Liz Van Houweling
Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round One Race Report by Saris-NoPinz eracer Liz Van Houweling!
Zwift Grand Prix Women’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 Women’s Round One.
Race 1: Neokyo Crit Course (2 lap Points Race-2 Sprints per lap) 8.58km – Raced by Jenn Real
Race 2: Sea to Tree (Uphill Scratch Race) 3.84km 107m of elevation – Race by Morgan Uceny
Race 3: Tour of Tewit Well (Scratch Race-2 Sprints) 10.74km – Raced by Anna Russell
Race 4: Innsbruckring (Mass start ITT-no draft, 1 Sprint) 9.03km – Raced by Sarah Morrison
Race 5: Downtown Dolphin (5 lap Points Race-1 Sprint per lap) 9.38km – Raced by Me
Race Prep—Zwift Grand Prix Women's Round One
My Saris NoPinz team had limited options for the riders who were available to race in Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round One, but we have a deep team with various talents. I was optimistic about our lineup, and everyone knew their job! Lee Wild, who has been a huge part of my personal growth on Zwift, gave us all a few tips to think about before the race, so we were aware of possible key moments and thought through potential strategies.
A few of my teammates recon-ed their individual courses and took special note of specific areas. I’ve raced downtown dolphin crits enough not to feel the need to do another one this week. I’ve been taking a small break from racing, so I was unsure how I’d feel on Friday, but I felt confident in my past success on that course.
Watching the men’s races last week, we saw plenty of opportunities for long breaks to make it, and the course often rewarded aggressive riding. We aimed to make the races hard while still racing intelligently and race to each individual’s strengths!
Pre-Race—Zwift Grand Prix Women's Round One
My race was not until 2:30 pm, so I spent the morning working, grocery shopping, and taking care of my children. It was good to keep my mind busy, so I didn’t have time to think about how nervous I was!
Two hours before the race, I did the weigh-in. I recently taught my four-year-old daughter to help me with these videos, so I hope the Zada folks enjoy the entertainment! Then I had my usual pre-race meal of a turkey sandwich. I’m not sure why that’s what I eat, but it’s never been much of a problem, and I like consistency, so that’s how it goes! I like real food and avoid gels at all costs!
My husband took the kids out to lunch, leaving me a rare hour with the house to myself. All the more time to elevate my heart rate about the quickly approaching race! I sat drinking coffee and chatting with friends and teammates and felt like my heart rate was already 150bpm.
I’m never big on warm-ups. I feel fine most days if I pedal easy for 5-10 min and then shoot guns blazing out of the pen. But since I was in the last race, I figured I’d spend the time before watching my teammates and warming up. I cheered my teammates on through Discord and continued to stress out about my race.
Must remember to breathe!
The kids got home before I raced. Much to their delight, I helped get them situated watching a show so they wouldn’t disturb me! Then I ate a banana and returned to my bike to enter the pens.
There were 30 people in the pen, so I still basically had no idea who exactly was racing. I didn’t recognize many names, but I knew of at least a few big hitters. The field was stacked!
I was incredibly nervous and didn’t really feel like I’d done a warm-up at all, but before I knew it, it was go time! The rest of the team had landed us in a solid 6th place at that point, so I was hoping to build on that and move us up the standings with plenty of points on offer.
The Race—Zwift Grand Prix Women's Round One
As I tend to do, I shot out of the pens harder than necessary. I quickly tried to settle down and position myself accordingly in our small pack of 12. Everyone seemed to take the first lap quite easily, and I knew there would be no power ups available for the first sprint up the hill to the intermediate banner.
I launched at the bottom just before making the turn and soon made my way to the front and first across the line. Seven hundred seventy (770W) watts for a 13.6 w/kg 15-sec sprint is among my best! I eased my way back into the pack and felt like I was recovering fine from the first big effort.
Power ups were in play for the remainder of the race, and that’s when life got interesting. A ghost went early on lap 2. I hesitated a moment, saw no one else was chasing, and took the bait and gave chase. Current esports world champion Loes Adegeest was on my wheel, and we caught the flyer about halfway up the climb and blew past. Loes nipped me at the line, but I managed to salvage second.
The rest of the race was a blur of ghosts flying up the road, me chasing and getting nothing out of it. It felt like utter chaos ensued. I can’t tell you a ton of what was happening. Different people made decisive moves, some more successful than others.
I felt frantic and frustrated that I was repeatedly making poor decisions. I’m reluctant to admit that I hardly tried for the finish sprint because I mentally was not in a good place at that point.
230 watts average power, 323 watts normalized power for 14:24
Results—Zwift Grand Prix Women's Round One
I salvaged 7 points in my race, which resulted in our team moving up the table to 4th for the day. However, with 24 points available, I was hoping for much more. I have high expectations for myself, and others do as well. I felt like I’d let my team down after they had all fought so hard. I knew I had the power and fitness to get much more, but I made several poor tactical decisions and did not keep a clear head when faced with adversity.
As a team, we definitely had our highs and lows throughout the course of the day. Stand-out rides from Morgan Uceny and Sarah Morrison were incredibly inspiring. Both raced to 3rd place, with Morgan lighting up the Temple Climb and Sarah crushing the Innsbruck ITT. Anna Russell and I were both particularly frustrated with our performances. Jenn Real had a solid showing at Neokyo and identified a few things to practice.
Post Race—Impressions and Takeaways
Saris NoPinz came out ready for a fight and ended up in 4th. Not a disaster by any means, but it was not what we had hoped. We’ll learn from week one and are confident that some of the race formats will suit us more in the coming weeks.
Given that Morgan and Sarah had such strong performances in the two races closer to pure tests of fitness, I’m confident in the strength of our team. We know our ability and will try to make better tactical decisions in the future.
I personally am going to do a better job mentally preparing myself for any number of situations. These races are so short that you do not have time for mental weakness, even for a moment. You must constantly stay alert, make quick and intelligent decisions, and fully commit to those decisions. I did not do that this week, and I’m disappointed.
I thought the format on the whole for Parcour Pickers was quite fun. It was bizarre to be racing with no teammates, but I thought it’d be a different challenge to only concentrate on what each person needed to do. I look forward to using our team’s strength together in the future, though. I definitely felt the pain of not having the ability to send a teammate up the road to chase a ghost for me!
The next race is Team Elimination Omnium. Three back-to-back races with the whole team starting together for race one and trying to get as many people as possible through each round. A few twists along the way, like Golden Tickets, are sure to keep things interesting.
Moving forward, we will have DS extraordinaire Lee Wild on the Discord chat. He always seems to get the most out of me by encouraging me to be aggressive and helping me make intelligent decisions and fully commit. I’m relieved that he’s agreed to help us!
I will do some low-stress workouts/races and recon the courses for week 2. We all can gain a lot by putting in the time to prepare! We’ll schedule a team meet-up to ensure the entire team is as ready as possible.
I want to thank all the viewers of our race and hope it provided some good entertainment! I’m looking forward to hopefully putting on a better show in future rounds 🙂
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.