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How Esports Great James Joseph Barnes’ Coach Got Him Ready for the Indoor Season

Could training prep really mean doing nothing? That's an interesting cycling esports coaching question.

Not like a kid on Christmas morning. Even that is a bit too much hyperbole. It’s more like when you hear that there will be a Game of Thrones spinoff prequel. You know it’ll be epic, but you don’t know what to expect. Let’s back it down and say that the upcoming elite racing season is intriguing as a passionate fan of virtual cycling and esports, the racers, and the cycling esports coaches that get them there.

Cycling esports coach Alex Coh

Five Weeks With NO Training!?!

While making the rounds and touching base with a few racers to see how they were doing and get a feel for the new race formats, something struck me. During an impromptu conversation with James Joseph Barnes, he made this matter-of-fact comment in passing when asked about the first race of the upcoming Zwift Grand Prix,

"Hopefully, I get selected. After five weeks off, I need to light some jet fuel in my training."

If you’re a fan of cycling esports, then you know Barney. Even the casual fan likely recognizes the name. James stormed the elite Zwift eracing scene spectacularly with eight podiums in 2021/22. His name is synonymous with the new breed of young talented cyclists dedicated to virtual eracing, and he is an early adopter from the beta days.

It Had to be a Misunderstanding!?!

Five weeks off the bike with no training, riding, nothing? That’s an interesting cycling esports question. It had to be a mistake. For the average Joe cyclist, the thought of ever climbing out of the hole dug by extended inactivity is a prospect few have the confidence to contemplate, whether it’s realistic or not. Real wouldn’t be a question if you knew James’ coach.

James isn’t the only elite eracer that Coach Aleksandar Coh calls one of his athletes. Despite this and being a beta-Zwifter, Alex falls short of calling himself an esports coach. James calls Coach Coh a big reason for his success.


But five weeks off the bike? It required further investigation, so when asked, he said this.

Heart Rate profile for the first ride of the season on July 5th.
first ride of the season give data to cycling esports coach
First ride after the off-season rest on July 5th.
peak power data
James' power profile from July 5th.

An interview with Coach Aleksandar Coh!

In 2021/22, your athlete James Joseph Barnes had arguably one of the most successful seasons in elite esports history. How did James feel mentally and physically when the season was over?

James was physically and mentally tired. The pressure in esports on his level, especially when winning becomes something people expect and take as a given, was immense. I had promised him a long rest after the season ended, and he used it well.

How did you approach the esports off-season? What specific goals did you have for James?

The goal was 100 percent mental and physical recovery. I had planned six weeks for James as the next season was far away, and I wanted him to recharge fully for the training. I knew he wouldn’t be at his peak fitness for round 1 of the Zwift Grand Prix, but the season is long, and once he reaches his peak fitness, it´ll stay there for the rest of the season. I believe the end of October should be it as I planned the races to lift up the form to 100 percent.


James took a more extended rest than most of my athletes with some casual riding. Still, no pressure to even do that. We knew the amount of work we put in and that it wouldn´t go away in that period, and I wanted him ready for the hard work of rebuilding his fitness.


The prolonged rest was my idea. I wanted James to enjoy things outside of cycling and spend more time with his better half and the doggos, while only cycling if he really wanted to. The rest reset him, and he was absolutely ready to go near the end, which meant it had achieved its purpose.

heart rate data assists cycling esports coaches
Heart rate profile from ramp test performed on July 21st.
Coach Coh customized the ramp test for James.
ramp test cycling esports coaching data
James' power numbers for the ramp test on July 21st.
What was the first order of business once the rest period was over? Did you do any fitness testing? How did it go, and how did you use the results?

A slow build-up for the fitness tests to see where he was. I manually readjusted his FTP and other zones as he showed fast progress (I decreased his FTP post rest).

Fitness tests went okay, and I also used his outdoor races for the data collection. Then we soon had the mandatory ZADA tests, which were very close to his best. He was at about 90 percent.

James was surprised at how much form he retained from the past work. I wasn´t.
What training planning did you use to prepare James for the upcoming elite esports season? Why are you focusing on specific areas?

The only thing that suffered during the rest was the resistance to fatigue. That builds over months of training and racing, so I planned to use round 1 to finalize prep.


So far, everything is going according to plan. The recovery after high-intensity anaerobic efforts needs work to make him bulletproof in the new format.

Heart rate profile for the ZRL race on September 20th.
course overview of cycling esports coaching
Overall stats for the September 20th ZRL race.
peak power cycling esports coaching data
James' power profile for the ZRL race on September 20th.
Will the various changes in esports race formats and the UCI World Championships format affect your training plans? If yes, how?

It doesn´t affect the training method significantly, as my workouts incorporate it. Always have. The new format is more problematic for devising the winning strategy, and it will take a bit of an adjustment for everyone to figure out how to race it.

I think the new formats actually give us an advantage.

What are your goals for the season? What training and racing decisions are you making now to achieve those goals?

The plan is laid out, with two weekly races and adequate recovery. We will use the weekend race(either Zwift or bunch race) to test different attacking methods, increase resistance to fatigue and raise the anaerobic thresholds (120-130-140-150 percent FTP).

cycling esports coaching heart rate data
Heart rate data for the WRTL TTT on September 28th.
race data for cycling esports coaching
Complete race stats for the WTRL TTT on September 28th.
James' power profile for the WTRL TTT on September 28th.
What will make the season a success?

Many things define a successful season, but wins are a big target on an individual level. As with the new format, individual success and strengths literally translate into team success. With the previous format, things were different. You could be the strongest guy out there, but if you didn´t have good racecraft, you´d have no hope of doing well. James certainly is one of the best in the business regarding that, and with the new equipment rules(direct connect, etc.), things are again in his favor.

Thank you, Cycling Esports Coach Aleksandar Coh!

What did your off-season look like?

Did you take time away from your bike? What did you do? Comment below! Your fellow virtual cyclists want to know.

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