By Daniel “Jammers” Jamrozik
The 2023 Cycling Esports World Championship Qualifiers through the eyes of Team USA and Restart Racing’s elite eracer 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.
Here's Part Three of "The Anatomy of a Race From the Mind of the Aerospace Engineer of Esports—Daniel "Jammers" Jamrozik: The Race!
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.
Race one: “Roule Ma Poule,” France, one lap
First Ascent of the Petit KOM
Let’s go racing on Roule Ma Poule! The first course of action was to remain in the peloton going up the Petit KOM unless a small breakaway group developed. JP Leclerc was to wait for that breakaway group to form. Energy “conservation,” expressed very loosely, was the initial focal point.
I had very little faith any attack that early would retain a significant enough gap after the descent. Only a Teugels W/kg comparable athlete would have a shot, which assumes no immediate peloton reaction to chase going up the KOM. Even if I get a 10 to 20-second gap, I likely will get chased down by the unyielding aggression and tenacity that several of those teams possess.
Alas, Yumeto Shigihara of Velocio did attempt the bold, solo breakaway up the KOM. Chapeau to him to try and initiate a response. The other notable observation was Zach Nehr, seemingly stranded behind. I don’t think he even rode through the start pens. I later learned or heard that he had a drop out and his internet disconnected.
Cue another dose of sugar during the descent. Leclerc, likely from insatiable excitement over the live broadcast, opted for a hard dig on the decline and gave Restart some air time. I never instructed him to do that, but that’s the panache character that our team carries.
The group’s momentum brought him back. Fortunately, his vulnerability wasn’t taken advantage of by the opposition attacking. The immediate repercussion was for Leclerc to recover before I considered attacking. Recall that my goal was to instigate a group selection for Leclerc to bridge. My attacks were passive by design: the slow roll off the front and not pressing into sustained anaerobic power or otherwise orange (red) W/kg numbers.
No one wanted to go for a good couple of minutes, so I attacked. Precisely in the manner Lionel Vujasin drifts off the front and ramps up his wattage. I cannot recall the ‘gradualness’ of my power output.
Metaphorically, I accepted the peloton as a ravenous pack of hungry dogs eyeing down that juicy beef steak meters up the road. Let’s play tango.
Let The Attacks Begin
I hoped some of the marked guys aforementioned would race with unrelenting aggression and start a flurry of attacks. Anything to drive pressure onto NeXT and increase the average race wattage so that they exhausted more of their aerobic capacity. We wouldn’t accomplish it in race one alone. Leclerc admitted his legs were beginning to cramp up. Not a great sign.
Fast forward to Scott Catanzaro of NeXT attacking solo for the ‘all or nothing attempt to win. I told Leclerc NeXT would have all their guys sit up when this happened, so the two of us waited until there were moments racers desired to reduce the gap.
Leclerc was to remain out of the wind and focus solely on the KOM. Fortunately, the peloton maintained the gap to around 20 seconds at the base of the climb.
The Finishing Climb
Let the attacks begin, and once Rugg went, I didn’t want him to escape far. I wanted him to be challenged for the top 16 finish as much as Catanzaro worked for the win, testing longevity. My move was inherently a lead-out for everyone behind, but at least I didn’t push on to the point of blowing up completely.
No longer could I race to support Leclerc. It was his chance to deliver a top-16 finish while I focused on the same. The power output came in surges for a group as clustered and cohesive as this was. Racers wanted to make moves off the front, but the herd mentality to chase was no match.
The climb is similarly draftable to Watopia Volcano KOM; stair-step, sloping gradients somewhere 4 to 7%. The winning move comes from a sustained acceleration to the finish line, more than my legs could bear.
I had to accept the circumstances and move on, but Leclerc wished me all the luck before we parted ways. He cramped mainly due to life getting in the way for him in the days leading up to the Qualifiers and didn’t optimize nutrition and sleep to their absolute maximum.
He had the correct approach to prioritize life happenings over race performance. I have tremendous respect for how he balances his values. Many on Restart empathize with it, despite our varying fitness levels.
Race One to Two—The Intermission
Shift my focus to ramping up the watts and pedaling above 90 RPM during the intermission. Flush out the lactic acid and facilitate partial replenishment of the W prime battery. Consume another dose of sugar. Study the 15 racers who advanced to the second race.
If the first race seemed passive-aggressive to the viewer, this one would likely result in the opposite. I didn’t know how many chips each racer had put on the table.
RaceTwo: “InnsbruckConti,” Innsbruck, one lap
The Winning Move
Racing begins with one Wahoo Le Col jersey gapping the peloton. I frantically darted my head back and forth between the Zwift screen and the companion app, wondering who it was. A second Wahoo Le Col jersey gapped the peloton during my studying.
Rugg was off the front, so I decided to put in a slight dig that either bridged up to those two or motivated the peloton to push the pace and, hopefully, close that gap. We narrowed that gap down to 2 seconds, but everyone in the chasing peloton sat up and refused to pull, slowing the pace again.
Warren Muir, the other off the front, courageously blew up not long after, but he aided Rugg in rapidly growing that gap to the peloton. Little did I know, Rugg would not let up. He climbed the quickest of all in our race—impressive power output after what transpired from race one.
Based on my assumption that Rugg would fade up the reverse KOM, I pulled another “conservative” attack before the KOM. I intended either gap mitigation by forcing the chasing peloton to increase speed or taking my chance at closing down a double-digit (in seconds) time gap to Rugg. The peloton chose my fate, so we let Rugg increase his time delta.
The chasing peloton began climbing the KOM, and I scouted our pacing relative to Rugg. I determined we were racing for 2nd through 9th, promotion to race three, within the first 5 minutes. It was weird to be in disbelief and still race in the heat of the moment, but improvising on the fly is an element of racing.
I ignored Rugg and focused on the remaining collection of the peloton. Keep the pace sufficiently high and hopefully cause gaps to open behind before either cracking myself or blowing up. The latter is a doomsday scenario.
Kevin Bouchard-Hall and Thomas Thrall pressed on with me, eventually gapping 5th place and back. When this gap continually grew, I let off the throttle and began preserving the legs for race three. That meant ignoring Bouchard-Hall and only watching that gap to 5th place.
Thrall followed in my footsteps, so as a consequence, I ‘played a game’ for 3rd place at the finish line. If you endure three races of this training load, you better expect a war of attrition. Mind games included!
While this ‘game’ may not have impaired Thrall much, we later find out he does not qualify from race three aftermath (see more below).
It caught my attention that Adrian Alvarado, who demonstrated his incredible talent all throughout the past Summer and even in ZGP, did not finish in the top 9. Just like the number of surprises in the earlier Europe and Africa race.
Spencer Seggebruch also did not advance. I believe he suffered a trainer drop out. A shame for him because he is as shifty a racer as I am, perhaps more patient. It was a significant development for race three.
Race Two to Three—The Intermission
Rinse and repeat the earlier intermission. High Cadence. Sugar intake. Legs felt unsettled. Tense and tight, on the verge of cramps. Only eight racers now. Aggression rewards, and the Zwift Grand Prix proves this.
Learn From Past Tactical Mistakes
For the ZGP Men’s Week 2, we repeated this same course with a somewhat similar field size of 10. I learned from my mistake in that race: to commit to the killer instinct the millisecond I make a tactical decision.
I missed the beginning of the Men’s Europe and Africa race. It would have served as excellent race tactic preparation. Bjørn Andreassen attacked; I missed my opportunity to study the when, where, and how of his attack.
There is no reversing my course of action. Back to the present, this was my race to go nuclear; empty the tank. I only envisioned the lead-in lap and first prime sprint because those burrito powerups instilled fear, especially for the small field size.
Strategy—Go Nuclear, in a Calculated Way
Rugg’s early, bold tactics were my mind game kryptonite, so my recurring thought was to attack. Forget “conservative.” Time to risk it for the biscuit. I convinced my conscience that if I initiated the attack during the lead-in, the others would hesitate just long enough for me to hold a gap to the following lap prime sprint arch.
The additional assumption was that they all deployed the burrito powerup at around the same time, basically nullifying their chase to me—comparatively, an individual time trial effort for everyone.
Race Three: “The Bell Lap,” Crit City, five laps
Here goes nothing. One minute into my attack, JM Lachance remained glued to my wheel. It didn’t go as planned. It’s easy for me to conclude I ‘lost’ 50 to 100W from my anaerobic stores, remarking after the fact. The adrenaline didn’t make it obvious, but my legs had a measurable lag.
Lachance and I were maybe 50% into the lap when I flicked my virtual avatar’s elbow repeatedly, begging him to pull. I needed a rest period, or else I’d pull at lower watts and, thus, lower speed. I thought Lachance had more energy momentarily to pull upwards of 7W/kg for somewhere 15 to 30 seconds. He wouldn’t pull and only peaked at sub 5W/kg. Shoot!
Then I noticed Bouchard-Hall attempt a solo bridge to us at a conservative 7 to 8W/kg. He weighs more than Lachance and I but also carries more momentum on a flatter course like Bell Lap. He accomplished this without dragging the others across.
I thought that was a huge plus, so once I recovered some, I tried a short pull for the three of us to grow our gap, thinking all three of us secured our spots if we were cohesive, not caring for the order we could have qualified.
I flicked my elbow again, hoping to recover before our three-up prime sprint. It wasn’t a smooth rotation, but to be fair, we likely were at or near our limits by this point in time. Bouchard-Hall also probably didn’t care much for maintaining or extending our gap to the chasing grupetto behind, so long as he preserved enough energy for an excellent sprint kick to the prime arch.
It is the frustrating ‘art’ of bike racing, or better termed in this case, Zwift racing.
The Catch and More—The First Qualification Prime Sprint
Thrall and John Bruhn launched. Thrall led Bruhn out. A definite all-in move by Bruhn as he now gapped those behind and motored his way to us. Through us.
Bouchard-Hall, Lachance, and I all reacted with different accelerations as a result of fatigued power output. We deployed our burritos out of panic.
Suddenly, Lachance and I sat in no man’s land, but Thrall’s grupetto closed quickly. They overtook us, and now, we dangled behind. Bouchard-Hall, to my astonishment, beat Bruhn at the prime arch, securing his preliminary qualification.
Second Qualification Prime Sprint—Empty
Thrall and TenElshof joined the lone Bruhn, but neither pulled at a clip above 5W/kg. Those trailing behind, including myself, regrouped. I needed recovery. Others needed recovery.
After waiting a few precious seconds, I decided to lift the pace and disregard if I towed the entire grupetto back. I wanted to take advantage of that multi-rider break up the road for the remaining three qualification spots.
Once everything settled back to grupo compacto, Ryan Atkins countered. Inevitable. I needed some recovery to draw into whatever punchiness remained for the upcoming prime sprint surge. I deployed my burrito early to make everyone near temporarily exhaust more energy for their speed. Tire them. Wear them. Make them hurt like me.
We lined out again, with TenElshof and Thrall possessing the strongest kicks. TenElshof with the preliminary qualification, leaving Thrall all alone off the front. Those behind recollected while Thrall continued sub 5W/kg.
Third Qualification Prime Sprint—Victory
I waited for a good 10 to 20 seconds to recover and assess if anyone in our chasing grupetto attacked. No response, so I attacked with lagged legs and lungs. Far from my desired acceleration, I accomplished the most important thing: gap the competition and breakaway individually.
With the momentum, I kept at my power and ‘blew’ past Thrall. To my incredible surprise, he could not kick nor lift his pace to latch onto my wheel.
I probably echoed, “Oh my God” in my conscience. It sure seemed likely I rode my way to a preliminary qualification spot.
Nathan Guerra remarked on the broadcast that I smiled. In actuality, that was my pain face: strainingly inhaling as much air as possible and exhaling vigorously. Several seconds passed. Still no reaction behind.
I have done it!
I stupidly deployed my burrito early, but my gap was fortunately large enough that it did not matter. I sat down and released all the pressure I thrust into my legs upon crossing the prime sprint arch.
Whirlwind of Emotions
I scored a preliminary qualification! The rider cam pictured me shaking my head. That was a whirlwind of emotions exiting my physical presence. Fear, anger, excitement, astonishment—it goes on.
Tiredness remained. Good grief, I thought. Hard race not only from a physical standpoint but mentally tough to grasp. As the norm, I defaulted back to spinning the cranks and regathering a sense of lowered lactic acid.
Cue the beginning of a flood of phone notifications. After quickly inspecting those notifications, I recorded a short Instagram video of my result. I’d summarize that emotional theme I depicted as ‘relief.’
I paused and ended my ride on the Wahoo head unit, promptly uploading the dual recorded data to ZADA and Zwiftpower.
Around 425W normalized for 8.5 minutes during that third race. HR averaged low 170s.
Post-Race Restless Impressions
Post-race is for recovery, but the cumulative training stress from the day yielded a jittery body by bedtime. Infrequently, it results in tingling legs with one to several paralyzing cramps from the quads, hamstrings, and calves.
The pain is so sharp it springs me out of bed. Good news — I did not experience that. Bad news — my mind was wide awake. I physically and emotionally felt restless, as though I somehow incubated myself with adrenaline.
All I could do was wait for the body to settle down. Exactly like how I had to ‘wait’ for the third race to qualify.
Patience is nothing new to me. It was the only ‘fitness’ trait I had during the recurring weeks to months of injury rehabilitation since 2018. It must be accepted when the weather, family, work, friends, or other life happenings interfere.
Fitness gains, especially the stronger you are—notably aerobic attributes, are slowed, necessitating patience. Heck. I invested years of patience gathering more cycling equipment and hardware, often waiting for the annual discount(s).
I credit patience in qualifying for the 2023 UCI Cycling Zwift Esports World Championships. Thank you for reading!
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!