Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Two Race Report by NeXT pb Enshored’s Zach Nehr!
Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Two—Team Elimination Omnium Format Overview
The Zwift Grand Prix Round Two—Team Elimination Omnium is three back-to-back races reducing the field of 60 starters after each event. Races 1 & 2 are scratch races, and the field is cut by 30 and then by 20, leaving ten racers for race 3.
A “Golden Ticket” is available at an intermediate sprint, giving a free pass to a rider or team regardless of their final finishing position to the next race.
In Race 3, the field is trimmed in an elimination format leaving a group of three to sprint it out for the win.
The Team Elimination Omnium is a preview of the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships and Continental Qualifier format and promises to be exciting!
Race Prep—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Two
Going into the second round of the Zwift Grand Prix, I was feeling very nervous. One of the biggest changes to the Zwfit Grand Prix compared to previous iterations of the ‘Zwift Premier Division’ is the introduction of new racing formats.
As opposed to scratch races, points races, and team time trials, this year’s Zwift Grand Prix has added a whole host of new racing formats, some of which are completely new to the eracing world. Round Two was no exception, as we took on the first-ever Team Elimination Omnium.
Our team, NeXT pb Enshored, did our research, and calculated exactly how we wanted to score points and when. The Golden Ticket opportunities were intriguing, but after studying the rulebook, we realized that they wouldn’t count much towards our team’s point total unless the Golden Ticket rider also finished in the Top 30 (Race 1) or Top 10 (Race 2).
In fact, our points-scoring strategy was more important than Race 3, where it looked as though the winner was being crowned in the final sprint. But in a competition of numbers, points, and carefully concocted strategy, we had already sewn up the win before Race 3 even began.
Pre-Race—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Two
I followed my usual pre-race routine the morning of the Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Two, and it goes something like this:
- Wake up around 7 am
- Pre-race ride ~45 minutes before the weigh-in window opens (2 hours before the start of Race 1)
- Weigh-in at 11:10 am
- Eat breakfast and hydrate (Bagel and jam, cereal with oat milk, and a banana)
- Prepare race hydration and nutrition (One bottle of Skratch Labs sports hydration drink mix)
- Begin pre-race warm-up 45 minutes before Race 1
- Tech check 15 minutes before the race (Confirm the connection of smart trainer, HR monitor, power meter, dual recording device, Zoom call, etc.)
- Race 1 at 1:10 pm
The Race—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Two
In Race 1, our goal at NeXT pb Enshored was to have every rider finish in the Top 25. While the rulebook stated the Top 30 riders would advance, that didn’t include the Golden Ticket winners, of which there would be five riders that might or might not factor into the finish.
To play it safe, our strategy was not to conserve, but rather race it like we were going for the win. Of course, conserving energy was at the back of our minds, but you can’t ride defensively against Zwift GP competition.
In the single lap of the Richmond UCI World’s course, the peloton waited until Libby Hill to start making big moves. Lennert Teugels went on the attack, and I did my best to stay near the front of the peloton and avoid any splits. We climbed Libby Hill in 1:03, and I averaged 588w (8.5w/kg). Less than a minute later, we flew into the bottom of 23rd St, which I climbed in 20 seconds at 691w (10w/kg).
Despite the rapid pace, the peloton had not at all split, and we had more than 45 riders coming into the final kilometer together. With only 25 spots on the line, I knew it was about to get very hard.
The peloton slowly strung out of the final climb up to the finishing straight, where Briand Duffy, Jr. took off and rode to the win while pushing 10w/kg for the final minute. I played it more conservatively if that’s even possible, at 189bpm. I tried to position myself around 10th wheel with 200m to go, and then I launched an 80% sprint to make sure I didn’t get swarmed. I did 624w (9w/kg) for the final minute of Race 1.
In the end, I finished 11th in Race 1 and moved on to Race 2 along with all four of my NeXT pb Enshored teammates.
Race 2 was the one that really scared me. The race finished atop Leith Hill, one of the steepest climbs in Zwift, and after factoring in the Golden Tickets, only the Top 7 riders would advance.
When the winning breakaway went at the very bottom of Leith Hill – aka the climb before the climb – I got really nervous about my chances. NeXT’s Dan Turek followed Teugels into the winning move, and Duffy, Jr. attempted to bridge across about a kilometer later. Suddenly, there were seven riders up the road, and we hadn’t even started the climb yet.
My chances of advancing were shrinking by the minute, until we hit the bottom of Leith Hill (the steep part). I knew this climb is 3–3.5 minutes long, and it would take 7-8w/kg to be one of the best guys. I followed Kevin Bouchard-Hall (Velocio) as he set the pace at the bottom of the climb.
KBH began reeling in Duffy, Jr., who we caught with less than a kilometer to go. But on the 12% slopes, I knew we still had almost two minutes to go.
With a few hundred meters to go, Leith Hill levels out to 3% for a few moments, which is just enough time to catch your breath before the final kick. Adrian Alvarado (Wahoo Le Col) attacked just before the plateau, and got a 6-second gap with 400 meters to go. Alvarado was in 7th place, and I knew that I needed to catch him in order to advance to Race 3.
I couldn’t wait until the final sprint, so I had to go long. Just as the road pitched up for the final time, I kicked at 10w/kg and did everything I could to hold it all the way to the line. I caught and passed Alvarado with 150 meters to go, and a few seconds later, my spot in the final Race was secure.
My final effort to finish 6th (I actually caught Christopher Dawson, too) on Leith Hill was 3:42 at 494w (7.1w/kg), with the final 36 seconds at 667w (9.6w/kg).
Well, if I was scared about Race 2, I felt the opposite about Race 3. I spun in the pen while my NeXT pb Enshored teammates did the calculations, and we realized that we were already 34 points ahead of second place in the Zwift Grand Prix Round 2 totals. The maximum amount that any team could earn in Race 3 was 19 points since all the remaining teams had only one or two riders.
So the pressure was off for Race 3, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to race until my legs exploded – I really wanted to win, and this was my biggest-ever opportunity to win individually in the Zwift Grand Prix.
If you want to design the most painful bike race ever, just take the playbook from Race 3. It was an elimination race, with the last rider across the line being eliminated at both the sprint banner and finish line on each circuit of the Bell Lap. That meant that we sprinted every minute (!!) for four full laps.
I made it halfway through the race before getting booted out with two laps to go. In the end, I am super happy with a 5th place finish in Round 2 of the Zwift Grand Prix, and even more stoked to put NeXT pb Enshored back on the top step of the podium!
Quick power breakdown of Round 2 Race 3:
366w (Normalized Power: 415w) for eight minutes, including seven sprints of 800-950w.
Results—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Two
Click for the races, and to connect with Zach Nehr!
Post Race—Impressions and Takeaways
My main takeaway from Round 2 of the Zwift Grand Prix is that it’s crucial to do your homework before each Zwift GP race. There were multiple riders and teams that didn’t understand the points breakdown, Golden Tickets, and team totals at the end of the day.
NeXT pb Enshored is a special team because we are well-rounded in so many aspects of the sport. Not only do we have riders with physical strengths in every part of cycling, but we also have a collective set of minds that can break down race tactics and execture better than anybody else.
With that said, Round 3’s Squad Skirmish is another Zwift GP race where we really need to do our homework. I’ve read through the instructions a few times, but I still don’t fully grasp what will happen! We have almost two weeks to research the courses, points breakdown, and competition to prepare for the event. Whatever the case, we have a full roster that is prepared for anything Zwift throws at us.
I really enjoyed the Team Elimination Omnium in Round 2 of the Zwift GP. Though the Golden Tickets were an interesting addition, I think they were a bit confusing to both viewers and riders. Especially the points breakdown, and the fact that you could win a Golden Ticket and earn zero points (I think?) You see, it was very confusing.
Lastly, I wish that there were more points on offer in the final Race. To have only 10 riders left at the end shows that these riders are the best of the best, and they have truly earned their spot in the final Race. To have them earn 0-10 points felt odd especially when 17th in Race 2 earned something like 13 points. In my opinion, finishing last in the finals should be worth more than finishing 20th in the semi-finals.
What’s Next?—Round 3 Squad Skirmish
Men's Race: 21st October
Women's Race: 28th October
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.