In the span of three days in early January 2023, Zwifters broke the single-day TTT record and set the bar for the first sub-three hour 150 km.
The fantastic feats of focus, fortitude, and force highlight the virtual cycling platform’s forte′s—community, convenience, and competition. Plus, why traditional cycling pessimists may pause to applaud.
To say cyclists are a competitive lot may be the understatement of the metric century. In the age of ubiquitous Strava KOMs and Fastest Known Times (FKT), the only thing outpacing the cyclist’s press for PRs is how to judge them.
When the pandemic pushed the friendly foes indoors, the confined competitions became concentrated on virtual courses. Zwift’s version of the town line sprint appeared at virtually every corner, and HoloReplay Ghost Riders, fueled by your PBs, taunted you at every turn.
The stir-crazy stationary cyclists set a new Virtual Everesting record each time your browser refreshed. The community of like-minded adversaries had found a convenient place to practice their cycling one-upmanship. The traditionalist fled back to the roads when restrictions eased, but the building momentum to push the virtual envelope didn’t wane.
Zwift Records Fell in a Frenzied Flurry
In the span of three days in early January 2023, Zwifters set two epic records riding the slipstream of the platform’s community, convenience, and competition.
On January 12, 2023, a core group of three Zwifters set out to break the record for consecutive virtual Team Time Trials (TTTs) performed in a single day, set initially at 11 on June 23, 2022, with their bar set on 22 high-powered performances.
Then two days later, a group of strongmen and women gathered in the virtual pen with sites set on a sub-three hour 150km record.
Incredible, Perhaps too Outstanding?
Incredible, perhaps too astounding to understand for some traditional virtual cycling skeptics. The authors of this September 2022 paper published in the Journal of Electronic Gaming and Esports set out to answer a few questions that prevent traditional cyclists from adopting esports as an entirely new discipline within cycling.
Jonas and Marlene Bjarehed are Swedish exercise psychology and social scientists. They are also elite virtual cyclists competing in esports’ upper echelon, the Zwift Premier Division and the Zwift Grand Prix.
Is Virtual Performance Comparable to Traditional Cycling?
Their hypothesis was: Virtual racing primarily demands physiological performances comparable to traditional cycling.
“Within the community, this is, of course, self-evident,” affirms Jonas, “but for the broader traditional cycling public, there is no clear recognition or understanding of the specific demands of this type of cycling and how they compare to real-life competition.”
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!