James Joseph Barnes
Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three Race Report by NeXT pb Enshored’s James Joseph Barnes!
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 Skirmish 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.
Total Teams: 12 (12 X teams of 5)
- Race 1: Short Sprint ~300m – Repeated x 4 raced by Thom Thrall
- Race 2: Medium Sprint 2.2km – Repeated x 2 raced by J Bruhn and Myself
- Race 3: Hill Climb 1.9km – Repeated x 2 raced by Brian Duffy Jr and Zach Nehr
Total Teams: 5 (5 X teams of 5)
- Race 4: Long Sprint 9.4km – raced by J Bruhn
- Race 5: Medium Sprint 2.7km – raced by Thom and Myself
- Race 6: Hill Climb 5.1km – raced by Zach and Brian
Pre-Race—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three
With these races falling on a Saturday morning for me the pre-race leg ride was my commute to work as my office day is Friday. Chasing e-bikes to the office and then cruising home to prepare for what lay ahead that morning. After racing ZRL during the week, which had the same finish as I would have in Round 1, I knew the timing was everything, and my form was coming back stronger and stronger each week. I just had to trust myself, trust the process and, when the sprints started, commit 100%.
Race Prep—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three
6:00 am: Wake Up
6:15 am: Weight In
6:35 am: Warm Up – Caffeine Gel Before and Electro After
7:15 am: Pen Open Race 1
7:49 am: Pen Open Race 2
8:38 am: Pen Open Round 2 Race 2
Remember to keep the legs turning and with some effort to prevent them falling asleep completely.
The Race—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three
Round 1 Race 1 (Event 2):
Man, there were so many unknowns. The field was a mixture of attackers and pure sprinters. We did not really know what to expect. Rugg went for a flier which Hoole jumped to too.
We were happy to let them go as we knew the bunch speed in a finish could close big gaps quickly. Also, two riders need to go deep to stay away, which then also puts them into debt for the second race.
We came to 1.3km to go, and an Italy rider jumped. The only team that was a threat so far on points in the break now is Wahoo. We back ourselves to instead smash the sprint, and both score highly than one chase, and we only get one scored rider. 700m to go, the jockey for position starts.
You do not want to be too far forwards, so you run out of the draft or too far back and miss the jump. 500m – I drift back and slowly creep forwards. I see the bunch is slowing, and I have momentum. It is my chance.
I was slowly winding it up as I rolled forwards and kicked as I hit the second row to get the jump. 1350w+ pop, and I am gone, 7m ahead of the bunch with 300m to go.
Then my Cleat says to the Pedal. Ejecto Cleato Cuz.
Clearly, Alex and Rohto prepared me too well. 58kph turns to 53kph, and the bunch swallows me as I try to recover something from nothing. Bruhn timed it to perfection, securing 4th and winning bunch kick. Sadly I could only manage 14th in a very compressed field. Before anything else happened, I grabbed my allan keys and fully tightened my pedal springs. I could not let that happen again.
Round 1 Race 2 (Event 6):
35 minutes later. After turning my legs while wandering around Watopia and fan-viewing teammates. It is time for race 2. Bruhn and myself were fully pumped for this, as it was bread and butter.
The timer clicked down, and boy, everyone was ready for Rugg. The bunch did not let anything move. The focus for me was to ride the wave and surf the draft. I ensured I was at the right spot but not fighting hard to be there.
Riders start launching long from 800m. It forced the bunch into a long single line as riders scrambled for wheels to hold the draft. Spencer launches at 500m to go from the front, and I see this from 9th. Basically, at this point, I see riders dotted along the road ahead, knowing they have all committed fully.
Here was my timing: it was early, but I knew that with 58kph, I had to roll the dice. Hold the speed and put my head down. I dare not look up, but after watching the race back, I noticed my avatar slingshot through the draft of other riders as they started to fade.
Closing in on Spencer and Mehl in the last 100m, I had just enough momentum on my side to roll Mehl, but Spencer was gone. Bruhn claimed 4th and secured a great points tally for the team. This result, along with results from other teammates, was enough to advance to round 2.
This result was a huge relief for me and a weight off my shoulders, along with a bike that somehow shifted 0.5m. Reassurance to myself that I can still do it and get results when they count.
Round 2 Race 2:
50 minutes later. Scouting this race, we knew the dip at 800m was a perfect launch pad for a hail mary, and the finish did not suit me fully as it favored w/kg over raw watts, unlike the other round. Seeing Spencer and Rugg in our pen, we knew those were the danger men. Those two, and a ghost power up, could make for something interesting.
The only downside of having six riders is that you can see everyone’s name. Starting as expected, Rugg tried to go from the gun, and I closed the gap using the momentum gained from slingshotting through the group.
Being reminded that we must watch names for when someone uses a ghost, the first mistake made. Rugg was missing, and I kicked to hopefully close the gap he created. I was unable to close it, but it caused a reaction by the group that closed me down and hopefully would create enough momentum to keep him within reach.
We made the left-hand turn onto the volcano circuit and off shoots Spencer. We knew this was dangerous and had to act decisively. I couldn’t close it and knew that if I fully committed, it would leave me vulnerable to the finish (3rd and 6th is better than 1st and last).
That’s where I knew Thom would shine, so I committed to holding the gap and delivering him as close as possible for the sprint. I was hoping Kalas would also commit and help close or hold the gap, but they were waiting for the sprint.
At 500m to go, Thom sailed off on his quest for the finish line. I closed my eyes and gave it everything I had as the rise at 300m loomed. Boy, did those 300m take their sweet time ticking away.
Thom rocked all the way to the line and took the win, and I took 5th. It secured a great double points score to back up Bruhn’s awesome result in Race 1 of round 2.
Results—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Three
Post Race—Impressions and Takeaways
The format was awesome to race and brought a new dynamic to the racing, which I think we all enjoyed as a team. Each of the races suited someone in our team, so we never really felt that we were on the back foot and knew we could rely on each other and back ourselves.
Taking 2nd on the day and now leading overall was a bonus. I enjoyed watching these races more by fan viewing a rider in the race. It made me feel much closer to the action because I could control the camera.
There’s nothing against the broadcast, but the racing was so frantic that I think they struggled to capture everything. Nathan and Dave as audio was cream to this pie. Racing started at 7:15 am and finished just after 9:15 am. There was a lot for the broadcast team to cover and give the viewers the details for the hour or so of racing.
These new formats bring great energy to Zwift. As you can see, it is changing the meta and how we, as riders, view the racing, and we look forward to them.
Shoutout to my community who watch me over on Twitch. Big thank you for your support and for cheering me on. Just like the team could not have done it without your support.
What’s Next—Round 4 Points Elimination Reverse
Men's Race: November 18th
Women's Race: November 25th
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.