The Inside View of the Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four—Through the Racer’s Eyes 

by Liz Van Houweling

Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four Points Hunter Race Report by Saris No Pinz elite racer Liz Van Houweling!

Photo: Zwift

Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four—Points Hunter Overview

The Zwift Grand Prix Round 4 features the innovative and sure-to-be exciting new format Points Hunter. The five teams and their 60 racers will set out on the 35km Chasing the Sun course, where five intermediate prime points and the finish awaits.

 

Each intermediate awards different points and places deep, but there’s a twist. If a rider is savvy and strong enough to earn points for their team, it eliminates them from the race—Reverse Elimination.

Photo: Zwift

The Points Elimination Reverse will put the teams to the test of tactics, timing, and toughness!  

Pre-Race—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four

I looked forward to this racing format more than in the previous weeks. The rules were still foreign, but it felt like it had the potential to be more similar to a traditional race and allow us to race as a true team.

 

My preparation for the race was less than perfect. I arrived home from Spain less than a week earlier and was recovering from sickness. I was unsure how both my body and mind would react to the intensity required for racing. Race day was also the day after Thanksgiving for us, adding to the fun. Luckily, we had a stress-free holiday, and I felt ready enough for the challenge.

Race Prep—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four

Here’s what I did in the few hours before the  Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four race: 

  • 5:30 am: Wake up, drink coffee, relax, and enjoy an abnormally quiet house
  • 8 am: Fix breakfast for the kids and me (oatmeal with berries)
  • 9-11 am: Bake pumpkin muffins, pack bags for everyone for a weekend road trip
  • 11:15 am: Weigh in, then Lunch—Turkey sandwich, banana, pumpkin muffin, more coffee
  • 12:45 pm: Enter the pens, tech check
  • 1:00 pm: Warm up, get on discord with the team

The Race—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four

This was a unique format race and would require us to make quick decisions mid-race based on how it was unfolding. My Saris NoPinz team came in with the loose plan of trying a team attack with a few people for the earlier, low-point sprints (ideally with a few ghost powerups!). I was to save my legs early in the race, make it over the Temple climb with the front, and go all in for the Tower sprint.

The Alley Sprint

The race started with a few early aggressors right out of the pens, as the first sprint came very early. Everything came back together, and my team sat in as Twenty24’s Naomi de Pennington took down the first single point from the Alley Sprint.

The Railway Sprint

Next up was the Railway Sprint, and we sent Sarah Morrison off the front when we hit the small incline about a kilometer out. She stayed away and took the two points available for first across the line. Points on the board, and mission accomplished!

 

The Country Sprint came next, and the plan was to attempt a team attack with everyone else except for me. I was to sit in and save myself for the climb and subsequent sprints. Attacks started flying about 1.5k out, and it ended up basically being a drawn-out sprint with the entire group having to put in a decent effort to stay in touch. None of us got any points which meant we still had four girls left to try to stay in touch up the Temple Climb.

The Temple Climb

The pace eased and allowed me to recover before what I knew would be a big effort up the Temple Climb. We did this climb in one of the Premier Division races earlier in the year, and I was distanced at the top when steamroller powerups started flying. I did not feel my fitness was as high as the last time we raced it, so I was uncertain if I’d be able to stay with the front group. I hoped a few riders who were going for QOM points would charge off the front, and the rest of the group would ride a more “gentle” pace.

 

That was mostly how it unfolded, although my larger group ended up catching some of the front couple.  We had the chance to sprint the last couple hundred meters for points for those who wanted that option. I rode conservatively and made sure to stay out of the top 4.

 

I crested the top easily in contact after the first few were eliminated, and we began the descent with only 14 riders in the front group. None of my Saris NoPinz teammates were with me, so I knew I needed the maximum number of points I could manage. We had a long time to recover before the next Tower Sprint, and I planned to go all in for it. The slight uphill finish of it would suit me more than the pan-flat finish sprint.

The Tower Sprint

As we got closer to the segment, girls who didn’t trust their sprints took turns blasting off the front. Eventually, five were off the front by a few seconds, and I decided to change my tactics and wait for the finish sprint.

The Finish—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four

The Finish

I thought I was paying attention, but I somehow missed the ghost attack of Hayley Simmonds right after the Tower Sprint. I eventually saw a Movistar girl a bit ahead of my group, but I thought the Movistar rider had gotten points and been eliminated at the previous sprint. Turns out I was mistaken!

 

I rode patiently in my group of about ten riders. Nobody opened up early, so I waited until about 300 meters to go, dropped my aero powerup, and sprinted to take the win from the “bunch” about 20 seconds behind Simmonds. That awarded me 5 points, bringing us up to 7 for the day.

Quick power breakdown of Round 4 of the Zwift Grand Prix:

Entire Race: 50:56 201 watts Avg Power, 231 watts Normalized

Temple KOM: 4:52 291 watts, 5.2 w/kg

Final 15-sec sprint: 734 watts, 13.0 w/kg

Click for the race and to connect with Liz Van Houweling!

Results—Zwift Grand Prix Women’s Round Four

Post Race—Impressions and Takeaways

Before the race, I was slightly skeptical about the Points Elimination Reverse format. However, this was actually my favorite format thus far in the Grand Prix series. There were various ways that the race could unfold, and teams could ride together and play to their strengths as a team unit.

 

With so few points available for the race as a whole, every point mattered. The smaller points at the beginning meant that riders who don’t often score points were more likely to be “allowed” to go up the road and contribute. Heavily weighting points at the end meant that these segments were hotly contested. Some of the strongest riders ended up not scoring any points, which makes for interesting racing!

 

I was much happier with my personal performance in this round than in any of the previous races. I conserved energy when needed, stayed in touch up the climb, adapted my plans as necessary, and had a solid and well-timed sprint for the finish. My only regret is not seeing that darn ghost power up!

What’s Next—Round 5 Team Elimination Omnium

Men's Race: December 2nd
Women's Race: December 9th

Up next is a new take on the Team Elimination Omnium. There are three races in total, with points, primes, and eliminations strewn throughout each round. It may be decided by the final 12 riders on the Innsbruck Conti hill climb, a course that we saw for the first time in the recent UCI Esport World Championships Qualifiers.

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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