by Martin Maertens
The 2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers through the eyes of Team Germany and Toyota Cryo RDTs elite eracer Martin Maertens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!