Liz Van Houweling
Zwift Grand Prix Women's Round Two Race Report by Saris-NoPinz eracer Liz Van Houweling!
Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Two—Team Elimination Omnium Format Overview
The Team Elimination Omnium is three back-to-back races reducing the field of 60 starters after each event for the Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Two. 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 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!
Pre-Race—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Two
Coming into this second week of racing, I was hoping to perform better than in week 1. I thought the racing format of 3 back-to-back races with more women eliminated in each race would suit my Saris NoPinz team well.
A few of my teammates and I did a Richmond meet-up the weekend before the race. We discussed key points and focused on how we thought the challenging Libby Hill/23rd St combo would play out. We discussed how we’d approach this area and what we believed were realistic goals.
Initially, we thought the golden ticket rules were different, but after watching the men’s race the week before, we realized there was no huge benefit in going for the golden tickets, especially in race 1. The points structure seemed strange, so our goal was just to advance as many riders as possible from race 1 and stay as fresh as possible for the subsequent races.
As race week progressed, we were still trying to piece together a full team of 5. Our roster was set one day before the race, albeit with one of our girls still suffering the side effects of food poisoning! But we were all ready and excited to give it our best shot.
Race Prep—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Two
- Wake up at 4:45 am
- 8:30 am: Fix breakfast for always hungry children and myself (oatmeal with frozen berries)
- Take the kids to the library so my husband can have a quiet workplace
- 11:15 am: Weigh in
- Eat turkey sandwich and a banana
- Drink coffee and play the “shark game” with the kids while I wait for the pens to open 30 min before the race
- 12:45 pm: Open Zwift, call into the Zoom call, change my in-game weight, fill my bottles (one water and one Skratch Hydration mix)
- 1 pm: Gentle warm up, calibrate power meter
- 1:15 pm: Race 1 GO TIME!
The Race—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Two
This Richmond course is one of my favorites. Our goal was to get as many riders through to race 2 as possible. We knew five golden tickets were available at the Broad Street sprint, and then safely, the top 25 at the finish line would qualify for the next round.
The race started relatively slow, especially by Zwift standards. It felt like a nice little recovery ride for a good long while! Eventually, Hayley Simmons ventured out solo, searching for a golden ticket, and the pack largely didn’t respond. She stayed away easily for the sprint and free pass. A few others went hard for the remaining spots while my Saris NoPinz teammates and I sat in the group and waited patiently for the real fireworks.
Everything came back together, and our slow pace ensued as we made our way toward the infamous Libby Hills/23rd St climbs. Things definitely heated up over those two short, steep hills, but it was not an all-out sprint effort like it would have been if there were points available on each segment. I led over Libby Hill, recovered on the downhill, and punched again over 23rd.
By the time we hit the downhill before the climb back to the finish, we had shed half the field, and a front group of about 22 riders remained. As long as no one from behind caught us, I knew that Anna Russell, Morgan Uceny, and I were safe. Sarah Morrison wasn’t far behind as she tried to chase back, so we didn’t drive the front of our group.
Ultimately, Kristen Kulchinsky did just that and soloed to the win while I eased my way in for 21st place. I knew I’d need everything I could muster from my legs for race 2 and was grateful to not have to put in a big sprint finish effort.
Libby Hill: 1:16, 404 watts, 7.2 w/kg
23rd St: 32 sec, 419 watts, 7.4w/kg
Entire Race: 24:11, 197 watts, 3.5w/kg
Surrey Hills. Just saying it makes me feel slightly nauseous. This course does NOT suit my strengths. While I’ve gotten significantly better at climbing, I would still in no way say that it is a strength of mine. With very little downhill and flat on the course, I knew it’d be a struggle to get top 7 at the finish.
I decided that if the pace didn’t go too crazy fast early, I’d have a chance at a golden ticket awarded to the top 3 across the finish line of Fox Hill. Shortly after the official part of the first climb started, Hayley Simmons again set off solo with Kristin Kulchinsky chasing after her. Two golden tickets were going up the road.
I was worried but decided to go that early didn’t play to my (limited!) strength climbing. I’d stick in the group and attempt to make a late surge to the line to pick up the last ticket. And it very nearly went so perfectly until it didn’t!
Not only did I only get 4th across the line by the slimmest of margins and NO golden ticket, but I also managed to drop myself on the descent while I waited for the communication to come through about who got the last spot. Double frustrating!
At this point, I was pretty annoyed with myself, but I knew there were still a lot of points on the table. I waited for the big group behind me to catch on the descent and jumped in with them. We rode surprisingly easy through the bottom part of Surrey Hills as we made our way to the second climb of the day, the steeper Leith Hill.
At this point, the top 13, including my teammate Morgan Uceny, were up the road. I knew every point still mattered, though, and we were close with Aeonian on points after the first race, so my main goal was to finish ahead of those riders in my group.
Still, no one seemed too keen to push the pace super hard in our group. I surged a bit at the bottom, backed off, followed wheels through the middle, and then made a hard charge the last 500 meters to the line. I took the “win” out of my group and, more importantly, finished ahead of the Aeonian riders. It wasn’t the race I was hoping for, but we had at least qualified Morgan through to the final round and were sitting 4th on points after two races.
Morgan smashed it in race 3, and we were all so proud of her smart and strong racing! I wished I could have been there with her, but she did an awesome job representing Saris NoPinz.
Fox Hill: 5:49, 304 watts 5.4w/kg
Leith Hill: 5:51, 282 watts 5w/kg
Entire Race: 29:26, 227 watts, 4.0 w/kg
Results—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Two
Thanks to everyone on the team’s massive efforts, we were able to pull off 3rd for the day. And a tantalizing close 1 point away from second!
Strong performances in race 2 saw us move all the way from 8th to 3rd!
Post Race—Impressions and Takeaways
Overall I was happier with my performance on an individual level than I was from race 1. However, I was still left pretty disappointed. I took a tiny bit of confidence that I could climb stronger in race 2 than I perhaps anticipated. I lost focus at the top, which is more frustrating than simply not having the legs. But I’ll take what positives I can from this one and look forward to the next!
Our team was delighted with how we performed overall. We didn’t have a full squad 24 hours before the race, and we came away with a 3rd on the day and for the series. We’re excited about continuing to make a strong push in the following rounds because there are a lot of teams not far behind us!
Regarding the actual points distribution of the races, I felt there was a lot that the organizers could have improved. The format was fine, but the way they awarded golden tickets and points seemed to provide little incentive for aggressive racing.
There was no point in wasting too much energy for higher places in the first race because the top 30 all got the same points. One could argue that it made the golden tickets even less valuable because expending energy there might mean you’d be outside the top 30 and receive fewer points. Maybe award EXTRA points in going for the golden ticket? And then do a descending points distribution across the finish line, so people have the motivation to try harder?
The last race also provided very few points overall when it should have been the pinnacle of the entire day! The entire points system just seemed a bit strange to me. But we knew what it was like before the race, so we played the game accordingly! However, it’s something I’d like to see them consider changing for the future.
Whats Next - Round 3 Squad Skirmish
Men's Race: October 21st
Women's Race: October 28th
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.