An interview with Team Italy’s elite cyclist Luca Zanasca.
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 Luca Zanasca, I live in Varese, and I’m an ex-pro rider (from 2008 to 2012). Short career but a lot of experience. I’m still an elite mountain biker (when I have free time). I have worked in Assos (for ten years), and I’m in charge of product development.
I live with my partner Lisa, and we have one cat.
In my free time, I love to stay with my girlfriend and relax in the mountains. I love to drink wine and eat well.
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 started cycling when I was six years old. I also did in the past nordic skiing: quite strong in both disciplines, but because of the place where I live—no snow, I decided to continue only with cycling.
I’m a climber and good at TT. During my short career, I won 4 races and got a lot of good results.
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 to ride on Zwift just before the pandemic, not for racing but to train during bad weather and winter.
After several months I was contacted by Team Italy for some ZRL races. I accepted, and, time by time, I improved my skill in races.
I have to tell you that I’m not too fond of short races. I’m not a sprinter and prefer longer races (tough races).
Best results are for sure World Championship 2023 qualification and victories on ZRL and on Grand Prix.
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?
The team is fantastic. The group supports us with a lot of information, which is very important considering that sometimes we have to face a new route, with a new format race, or even suggest some races to prepare for the event.
They also helped us find some sponsors: from indoor trainers to nutrition.
Having someone who supports you and gives you all the instruments for the race is a dream. I will continue to thank them for all their efforts.
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 178 cm, and my weight is around 65kg (during the summer season) to 69 (in winter).
My indoor peak power is 5.5 Wkg for 20’ (I’m sure I can do much more, but to be honest, pushing full gas on Alpe du Zwift is annoying, and I’m constantly overheating).
5’ is very close to 7 wkg. 1’ 9,41 wkg , 15’’ 12.86 wkg
What type of rider are you? Has your riding style evolved as you become more involved and successful in esports?
I’m a climber and TT specialist (for sure, MTB helped me immensely to improve my characteristics).
I improved my skill on Zwift a lot. I always aim to do my best and help my teammates when possible. I don’t race too much on Zwift (I still prefer to ride outside, mainly off-road).
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?
During the summer season, I train only for mtb races. I use Zwift only for Z1/Z2 free rides when I don’t have time or something before breakfast.
During the winter season, when my shape is still good, I train with specific workouts one or two days per week, 1 or 2 races (it depends on which events my team is involved in), and the rest I stay on the saddle. I also include some other activities like walking and running.
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?
For sure, I will continue to use and race on esport. I don’t have a specific goal. I planned some things for the outdoor season (like doing some gravel races and an IRONMAN in 2024).
World Championship will be challenging for me. I heard the format, which is very short for my characteristic. We’ll see.
But by the way, it means a lot to me. Racing against the strongest riders, it’s always challenging.
You have accomplished so much in esports. What is it that sets you apart from other virtual athletes?
Honestly, I don’t know. I know my teammates very well, but I don’t have a benchmark.
It probably happens also to other riders. I appreciate everyone because It’s not easy to race in the evening (especially at 9 pm). I did only once in the past, but it was a kermesse (and I got paid to do that, eheh).
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?
I improved a lot in that area. You can save a lot of energy if you know how the game works.
Honestly, I wouldn’t say I like powerups, but at the same time, I have to say that they saved me on some occasions.
The most positive thing is that you can train while staying at home. It saves time. (I would say 90’ of training is 150’ on the road).
Do you feel cycling esports will ever gain acceptance as a trusted discipline and gain popularity as a unique discipline? What challenges does it face?
I think it’s the best tool to stay in shape. You can ride and enjoy it even if the weather outside is bad or cold. It’s safer, and you’re at home.
You can also have the possibility to race 24h/7 days. I think it’s already popular, but people probably prefer to ride outside for obvious reasons.
Tell us about your setup. Where is it located, and what do you use? What steps do you take to verify your accuracy?
I have two setups—one at my office in the garage with ample space and super ventilation.
The second is at home, also in my garage. It’s a small place, and I store many things, like two trainers, a moto and six bikes. I have a big fan and connect my laptop to a TV.
I usually make a dual recording, especially when requested. I always check the dual recording to ensure everything is in order.
Weight is also significant. In fact, racing in the evening is always tricky for me.
Some cynics and detractors don’t trust the legitimacy of esports. What do you say to those who question the integrity and ability for a level playing field between competitors? What challenges does esports face in becoming recognized as a trusted competition venue?
Difficult to answer. First, you have to accept that esport is a different world. The dynamics and tactics of the race are entirely different.
Esports improved a lot in terms of controls and rules. We need to believe and trust the platforms and riders (not easy, but plan B is not to race, in my opinion).
You are deeply involved in cycling and how it relates to the elite esports scene. How has the landscape changed during that time, and where do you see it going?
I think it’s still evolving. The main challenge is to involve people in watching the race (to increase the visibility of sponsors, riders, etc.).
What is your opinion of the new race formats being used during the Zwift Grand Prix and the World Championships?
Personally, I don’t like the Zwift Grand Prix format. The races are very short. I prefer the old format.
The World Championship is good, but one race is always better (1h 15’ max).
Esports has come a long way in a short time. What do you envision it will be like in five years and further into the future? What will it take to get it there?
I will be 44 years old. Probably too old to be involved in races. Ehehe
Thank you and good luck, Luca!
Wish them luck?
Feel free to extend your well-wishes to all of the athletes representing their countries in the Cycling Esports Worlds. Comment below!
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!