An interview with Team Electric Spirit and Socks4Watts’ elite cyclist Katie Loker.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do? What do you like to do for fun? Family life, that sort of stuff.
I’m Katie, and I live in the East Midlands of England. I’m a teacher, and my class is aged between 9 and 11. They’re a great bunch and love telling cheesy dad jokes. I get to teach all subjects throughout the week, but math is my favorite.
I’m a Leeds United fan, although I’m not sure that counts as ‘fun’! They must be the most stressful team in the world to support. You can find me at the football most weekends during the season. You’ll find me open-water swimming at the lake during the summer months.
What is your cycling story? When did you start competing, and what is your racing history? What is your most significant accomplishment racing on the road?
I don’t have an extensive cycling background. I’ve always ridden bikes, but anything outdoors is always having fun on mountain bike trails or enjoying the sunshine with friends.
Growing up, I was a swimmer. My swimming squad had swimmers who became Olympic and Paralympic champions. I swam at university and kept training quite seriously into my early 30s. I had a pretty successful masters career where I represented GB at World and European masters competitions.
I won a few national masters titles and had a few World top ten rankings. 400 IM and 200 Backstroke were my favorite events. People keep encouraging me to try triathlon, but I don’t like running!
I’m 100% an eracer when it comes to cycling. All my training and racing are on Zwift.
What is your virtual cycling story? How and when did you get involved in esports? What is your most significant accomplishment racing virtually?
I started on Zwift during the first COVID lockdown here in the UK. When the swimming pools closed, I was looking for a way to get in aerobic training that didn’t involve running 😂 I bought a turbo trainer and signed up to Zwift.
It took me a long time to get to grips with how Zwift works and to get into racing properly. I did a lot of group rides and watched many YouTube videos to try to understand how it all worked. It helped me pick up lots of tips and meet some great people.
I started racing ZRL for ElectricSpirit in 2021, and I’ve developed from there. My favorite team race for ElectricSpirit was the ZRL Championship race in May this year. Everyone had such an amazing race, and we stormed our way to the first-place trophy.
For Socks4Watts, I think we’ve had brilliant results each week in the Grand Prix. We’ve all been great individually, but we’ve shown how strong we are as a team.
Individually, I was really pleased with my performance in the Continental Qualifiers. Even though I didn’t earn a qualifying spot in the last race, I was so pleased to get over the climb in the top 25. I don’t think I could have done that six months ago.
Tell us about your esports team. How has racing with your team prepared you for this moment? Is there anything unique about your team that has contributed to your success?
I love team racing on Zwift and much prefer it to individual racing. Tuesdays and Fridays are all about giving absolutely everything to pick up as many points as I can for my team.
I’m really lucky to race for two brilliant teams in different competitions on Zwift. I started racing with ElectricSpirit early in 2021. Douglas Cook invited me to join one of the ZRL teams, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I started racing in a mixed B category team, but since January this year, I’ve been racing with the women’s A team called Chanticleer.
We’ve gone from strength to strength and have become great friends along the way. This year we’ve won our division in ZRL, taken part in the knockout races, and finished the spring season by winning the ZRL Championship race on Sprinter’s Playground.
ElectricSpirit is such a great club who are supportive of racing at all levels. Douglas puts so much time and effort into creating racing opportunities for us all in such a friendly atmosphere.
The gin is amazing too!
In May, I got the opportunity to ride for Socks4Watts when Alice Lethbridge invited me to guest ride in the Zwift Knockouts. Since then, I’ve been racing with them in Thursday TTTs and the Zwift Grand Prix. I really appreciate the opportunity to race at such a high level with them. I’ve learned so much from racers like Alice and Lou and gained so much confidence.
From time to time, I also race with Burrito Titans. I try desperately to hang on to their TTT train. They’ve taught me so much about pack dynamics, bike choices, and tactics.
For a frame of reference, how tall are you, and approximately how much do you weigh in competition? What is your indoor PB for Peak Power, 15-second, 1-minute, 5-minutes, and 20-minutes?
I’m 173cm and between 56 and 59kg.
My best 15 seconds is 795 watts, and one minute is 448 watts.
I’ve been working on my 5-minute and 20-minute power; they’re currently 300 and 257 watts.
What type of rider are you? Has your riding style evolved as you become more involved and successful in esports?
I am definitely a sprinter and really enjoy short sprint segments in ZRL races. I really love the Neokyo courses with all the sprint points available.
Over the summer, I put a lot of effort into becoming more rounded as a rider. I’ve worked on my 5 to 20-minute power and feel much more confident in climbing and chasing down breaks. I can certainly be better at longer efforts and sprinting at the end of them, but I think I can race in different ways now rather than just sitting in waiting for sprint primes.
What is your go-to training workout, and why do you enjoy it so much? Has your training emphasis and philosophy changed to make you a more successful eracer?
I use races as training rather than following a really structured plan. I like ZRL to practice sprints, and the Tiny Races are a great VO2 workout. Thursday TTTs are great for a more threshold-type effort. Lately, I’ve been trying to challenge myself in climbing races too.
I find races keep me more motivated, and it’s much more social than just training alone. I think it helps with learning routes and how the pack moves in different situations too.
I like using the pace bots to get in the endurance and base-type miles outside races.
What are your short and long-term esport goals? Do they involve becoming the UCI Cycling Esports World Champion? What does that mean to you?
My goals are quite simple. I just aim to continue enjoying racing with my teammates and pushing myself as hard as I can to score those points.
It would be incredible if Socks4Watts could make the final round of the Grand Prix in March.
To take the start line at the Esports World Championships and race for GB would be such a huge honor. If it happens, I’ll be giving my all to get through to the final elimination race.
You have accomplished so much in esports. What is it that sets you apart from other virtual athletes?
I don’t think I’m set apart from other virtual athletes. There are so many incredible women that I get to race every week, and every one of them is so strong. Racing against them every week has strengthened me and helped develop my confidence.
I just really enjoy working hard and seeing how far I can push myself. I try to learn something from every race and improve in the next one.
How much do you factor in the gamification side of esports? Is there a learning curve that you must master? How vital are PowerUps and other things unique to virtual cycling?
Gamification is a huge part of being successful in Zwift racing. I’ve learned so much in the last six months that has helped improve my racing. I’m really fortunate to have brilliant teammates who have so much knowledge that they share with me.
Alice always has great insight into the courses, where to use powerups, and what other racers might do. Paul Hamblett and Ben Pitt at Burrito Titans have taught me so much about the pack dynamics and how to draft and use the momentum of the course successfully.
Powerups play a big part. Aero is king, and I really dislike the burrito! I’m starting to enjoy using the ghost to attack—although I didn’t appreciate getting ten of them in ZRL this week 😂
Tell us about your setup. Where is it located, and what do you use? What steps do you take to verify your accuracy?
My bike is set up in the corner of my living room. It’s right next to the window, and I’m sure the neighbors who walk past when I’m racing think I’m completely bonkers.
I use a Wahoo Kickr V5 and dual record my races using Assioma pedals. A key part of racing with ElectricSpirit is racing fairly. We all do a weigh-in video at the start of each ZRL season and ensure our weight is correct every week.
I’ve also completed the Zada power test and have matching outdoor efforts to go with it. I do a weekly weight check for the Grand Prix and ensure my trainer and pedals are calibrated correctly.
What is your opinion of the new race formats being used during the Zwift Grand Prix and the World Championships?
I really enjoyed the different types of racing in the Grand Prix. The races have really showcased all the rider’s strengths and skill sets. I enjoyed Squad Skirmish—the 300m sprint to the line was perfect for me. The Points Hunter was a brilliant team race. It was so tactical, and I enjoyed the team element of it.
I think the new format for Worlds will be really interesting. It will be fun to race and exciting to watch. It’s a true test of who is the best all-around Zwifter. I’ve tried the format twice so far. Both events have been incredibly hard and really pushed my limits.
Okay, I need a juicy exclusive. Tell us something about yourself that none of your fellow racers or fans know about you. Please?!?
Zwift Academy asked me this, too, and I wasn’t sure what to say. They suggested something daft like “tell us you can’t ride with no hands”—but it’s true, I can’t ride with no hands!
Next year I’d like to improve my bike handling skills and try some outdoor events.
Thank you, Katie!
Anything you’d like to ask Katie?
Ask away. Comment below! I’ll see what I can do.
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!