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The Story Behind Martin Maerten’s Continental Qualifier Victory

by Martin Maertens

The 2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers through the eyes of Team Germany and Toyota Cryo RDTs elite eracer Martin Maertens.

The 2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers through the eyes of Team Germany and Toyota Cryo RDTs elite eracer Martin Maertens.
Editor's Note:

On November 13, 2022, elite cyclists from across the globe competed for the honor of representing their country in the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships on February 18, 2023.

2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers

Race Prep

The World Championships are the biggest race of the year, and knowing that the courses of the qualifiers and the format suit me very well, I made this race one of my priorities this winter season. That meant I did a three-week training block focussing on VO2 max and anaerobic efforts leading into it.


The ZRL race on Tuesday was an excellent test of form and getting a feel for the course of race 1. I won the race in our division, so I went into the qualifiers, knowing I had achieved the form I would need.


When the start list came out on Wednesday, I knew my competition and started to believe that getting qualified was definitely within reach. The day before the race, I focused on rest and getting enough carbs in to prepare for a long and hard day on the indoor trainer.

2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers Martin Maertens Zwift image

Race 1

A bunch of around 100 riders started in the European timezone, with about 75% of it consisting of Grand Prix riders. It meant the quality was super high, and making the cut would still require a strong effort. Mistakes or wasting energy can backfire.


The group rode the first climb at a solid pace, but no actual attacks went on it, which meant we didn’t reduce the bunch. With the long flat section coming up, attacks would happen. 


I intended to sit nicely within the group and be aware of any pickups in pace. We had all our Toyota CRYO RDT riders on discord, so we were warned if any move went off the front.

A small breakaway got clear and started the climb with a lead. But knowing that not everyone in the group would make the selection into the second race meant the pace was ramping up on the climb. 


In the final kilometer, I had to push a bit harder not to get caught out, but I nicely used my aero power and got 3rd place without spending too much energy.

Race 2

The Lower Slopes

When starting the climb, Vidar Mehl of Norway was out in front, but his lead didn’t seem big enough to hold off the rest. A few moves started on the lower slopes. 


After about 1km of climbing, I decided to push off the front together with Luca Zanasca out of Italy. We bridged to the leading duo of Plantureux and Schultz, with the latter having a very unfortunate dropout a few seconds later. 


The Innsbruck climb always comes in waves of steep ramps and flat sections. I knew that every rider would push hard on the steeper sections, but when you keep the power high on the flat sections, you open up a gap to the bunch that usually sits up on these sections.

2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers Martin Maertens racing up virtual hill
The Middle

My strategy absolutely worked out in the middle part of the climb while Jo Priotte of Belgium bridged to the front group making us four riders contesting for one spot.

I was working hard to stay on the wheels while keeping a rhythm and not investing my last bit of energy or wasting it on attacks halfway into the climb. I had my Burrito powerup in mind and knew the climb flattens out on top.


So it came to the end of the longest steep section where Pirotte ramped up the pace, and with only me being able to hold his wheel, it became clear that it was down to the two of us. I slowly moved up to his side at the end of a 12% ramp.

Zwift virtual cycling avatar image of Martin Maertens
The Winning Move

Once we reached the penultimate flat section, I fired the Burrito and started digging deep. I knew he now had to match my power to keep up.


During the 15-seconds of the powerup, I put 10 meters into him, which meant he was almost out of the draft. I kept going hard on the last ramp and carried the speed into the final flat section.


The gap opened up more and more. I knew I had it! My second World Championships spot! What a moment riding away from these high-quality riders who all had a shot at winning this bike race on a good day!

Martin Maertens qualified for the Esports World Championships on Zwift

Stats for the climb: 14:17 min - 390 W - 6.26 W/kg - 180 bpm

Race 3—Post Race

Before the race, I expected to have a shot at this one, but now I could watch the guys battle it out while doing my cooldown. It was an amazing format with extremely long efforts to win the sprints. I was happy to watch my teammate Bart and my breakaway companions from race two all qualify.

2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers final race results

Congratulations to everyone qualifying over the weekend. It will be a great February race with many top-level Zwift racers competing.

Congratulations to Martin and the qualifiers?

Here’s your opportunity to cheer them on. Comment below. I’m sure they’d like to hear from you.

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