An interview with Zwift Team Toyota Cryo RDTs elite cyclist Jody Jochems.
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 am Jody Jochems, 20 years old and from The Netherlands. I live in Sint Anthonis, a small village in the Southern part of The Netherlands. On weekdays I study in Breda at the Royal Military Academy, and I study Military Business Sciences. After four years, I will finish the study and start the second part of my training to become a pilot.
So, on weekdays I live in a room at the Royal Military Academy in Breda, and on weekends I live at home in Sint Anthonis with my family. My family consists of three, including myself, so I live with my mom and dad.
In Breda, I live in a hallway with other students, and we all have a room where we live and study. Here I also have a space for my bike and trainer where I can train and race on weekdays.
For fun on weekdays after studying and training is mostly doing things with my friends from the Academy. We live in Breda, which is a nice city where we can do a lot of things. So sometimes we visit the cinema, or we eat something. But most of the time, we spend inside watching sports, playing games, or doing other sports.
I am at home on weekends and do things with my parents, like watching television or riding together.
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 with cycling races in 2016. In the years before, I also had a bike, but I just used it for riding for fun with my parents. In 2016 at the end of the season, I decided to train with a team near where I live to see if it would be something for me. This first training went better than expected, and I decided to get my first license in the U15 category, where I finished the season by gaining experience in some races and winning one.
The following year I had to step into the U17 category, where racing became longer, harder, and more serious. I only did a few races the year before, so the big step to the U17 category was hard. I had to gain some experience in the bigger peloton with higher speeds in longer races, but as time passed, I learned and got better. The second year of the U17 category was much better, and I made some steps. I got some excellent results in the more prominent (inter)national races.
In the U19 (junior) category, I moved to another team ‘De Jonge Renner’. I became ill on a training camp in Spain, which significantly impacted my overall health. I didn’t fully recover and started too early with picking up the training, which resulted in a long period of not feeling well on and off the bike.
At that moment, I realized this wasn’t the way to go and decided to rest for a couple of weeks to recover fully. After this period, I had a medical test to check if I could start training again. Due to this, I lost the first half of the season, but the team kept confidence in me, and I rode a good second part of the season with some big international races.
In the second U19 year, I had a good winter and was ready for the season. The first race, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, went okay, with 30th place, and in the second race in Zepperen-Zepperen, I rode away with a teammate, and we stayed away, which was an outstanding performance.
It was my last race in the U19 category because COVID caused cancellations of the rest of the races. During this period, I kept training for what would come, but this always got delayed, and it took longer than everybody expected. I decided to look forward to my professional career, and I ended my cycling career and started at the Royal Military Academy to become a pilot.
After the first part of the military training, which was very busy, and I didn’t have any time left for cycling, I noticed that I couldn’t just ride my bike for fun and wanted a goal. I started racing on Zwift, but my plan came up on the road when I discovered the Military National Cycling Team. After I did a training ride with them in which I showed my form, they decided to get me on the team and select me for the September World Military Championships in France. I was 7th in the TT and 18th in the Road Race, which was an excellent performance in the international field with some pros. We also took 1st place in the TT and 3rd place in the Road Race home with Bart Lemmen, which was very cool.
The year after, I decided to focus on the Dutch Championships TT U23, which worked. I qualified in the district championships by winning and got 21st with some technical problems in the Championships. The rest of the season, I got some results in road races, won a green jersey in a stage race, and won a road race in Belgium. I also got second place at the Military National Championships Time Trial and Road Race behind Bart Lemmen, just like the year before.
My most significant performance came in the season’s last race. I won the Dutch Championships Team Time Trial with my team JEGG-DJR Academy. My goal was to win a National Championship jersey once, which happened that day.
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 virtual cycling during the COVID period. I rode my first race in Richmond at the Zwift Classics race. I did some training on Zwift the months before but never raced. This race was hard, with some big names at the start, but I enjoyed it. After some weeks without racing, a team from England decided to start a junior competition in which some of the best European juniors participated. It was on the RGT platform, and I enjoyed racing against some peers with excellent results.
After a while, I got a message from the Alpha ERacing Zwift team that they were setting up with some Dutch and Belgian riders. I decided to join them and gained some experience and results with them in the ZRL and other races. I enjoyed racing with them, and we got some excellent results, especially in the first season of 2022, where Hexagone just beat us in the last race of the ZRL.
At the end of 2022, I got a message from the Toyota CYRO RDT team asking if I would like to join them. I thought about it for a while and decided to join them for the end of the Grand Prix season and the third ZRL season. We won the first race of the third season in the ZRL, which was a good team performance with a tremendous individual win by Martin Maertens.
I also raced the 6th stage of the Grand Prix, which was very special for me because that is what I always wanted to achieve in my eracing career. This race went well, and I did my thing for the team by getting fifth in the third intermediate sprint. As a team, we got fourth, which was a good performance, and we also secured our fourth place in the overall ranking and a place in the Grand Prix Finals in March. I was also 4th in the Proximus Eracing Series race Dwars Door Vlaanderen in a strong field, so I am happy with that.
My best accomplishment in esports is a win in the Criteriumcup from EracingTV on the Neokyo Rooftop Rendezvous stage. It was a cool win in a strong field with a nice live stream with many viewers. I also enjoyed racing on the highest level twice, with a good performance on the Zwift Grand Prix Race stage 6 and getting to the second round of the Continental Qualifiers with a 34th place.
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?
Since 2023 I have been part of the Toyota CRYO RDT team. At this moment, I rode two races with them, the first race of the ZRL season 3 and stage six of the ZGP. I had a good experience racing with the team and liked how they included me.
Before 2023 I raced for almost three years with the Alpha ERacing team, where I gained some great eracing experience. They helped me get familiar with eracing, and we learned a lot from each other in all the races we did together.
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 am 188cm and approximately between 71 and 72 kg.
My PB’s indoor are:
15 sec 1097W
1 min 667W
5 min 460W
20 min 371W
What type of rider are you? Has your riding style evolved as you become more involved and successful in esports?
I enjoy riding races which are challenging with some climbing but not too long, especially 5 to 10-minute efforts. On the road, I mostly race offensive by trying to get away from the peloton with a group or solo effort.
With eracing, I like to ride a tough race with a sprint at the end. I can survive a lot of different routes and have a good sprint left at the end.
The difference between road and indoor is that on the road, I am not a natural sprinter but indoor, I can do my thing in a sprint because it is not that hectic.
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 enjoy doing races for training in the indoor season. My weeks mainly consist of riding 2 or 3 races; the rest of the days, I do some easy rides or tempo intervals. It also depends on the available time in combination with my study. If I have some time available, I like to do an endurance ride to get base training. In the road season, I like to do 40/20 intervals in preparation for my time trials and adapt to the demanding pace in road 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 short-term goal is to finish the third ZRL season well with the Toyota CRYO RDT team. I also would like to be part of the team in the finals of the Grand Prix.
In the long term, I would like to ride a good road season, but I still have to consider which races I will participate in.
For the esports goals in the long term, I would like to be in the Dutch selection for the 2024 UCI Esports World Championships.
This year I missed the selection for the Worlds, and I would like to get in there next year. I also would like to ride a good 2023/2024 season with the Toyota CRYO RDT team.
You have accomplished so much in esports. What is it that sets you apart from other virtual athletes?
The most crucial difference between other cyclists my age and me is that I have another future in front of me where I work and study. Cycling is a hobby in that I can put my energy into, and I like to perform as well as possible, but I never have the pressure to get further with cycling.
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?
Sometimes I like it, and sometimes I hate it. I think this is the case for most riders. It is something you must put in a lot of effort to master, and it is an experience that will give you better results. You have to be able to push the necessary watts, but it is essential to know when you have to push them. The timing for sprints and powerups is something that you have to learn, and you get better by practicing. I think powerups are unique in virtual cycling and something we must maintain. Still, it is necessary that the cycling part stays the most important and that the gamification isn’t getting the upper hand.
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?
Getting as transparent as possible is vital to gain acceptance and sufficient checks against cheating. By gaining experience, we make significant steps with esports and must keep developing. The other thing is that we must make it enjoyable and attractive to watch for everyone. New race formats and live-streaming races with visuals from the pain caves and other data on display can do it. Watching some virtual cycling figures is not enjoyable if you don’t know the tactics and people behind them. That is a point to work on—a live presentation from people with experience on Zwift that can explain what is happening. In the future, esports will gain a lot of popularity and be a part of the cycling culture.
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 locations where I ride my races and do my training.
The first one is the Military Academy, where I have a room in which I have my trainer and bike. In the past, I had internet problems, and I have tried a lot of different setups to fix this. Now I ride in a better room with a good internet connection. I have a television with a Samsung DEX to my phone. Then I have my Giant TCR with an Elite Direto XRT to finish the setup.
The second one is at home. Here I ride on an Apple TV connected to a display screen. My trainer is a Tacx Neo, and I also ride on a Giant TCR at home.
For the verification, I did all the ZADA Verification forms and delivered my dual power files after races. In both locations, I ride with a fan for some cooling and food and bottles if necessary.
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?
The legitimacy of esports is something we all have to work for. We have to make it as transparent as possible, and if someone has questions about a part of esports, there should be a clear answer. Suppose the transparency and control are on a good level. In that case, this will be positive for the recognition of esports, and the audience will see it as a suitable and trusted competition venue. But the whole esports cycling world has just started, so it is crucial to keep developing ways to gain trust, and this is happening as we speak.
Many of your fellow elite eracers have been publicly critical of the lack of standardization in esports. What is your view on the topic?
There are many different platforms, which have good and bad sides. The good side is that this improves the quality of each platform because they want to be better than each other. The bad side is that all the riders are on different platforms, leading to a spread in the field of participants. But in the big races, the riders will find each other, and it doesn’t matter which platform. In addition, there are a lot of different setup possibilities and, as mentioned above, a good and bad development.
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?
The esports landscape changed a lot during the COVID period. Many good cyclists found indoor cycling a feasible alternative to outdoor cycling and boosted the development of the indoor cycling platforms we profit from. It will still keep developing a lot in the future. Because there are a lot of different platforms, there will be a race between those platforms to be or stay the best. It will lead to updates and a better experience.
What is esports' future amidst the multiple-platform landscape, and where would you like to be positioned?
Esports could be a discipline next to cyclocross or track cycling. Especially in the winter, esports is a good and enjoyable way to get in shape for the road races and to get the excitement of racing. By development, eracing can be a standard discipline for the winter next to the other disciplines that are there right now.
What is your opinion of the new race formats being used during the Zwift Grand Prix and the World Championships?
Differentiation in race formats is an excellent way to show esports to a bigger audience. It will lead to a more attractive race to watch. Also, it is a good development for the riders because always doing a scratch race or a TTT will get boring. With new formats, we must look at tactics and opportunities for each race. It also gives teams a chance to get a good result with better tactics and not just putting the most watts. So, it is a good thing for both riders and fans.
Okay, I need a juicy exclusive. Tell us something about yourself that none of your fellow racers or fans know about you. Please?!?
It’s not so juicy… but what you can really wake me up for is homemade mashed potatoes or almost every coffee from Starbucks!
Thank you, Jody!
Anything you’d like to ask or say to Jody?
Ask away. Comment below! I’ll see what I can do.
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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!