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

Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three Race Report by Toyota Cryo RDT’s Martin Maertens!

Squad Squirmish is a series of rapid-fire all-out slugfests. The races range from the 300-meter Downtown Short Sprint, where racers attack the segment four times, to the 1.9km Hilly Loop Hill Climb, where racers tackle the 57m ascent twice. 

What team will be left standing on the podium’s top step when the donnybrook is over, and all body blows have been thrown?

Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three—Squad Squirmish Format Overview

The qualification round is three different races that racers will run multiple times. The teams will divide their riders between races 1, 2, and 3. No more than two racers per team are permitted in each race, making the field sizes range from 12 to 24 riders. 

The racers will be waiting in the pens before the race starts, and only the racers chosen will leave so that racers won’t know their competition ahead of time. Racers must compete in the same race for the entire round. 

The top five teams progress to the final stage, where they begin the racer selection process again. A maximum of two riders per team compete in races 4, 5, and 6, and the races ride them once.

Qualifiers

Total Teams: 12 (12 X teams of 5)

  • Race 1: Short Sprint ~300m Repeated x 4
  • Race 2: Medium Sprint 2.2km Repeated x 2
  • Race 3: Hill Climb 1.9km Repeated x 2

Finals

Total Teams: 5 (5 X teams of 5)

  • Race 4: Long Sprint 9.4km
  • Race 5: Medium Sprint 2.7km
  • Race 6: Hill Climb 5.1km
Above images courtesy of Zwift

Pre-Race—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three

With the Zwift Grand Prix happening every second week, this race is always foreshadowing during race week. I usually do recon rides on these routes during the week when doing an easy recovery spin. This week though it wasn’t really necessary as all those courses have been ridden numerous times in other zwift races.

Our team had to select 5 riders for 3 different races, which wasn’t an easy choice. We gave it some thought on how to maximize the overall points and came up with the following squad and allocation:

Race 1: Jack Polley with having the rawest watts within the squad

Race 2: Eddy Hoole & Anders Bengston with having a solid 30s sprint and the ability to go extremely deep

Race 3: Joakim Lisson & Myself with being two of our lightest guys and having a strong 1 min power

The team had a video call on Thursday evening to discuss race tactics and make sure everyone is familiar with the points structure for this format.

Joakim and I decided to go with the pack on the climb, focus on our positioning during the first half of the climb and use our experience to execute the final kick to the line at the right moment. So actually no special tactics but a proven one.

Most of the time, the team tried to figure out the right tactics for the second race. And it worked out how we doctored around for at least 15 minutes. But later, more about that.

Race Prep—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three

  • 6:30 am: Wake up and get porridge and coffee for breakfast, then into the home office for work
  • 12:00 am: Pasta for lunch to have the body topped up with carbs
  • 4 pm: 15 min power nap
  • 6:15 pm: Weigh in video recorded, 62.8 kg meant I was perfectly in race shape, Had oats and coffee afterward, Started drinking isotonic drink
  • 7:45 pm: Started warmup, having one of my favorite fruit bars at the start of it mixed with isotonic drinks
  • 8:15 pm: Getting one of my Nopinz icepacks to cool the body pre race
  • 8:35 pm: Start of my first race, spinning the legs on Tempus fugit afterward
  • 9:08 pm: Start of my second race

The Race—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three

With this format and course you know there’s no usual first few minutes to get a feeling for the race. Everyone knows it counts basically right out of the pens. This is hard mental work and pushes race nervousness even more than usual. Additionally, seeing my teammates race in earlier races didn’t help my nervousness. But knowing that my competitors probably feel the same (are you guys?) helps a bit.

As we rolled out of the pens and it was relatively calm for the first few hundred meters, it helped me focus on the start of the KOM segment. And as expected, they (myself included) kicked it hard once the gradient hit double digits. I was actually sitting a bit further down the pack for the first few hundred meters while pushing about 9-10 W/kg. But this did not concern me very much as I knew it would roll back together on the flat section in the hairpin.

I opened up my sprint with 400 m to go in the 10th position. Pushing 10.6 W/kg for 37s after having already done an effort of 9.2 W/kg for the first 48s of the climb. I was mainly positioned somewhere between a 7-10th position for that sprint ultimately finishing in 7th position.

My teammate Joakim flew by me with even higher wattages, barely missing out on the win, only beaten by Lennert Teugels. What a result for Toyota CRYO RDT!?! 17 points meant we won this particular race and advanced into second intermediate place overall.

A little throwback to race 2 with my teammates Eddy and Anders: Like we discussed the day before, it was Eddy’s task to go long on the lead-in of the sprint. We had a look at the ZRL races happening during the week and figured out that an advantage of 6-8s at the start of the sprint should be enough. Eddy Went hard after the pack had exited the pens following a move of Rugg from WLC with Italian Gaffuri bridging to them. And it worked out! Albeit being beaten on the line by these two, Eddy got third place and ten valuable points.

Unfortunately, the other races didn’t go to our advantage, which meant the pressure was on Joakim and me to hopefully push us back from 7th place into 5th and reach the finals.

My second race started with Jamrozik (Velocio) and Plantureux (Hexagone) going right from the start. I didn’t see them going to the line at that moment, but they proved us wrong, making it a race for third place behind. Hats off to these two!

The first part of the KOM was a bit slower than in race 1 (7.7 W/kg), but that meant it would be even harder in the second half. My position was okay in the hairpin, but I launched my sprint a bit too early this time and was sitting at the front of the pack with 300m to go. My teammate Joakim nevertheless made use of his enormous peak power and flew by me with 14.8 W/kg, taking third place.

I ended up in a disappointing 13th place, and that disappointment followed me until the next morning. But I realized once more that it’s the small differences in how you approach a race finish that decide it at an elite level. So many guys have similar abilities and power numbers as yourself, and it’s really about smart racing and making the right decision intuitively in these fast-paced situations.

Results—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three

Overall, the team finished in 7th place on the night provisionally. A solid result for us as a team without the depth in the squad like the leading teams such as Next, WLC, or ABUS. We maintained our 5th place in the series standings and look forward to bouncing back in Round 4 of the Zwift Grand Prix! We know that we are on the edge of establishing ourselves as one of the Top 5 teams on Zwift, and keep on working hard for that.

Strava: Find Martin’s first race here and second race here.

ZwiftPower: Find the first race here and the second race here.

Check out Martin’s Youtube stream here and a replay of the Race stream here.

Post Race—Impressions and Takeaways

Congratulations to Coalition Alpha for winning this Round! Having three different teams winning the first 3 Rounds of the Grand Prix shows how close the competition is, and we will see some high-class racing within the next three rounds.

My personal takeaway is that I will have to tweak the little details like peak power and sprint timing. But overall, we are still at the beginning of the indoor racing season, and knowing how my form builds from the past, I’m confident in even better sprint efforts.

This format, though, was a bit strange, in my opinion. I would like to see more variation in the races with different courses for the hill climb or sprints to favor different types of riders. Especially in the short sprint, the results were very predictable, with the same guy winning it four times.

I hope the viewers enjoyed watching it. I think Nathan and Dave had a blast on the livestream, commentating on it as it delivered close and nail-biting racing back-to-back. It definitely favored the pure power riders, and I would hope to have factors like fatigue resistance play a bigger role the next time we tackle this format.

PS: If any of my fellow racers or readers know how I can fix my stream to not be laggy when sitting within the pack I’m happy for some help. The game itself runs smoothly on my screen.

What’s Next—Round 4 Points Elimination Reverse Men: 18th November, Women: 25th November

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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