The 2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers through the eyes of Team USA and Restart Racing’s elite eracer Daniel “Jammers” Jamrozik.
By Daniel “Jammers” Jamrozik
Do you ever have the feeling that some people think on a different plane than you do? Despite how deep you think you dive, that individual’s pool is deeper than yours.
That’s what I thought when I first read this report from Daniel “Jammers” Jamrozik. Truthfully, it wasn’t the first thing. My immediate thought was, “This is long. There’s a lot of stuff here. Who’s going to want to read this?”
The answer was clear as I sifted through the insightful detail, patient perspective, and analytical award that Jammers presented.
Who’s going to want to read this? The person interested in what goes through the mind of a cerebral athlete when no detail is too small, or nuance overlooked. The bike racer seeking a tactical edge and the mental matches it takes to get it.
Ever wonder what’s going on inside the brain of an elite athlete whose most extraordinary talent may be what he does before he clips into the pedals? Read this, and you will find that it’s as interesting as the thought-by-thought calculations of the race itself. And that’s fascinating.
I broke it down like this. Part One: Pre-Race—More Than 8 Hours Before the Race Start.
Part Two: Race Day—Less Than 8 Hours Before the Race.
Part Three: The Race!
Here's Part One of "The Anatomy of a Race From the Mind of the Aerospace Engineer of Esports—Daniel "Jammers" Jamrozik
Greetings! I hope you all enjoyed the race coverage from broadcasters, media, and racers alike. This is my synopsis of how the UCI Cycling Esports Men’s Continental Americas Qualifiers unfolded.
Article Precursor—Things to Keep in Mind
1. I did not anticipate the array of emotions I experienced throughout race day (composure, excitement, nervousness, calmness, fear, surprise, frustration, relief, & restlessness).
2. I only sporadically watched the Men’s Europe & Africa coverage. This is detailed more towards my latter races.
3. Apologies in advance when I do not include every insider secret. Team perk for Restart Racing, but I encourage continued learning by doing, i.e., trying something new.
4. One giant secret is speed, understanding & utilization. Like protecting your front wheel outside, you must ‘protect’ your avatar speed on Zwift. It might be a juicy secret. Oops.
5. Whenever I bring up “conservative,” it refers to maintaining a more steadied power output—thereby reducing the cardiac strain on my body and lessening the heart rate spiking. Physiologically, a hard dig would keep my HR pegged at a higher value—what sets me apart from a stronger anaerobic capacity cyclist—possibly a consequence of different muscle fiber compositions.
Pre-Race—More Than 8 Hours Before the Race Start
I won’t dive into the pre-verification specifics because we accomplished that by September, just before Zwift Grand Prix (ZGP) commenced. I will note, however, that you must do the ZADA power test on strong, fresh(er) legs and understand that you will succumb to the pain. Lots of it. Respect the procedural process and be as meticulous as you can be. More data is a good thing, so long as all biomarkers are nonzero.
Zwift forwarded the race (tech) book/guide to the racers on the 4th of November, with the Men’s races scheduled on the 13th of November. I found adequate time to ingest all the information in the 31-page PowerPoint slide presentation. (I refuse to share it for fear of violating potential terms for the “not for distribution” clause nested as the footer of each page.)
There was ongoing communication via email or their dedicated forum page regarding the Continental Qualifiers. Zwift fulfilled ZADA-compliant registrants with all the race day sign-up links. Nothing new if you’re used to racing in the absolved Premier Division or the current Zwift Grand Prix.
Digesting the course selection and race format was a manageable effort. The organizers provided us with two other key variables, total registered racers and who they were on Wednesday, 9th of November. Let’s plunge into some analytical insight.
Analytical Insight—Rider Breakdown, Team Recon, and Race Strategy
I recall 7 NeXT names. 5 to 6 Velocio. 5 from Wahoo Le Col (WLC). Three from Restart, including me, and then a tiny assortment of unsupported riders. 36 in all, if I remember correctly.
The one that caught my eye to draw a story upon was Cameron Cogburn of Saris-NoPinz. Astonishing to see just one figure from this team. They brought a heavy lineup to the 2021 Qualification format. I postulate this dramatic shift resulted from the stricter hardware regulation protocols and conflict of loyalty to trainer sponsorship. Under current firmware, the Saris H4 didn’t qualify as an accepted device. I respect Saris-Nopinz’s race ideologies, particularly for the nuances of Zwift, and I look forward to their future virtual racing endeavors.
A Bit on Zwift vs. IRL Racing
Without more numbers from Saris-Nopinz and Restart conglomerate, I anticipated the dynamics would skew towards the bigger represented teams of NeXT and Velocio. I used some of their recent Zwift Racing League (ZRL) divisional races as a case study to understand their tendencies and racing characteristics. I coupled this with my virtual racing history dating back to 2019 (technically, 2018) to attempt to predict anything of “the unexpected.”
Even if you correctly predict the type of attack that ends up being decisive, you still may need to identify where on the course it could happen. It’s not as detrimental in missing the timing of the attack on Zwift as it is in real life (IRL).
IRL takes the elements of gap closures, spatial obstacles (e.g., other racing cyclists), and weather, among other factors, as dynamic variables that could always slow you down. It can cascade into a big gap very quickly if you find yourself in a non-opportunistic position at the wrong time in a mass of 100+ racing cyclists.
However, timing can be significant on Zwift when a competing athlete like Lennert Teugels attacks, provided that this exceptional athlete understands Zwift physics and pack dynamics. Don’t try to race like a Tim Declercq on Zwift when you anticipate no race attacks. The key word here is “when.” I won’t discuss much on how I approached Velocio, as Restart teammate Adrien Vuillier and I were graciously accepted to aid them in their pursuit of ZGP.
The Big Teams—NeXT Esports pb Enshored and Wahoo-Le Col and Ones to Mark
NeXT functions like a cohesive assembly line synonymous with the disciplined lead-out train of L39gion in the North American scene or Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl (Soudal QuickStep, starting in 2023) on the World Tour level. Their guys are regimented to steadily share the workload throughout to chase down or bridge to a breakaway.
Alternatively, they have their strongest anaerobic, power-producing men accelerate the pack speed within the final 1 kilometer, ultimately working for their strongest sprinter(s) relative to the course profile. They definitely are a team that desires some level of control in the breakaway, meaning they trust one Teugels equivalent or several more men of lesser ability.
Then we move on to assessing WLC. Timothy Rugg and Adrian Alvarado were immediately at my attention. Both have animated racing relative to their phenotype. Similar abilities, but racing for Base Media Racing were Alex TenElshof and Joseph Chudyk. Spencer Seggebruch, local to me, is also a known, clever racer. JM Lachance, a close Canadian friend for several amongst Restart Racing, likes to get feisty and involved off the front.
Also signed up was USA Cycling Esports National Champion, awarded on RGT Cycling, Mason Rocca. This man deserves far more Dave Towle-isms in recognition of his massive absolute power.
My Restart Team Strategy
My two Restart teammates were JP Leclerc and Mike Sarnecki. Both were timid about their chances to qualify or even advance to the second race. We later discovered that Sarnecki had lingering COVID effects and did not start. Leclerc, on the other hand, consulted with me on how he could “luck” his way into race 2, as we both were fearful his fitness was borderline top 16 material amongst this field and course profile finish.
I told him the one opportunity could be a multi-rider breakaway, and I would instigate the selection as a result of wishful counterattacks from other riders. I was to conduct my attacks on the conservative side and avoid burning the race matches requiring my top-end power.
The intent was to make the less aerobically capable racers burn their energy tanks for the following races. I also had a backup plan for how I carried out the conservative attacks, but that never happened.
I further told Leclerc to be very hyper-vigilant with Rugg, with “darkhorse” TenElshof as another breakaway candidate that could go long. In either case, NeXT would do the chase work in the peloton, followed by Velocio. If NeXT or Velocio initiated something, Leclerc would be wise to join, as it meant their remaining riders would try to disrupt or otherwise discourage a peloton chase attempt.
On the contrary, Leclerc conditionally was instructed not to join the breakaway within a certain distance from the finish line, as some scenarios were deemed too risky for a small composition of riders and weaker time trialist phenotypes.
All of this planning felt habitual. It inspires confidence and calms any chronic anxiety … until race day.
Next Up! Part Two: Race Day—Less Than 8 Hours Before the Race
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!