the solid workout. Significant accomplishments racing virtually were winning two stages ( of 6) of the 2021 Australian National Road eSports series and taking the overall series win.
Being selected to represent Australia for the UCI eSports World Championships 2020 and 2022 is a tremendous honor.
For a frame of reference, how tall are you, and approximately how much do you weigh in competition? What is your indoor PB for Peak Power, 15-second, 1-minute, 5-minutes, and 20-minutes?
I am 161.5 cm tall and between 47.5 and 48 kg
Peak Power – No idea
15 Seconds 510
1 minute – 385
5 minute – 267
20 minutes – 243
I had to search for these numbers through my Z power races ( lower numbers come up on my Zpower profile??) These are smaller numbers than my outdoor power.
What type of rider are you? Has your riding style evolved as you become more involved and successful in esports?
Esports has complimented, rather than evolved, my riding style.
What is your go-to training workout, and why do you enjoy it so much? Has your training emphasis and philosophy changed to make you a more successful eracer?
My go-to training with esports is the Asia Endurance ride on Saturday mornings—-30 km. My IF is usually around 0.9 for just under 3 hours. There is no freewheeling at all, just solid on the pedals the whole time. It is a very efficient use of time. When I have specific intervals to do, I often do it on Ven-Top as I am sure to have a constant resistance for an extended period.
What are your short and long-term esport goals? Do they involve qualifying and competing in the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship? What does that mean to you?
Long term esports goals are to represent Australia in the World Championships in 2023, 2024, 2025, and beyond 🙂 Pulling on the Green and Gold Jersey and representing my country is a great honor. If you had told me that I would be representing my country in sport in my mid 30’s, I would have laughed, this has been a completely unexpected turn of events ( to represent Australia in 2020 and 2022).
You have accomplished so much in esports. What is it that sets you apart from other virtual athletes?
Some people view esports or riding indoors as something that you do when it is bad weather, or you can’t ride outdoors, whereas I view it as an integral part of my training and racing. My power to weight ratio is my biggest strength in esports.
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?
Yes, using PowerUps correctly (i.e., strategically) is a new skill to learn with eSports. However, I don’t perceive that gamification makes a huge difference in esports at the top level. Everyone knows how to use their PowerUps to suit their riding style and the course. However, it can make a difference when you don’t receive one at all in a crucial part of the race.
Do you feel cycling esports will ever gain acceptance as a trusted discipline and gain popularity as a unique discipline? What challenges does it face?
I think esports is already gaining significant popularity and will continue to do so as a unique discipline. As a trusted discipline, I believe that the technology and verification processes will continue to improve, making it more and more trusted. Yes, there will always be cheaters, as there are in any sport; however, hopefully, new technology will mean that people are not inadvertently getting an advantage by faulty equipment, etc.
Tell us about your setup. Where is it located, and what do you use? What steps do you take to verify your accuracy?
I use a Wahoo V5 Kickr connected to a PC with a huge TV screen.
To verify the accuracy, I have gone through the stringent ZADA verification process, which verifies your:
Some cynics and detractors don’t trust the legitimacy of esports. What do you say to those who question the integrity and ability for a level playing field between competitors? What challenges does esports face in becoming recognized as a trusted competition venue?
At the community level, unfortunately, there aren’t all the checks and balances present at the elite level, so there is “inadvertent” gaining an advantage that calls into question the integrity of the sport. I am hopeful that some of the checks will become automatic as technology evolves.
You are deeply involved in cycling and how it relates to the elite esports scene. How has the landscape changed during that time, and where do you see it going?
The professionalism, popularity, and participation have gone up immensely. I perceive that that will continue.
Okay, I need a juicy exclusive. Tell us something about yourself that none of your fellow racers or fans know about you? Please?!?
I am a pretty open person, so no real secrets
I eat chocolate every single day my favorites include Cadbury Caramilk, Toblerone, and Cadbury Marvelous Creations.
I have run two marathons
I have Everested back in 2016 when it wasn’t yet a thing
I played Aussie Rules football for a couple of seasons ( if unfamiliar with the sport may need to look it up, lots of tackling allowed) needless to say I didn’t fare so well at my 48 kg
The floor is yours! Is there anything you would like to say?
I, with my UCI continental team Roxsolt Liv Sram am racing for 4 months in Europe and the US this year from April to August. This is pretty exciting as we haven’t done any international racing, except on Zwift, for the last 2 years due to COVID. I can’t wait.
Thank you Justine!
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site. In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, http://www.TheDIRTDadFund.com. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.