The Inside View of the Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round One—Through the Racer’s Eyes

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James Joseph Barnes

Zwift Grand Prix Men's Round One- Parcours Picker Race Format Overview

Each team selects one rider per race to compete on five different courses—a total of 12 racers in each field. That’s the Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round One.

Zwift racer James Barnes

Race 1: Neokyo Crit Course (2 lap Points Race-2 Sprints per lap8.58km – Raced by John Bruhn

Race 2: Sea to Tree (Uphill Scratch Race3.84km 107m of elevation – Race by Zach Nehr

Race 3: Tour of Tewit Well (Scratch Race-2 Sprints10.74km – Raced by Brian Duffy Jr.

Race 4: Innsbruckring (Mass start ITT-no draft, 1 Sprint9.03km – Raced by Daniel Turek

Race 5: Downtown Dolphin (5 lap Points Race-1 Sprint per lap9.38km – Raced by Myself

Zwift Grand Prix Round 1 Parcours Picker
Photo courtesy of Zwift.com

Race Prep-Zwift Grand Prix Men's Round One

We’re fortunate to have a strong group of guys with a varied skillset at NeXT pb Enshored, and we’re deep. We wanted to give it our best shot and see where we could use the course and our strengths as riders to an advantage. After a lot of back and forth, the guys picked me to take the line for the fifth race of the Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round One—the five-lap points race on the Downtown Dolphin crit course.

The strategy for me was pretty straightforward. Follow the first prime but then compete for each one from the second lap on and leave the final lap prime to focus on the finish. It seemed simple, but you know what people say about plans and Mike Tyson. Something about being punched in the mouth.

I didn’t do anything special to prepare recently other than racing ZRL with the team and some Wednesday Worlds races with Nathan Guerra and the guys. I took around five weeks off the bike in June and July to refocus.

Although my coach, Alex Coh, has me in a rebuilding block, I’m still unsure about my race fitness. It’s a new format of racing as a whole, and I had no idea what would happen or how the racing would play out.

Schedule of the Morning

5:15 am Alarm

5:45 am Sort self out for Weight in – Post; Eat bar and take Rohto Labs Overpower

5:50 am Submit Weight in and update Zwift information

6:00 am Fill up bottles (2x Water 1x Electrolyte Mix and get settled on the bike)

6:20 am Take Caffeine Gel and start Warm Up Workout

6:50 am Pens Open

6:51 am Take Caffeine Gel

7:20 am Race Start—Pedal Hard!

Pre Race-Zwift Grand Prix Men's Round One

The warm-up was the usual, nothing different from Premier Division Races, except for one big thing. I didn’t know precisely how to time it with four races before mine. It was nerve-racking and exciting at the same time.

 

I watched the guys while I did my warm up and sat for the required 30min in the pen before my race, and the team did an incredible job in the four races. Now I just need to finish the job.

 

The nerves were there. It was a brand new format. Eleven other strong riders with unique skill sets, and each could win it.

 

As I looked around the pen, I was able to get a look at my competition for the first time. All guys I know well have raced against a million times, and in a short race with a small field, it would be impossible to choose a favorite. As we saw in the previous four races, anything could happen.

Zwift Grand Prix Round One
Photo courtesy of Zwift.com

The Race-Zwift Grand Prix Men's Round One

As much as I tried to slow things down in my mind, the race was chaotic and pretty much a blur. Here’s what stuck in my head.

 

Lap 2—Ghost powerups used by other riders caught me off guard and pushed me out of points.

Lap 3—Lionel broke away, and no one wanted to do the work without any teammates.

Lap 4—Chris attempted to bridge the next lap, and I couldn’t follow without the risk of blowing up. The race already took an enormous toll on my legs.

 

I missed two primes by less than 0.1s, which really frustrated me. You always look back at the race and think, “Should have gone harder here or done this there.”

 

I don’t believe I could not have changed much at all. I am happy with how I raced and the effort I put in. I gave it my all. I think I will always wonder what could have happened.

The Finish-Zwift Grand Prix Men's Round One

Lionel Vujasin and Chris Dawson finished one-two, and in the sprint for third, I took fourth.

 

After watching Lionel and Chris take first and second, I knew I needed third, at least. It looked good until my legs said no more, and I crossed the line in fourth. I knew it wasn’t enough.

335W avg, 445NP for 13min 09sec

It is a game of what if’s and should have done this instead of that. But with these races being so short, it almost has to be instinct, and you just have to 100% commit all the time otherwise you get left behind.

 

Check out James’ ride on Strava, Zwift Power, and Twitch.

And catch a Replay of Race Stream.

Post Race—Impressions and TakeAways

It looks like the team took fourth in the final results, although we’ll wait and see. The scoring seems to be a work in progress.

 

Physical: 6wkg feels like the new 5wkg, hahahahaha! Everyone is upping their game and clearly had an awesome summer in the North. Coming off that five-week break feels like I have a bunch of work to catch up on now. Hard work with Coach Alex will continue. With Alex on my side, I know my training is sorted. He knows what we need to do and how we will achieve it. I trust the process and follow the instructions. There is no doubt if I look back at my previous performances and fitness.

 

Mental: It was a hard one, and I’ve been trying to tell myself today not to dwell on it and let it bring me down. It’s a point to work from, and with all the hard work my other teammates did in the previous races, I was disappointed that I couldn’t deliver from my end. This is an aspect that many of us as racers forget about and do not realize the effect it has on us as riders and as people. But also how it affects those around us (our partners, family, friends, and teammates). This is something that any rider or person should never forget. Always take time to reflect and make time for yourself.

 

 

If I could have followed Chris and hold his wheel, it might have helped me as the pace could have been slightly more steady rather than the mad dash for each prime. As I mentioned earlier, you can always wonder, but we must look forward, not backward.

 

I am now using Direct Connect with my Wahoo Kickr v5, this has made a more significant difference than I thought it would. I find it responds to effort changes much more quickly than ANT+, making it easier to control my position in the bunch and react to attacks and terrain.

 

The team has been amazing and only has support for each other. Reminding each other this is a long season, and a lot can change between here and the final. The every other week racing draws it out much longer than in previous seasons.

 

I’m interested to see how the season pans out. There’s a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon. Sadly for me, this time, there is only reflection and frustration.

What's Next?

After this week’s race, there is a lot more for me to unpack. We always expect the best from ourselves, so I am naturally disappointed when I couldn’t deliver a strong performance/result. Have had to take some time to sit down, think through it, and put it behind me. Spent some time with Monique and the dogs (photo below).

 

For now, I’m looking forward to the WTRL TTT and a few lower-profile races. I know that once the dust settles and details start coming back, the team will discuss the races and break it all down. Talk about what happened. What we could do differently and how we can prepare better.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my side of Round 1, Race 5 of the Zwift Grand Prix. Shoutout to Monique – Thank you for always cheering me on and helping me with weigh-ins at funny hours.

 

Alex Coh – Thank you for your coaching and advice on everything to do with my riding.


NeXT pb Enshored team – Thank you for all your support. Amazing to see how everyone steps up to support each other.

 

I’m looking forward to this season and how it evolves, as everyone will learn and grow each round. We will always bring our best and see how we can lift the level and quality of racing.

 

I’ll see you in 2 weeks for Round 2, the Team Elimination Omnium!

Did you enjoy the race and the report?

What did you think of the new format? There’s a lot to unravel. Comment below. Your fellow virtual cyclists want to know.

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