By Lennert Teugels
Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Five Race Report by Abus Lecol’s Lennert Teugels!
Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Five—
Team Elimination Omnium Overview
The stakes are higher than ever for the teams and racers competing in the Zwift Grand Prix Round Five—Team Elimination Omnium. If the racers aren’t at the top of their games, they will be sitting in the infield looking out at the elite field, victims of this relentless three-race format taking place on Zwift’s Makuri Island.
The twelve teams will throw their five best riders into the ring for race one. The points race on the 14.5km Bridges and Boardwalks course will reduce the field to 30, entering race two.
Race two, another points race, will be contested on the 15.7km Island Hopper course, awarding points to riders at three intermediate sprints and the finish.
Twelve racers advance to the third and final contest, another slugfest up the Innsbruck Continental Hill Climb. Only the strongest climbers will survive and earn max points; the accumulated tally for the three races will determine the overall standings.
Race Prep—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Five
In the Europe timezone, the Zwift Grand Prix is in the evening, so I usually do a 2 to 3-hour ride outside (if the weather is okay) during the day. The rest of the day, I can just rest and chill. I realize that is a huge advantage over people with the physical and mental pressure from a job. I can do optimal preparation, just like a road race.
I usually don’t do recons as I know all the routes perfectly after two years of Zwift, but I did this one on new Urukazi roads. I spent two hours this week on a ride navigating to get the lap in my head.
I knew the first race was impossible for breakaways, so I planned to stay calm and start my sprint early enough, not getting stuck behind burrito powerups. My teammates had the same ideas. If I made it to race 2, I was pretty sure I was also going to make it to race 3.
For me, race 1 was perhaps the trickiest race of the whole Zwift Grand Prix season. Staying calm was essential.
We had two sprinters (Vanhee and Deroose), two climbers (Devalckeneer and me), and Paridaens, who’s basically all-around outstanding. We decided not to spend too much energy on the first intermediate. Progressing to round 2 would be the most significant point hitter.
I was working last week into my general tactics. I learned that if I don’t waste too much energy on pointless attacks, I do have a chance in a (long) sprint. In past races, I focused on how to sprint, primarily working on my timing.
Pre-Race—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Five
It could be a weirdo on this one, but I don’t do a warm-up. I feel like all the energy you use before the start is lost. I ride in the morning, and if I feel okay, I just pedal for 5 min at 150W before the beginning of the event. As soon as the adrenaline kicks in, I feel warmed up immediately.
My team discusses most scenarios in advance, then we call during the race on WhatsApp and support each other that way.
Not much goes through my mind while I’m waiting in the pens. I try to prepare myself mentally that it’s gonna hurt but that it’s the same for everyone.
I was pretty nervous about race 1. I knew the trickiest part was over if I got through that one. But it was easy to mess it up!
I tried not to look too much at the other riders. It would only make me nervous to see how many riders have better sprints. A fresh 15-second kick is a big difference from sprinting after a hard race. But I noticed many teams chose sprinters over climbers for this one.
Here's My Pre-Race Schedule
8 AM: wake up and breakfast
10 AM: 2h ride outside (easy)
1 PM: eat a big meal, trying to make it till 6.15 without too much snacking
5.45 PM: 30 min leg test, dropping some last grams for the weight in
6:15 PM: weigh-in video
6:20 PM: dinner. Not too much, as a full stomach isn’t favorable
8: 00 PM: team call and last tactics
8:10 PM: warmup
8:15 PM: race time!
The Races—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Five
I thought about attacking after the intermediate sprint, but the pace was high. The entire lap was around 50km/h, so that an attack would need 6.5wkg pulls at least, and that made it clear it would be a bunch sprint.
I decided halfway to gamble on a bunch sprint and launch early. I didn’t get a draft powerup, so it was risky. I didn’t use the burrito as I thought it would play to my disadvantage when you launched early, and it turned out to be correct.
It was my shortest race ever. I saw two guys attacked early on, and I figured out an attack now was risky but with a high reward. Three riders would pass on to Round 3 at the first intermediate, but if you took someone on your wheel, you would eliminate yourself. Take the risk or lose the chance!
I tried not to make too many plans in advance and just feel the race. A reverse elimination race is always weird, with many attacks. If you have a couple of seconds gap, it’s done. Nobody will sacrifice his chances for you, especially when you have so few teammates in the group.
So you must go with the flow and always stay in command. Once you get into the defense, it’s game over. I saw an opportunity immediately at the first sprint and took speed through the pack.
There was an instant gap, and that was it. I think Brian Duffy wanted to react, but my speed going out of the pack was high enough, which made him sit up. I guess I was a bit lucky too.
Race Three and the Finish—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Five
The most straightforward format was the hardest for the legs—a 20 min test on Innsbruck KOM after already racing two times full gas.
Qualifying in the first sprint of race 2 was a significant advantage. I had almost half an hour of recovery, while the winners of race two at the finish raced nearly 20 min longer! I knew I had to make the race as hard as I could.
That’s why I reacted immediately to small pre-climb attacks from Jones and Havot. I planned to let nobody go. I was expecting Plantureux to push the gas down, but instead, it was Ollie Jones who paced the first half of the climb. He went hard, but it was manageable.
I didn’t really attack, but I tried to keep pace when others started to fade. It might look easy when you’re alone, but it’s a constant fight with yourself. I’m happy I could keep it. This result for me was amazing. Being the favorite makes people think it’s easy, but you still need to do it.
Results—Zwift Grand Prix Men’s Round Five
With a 2nd place in race 1, qualifying immediately in race 2, and a win in race 3, it could not have been better for me personally.
Our team was very unlucky. We had two riders who just missed out on the 30-rider limit in race 1. From that moment, the pressure was on Jasper Paridaens and me. Losing also Jasper by a hair in race 2 (he also had a dropout but fought back) was bad luck for the team again. Overall it wasn’t a great day for the team.
The format was great, and it saw a lot of action, but the points scoring was a bit weird. Some teams hardly made it to the screen, yet they got loads of points. But that’s also a quality. Getting the points in and being smart, that’s what it is all about, of course.
Inconsistent Results—To Be Continued...
Something still needs to be said about the results. There seemed to be a bug in the first race, which influenced the rest of the races. In our team, Paridaens sprinted clearly in the top 20. He finished around position 12 in the stream, just like on his screen. However, he didn’t pop up in the results at all.
Same for Thomas Thrall for Next Esports. I’m unaware if there were more riders like this, but this played a significant role in the race. Because for example, Plantureux, now the 30th and last man coming to race 2, would not have been there.
It reminds me a bit of the magical appearance of Ben Hill in the first premier division in Neokyo last year. So for now, the results are not confirmed yet, and if this turns out to be a bug (the option that both Thrall and Paridaens had a wifi dropout is still open, but unlikely), maybe a cancellation (just like last time) of all results might be the only correct solution. To be continued…
Post Race—Impressions and Takeaways
The multiple-race formats are so much more challenging than just scratch races. It’s to the advantage of the most complete athletes. Earlier structures were for specialists, and this season is for riders who are all around.
It’s quite demanding, both physically and mentally. You can be happy with an outstanding performance, but 10 min later, the next race is already there, and you need to battle again for the points. That’s harsh
It’s brutal and more spectacular for the broadcast, but it’s pretty demanding for the riders. You can race an ‘easy’ sprint scratch race every day on Zwift, but this takes some time to recover from, physically and mentally.
The big bonus is that attacking gives results. The riders with the big balls get the reward for it. That was a big problem in the earlier Zwift Premier Division. The races are more open now, but because of that also harder. We need to keep an eye on the balance there.
The idea was simple, to get as many riders through to race two and score maximum points there, as race three was not that important anymore. Our team didn’t get luck on our side, and that’s where we lost it. The key was to get as many riders through race one rather than scoring points in that race. Other teams were stronger, scoring big points with multiple riders.
We were all quite disappointed. But that’s where our good team spirit kicks in again. We’re still in the game, and we ended with positive energy!
The format was excellent. Only the points scoring is a bit upside down. I remember an earlier format, where there were also multiple races, and the final elimination criterium didn’t change anything in the results because of a lack of points.
The ‘Grand finale’ should be a race with an overload of points where the final standings can be turned upside down by riders who dare to go all in! The last race was more of a prestige race rather than a race for points.
What’s Next—Round 6 Individual Relay
Men's Race: January 13th
Women's Race: January 20th
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.
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, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!