An interview with Team Slovenia and Zwift team Wahoo Le Col’s elite cyclist Laura Šimenc.
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 live in Slovenia, the country of Roglič, Pogačar, and Mohorič in a beautiful region where mountain passes are close, but we also enjoy the seaside and beautiful lakes that are magic for cycling holidays.
I am a veterinarian and Ph.D. assistant professor of Parasitology in the Veterinary faculty at the University of Ljubljana. I love spending my free time on the bike with my partner, a very enthusiastic cyclist, and with my friends and family. Foremost with my two pets, a corgi dog Božo and a former shelter cat Bina, who we take with us everywhere we go.
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 competing in triathlons when I was about 18 and switched to cycling a few years later. I won national championships in triathlons and cycling and won Gran Fondos around Europe like Nove Colli, Pinarello, and Franja.
I was the two-time Gran Fondo World Champion in the time trial and two times in the road race, the last time in 2022 in Trento with a very hilly course of 3,800 meters of climbing.
What is your virtual cycling story? How and when did you get involved in esports? What is your most significant accomplishment racing virtually?
I tried Zwift about 5 years ago for winter training, and I did not like it at all. Then we bought a better trainer with direct drive, and I slowly started to enjoy it and began racing. But I still think I perform better IRL than on Zwift, while it is hard for me to define the virtual landscape and pack dynamics. But I think I improve every season.
At first, I was just a good sprinter, but now I can climb a bit and almost always achieve a top 10 in the highest level of elite women’s racing, like Zwift Grand Prix, regardless of the course profile.
My most significant accomplishments on Zwift are that we won the Premier League 2021/2022 with my elite women’s team Wahoo Le Col. Personally, my best achievements were 2x second place in Zwift Grand Prix races in season 2022/2023, winning the last stage in Tour De Boudicca 2021 and second in Ceramic Speed racing series 2021.
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?
My Wahoo le Col cycling esports team is amazing. They help me lots with course knowledge, tactics, race dynamics, and, foremost, lots of moral support when I feel like shit.
My teammates are so strong and well-prepared that they push me along, and DS Adam Thorpe is just brilliant and helps us so much to get the best possible from ourselves during the race. And my other DS, Angela Pitzer, brought me to this team, and she is such an amazing friend and supporter in and out of esports.
Learn more about Wahoo le Col’s DS Adam Thorpe in his own words and voice during Ep. 21 of the Virtual Velo Podcast.
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 184 cm tall (the tallest of them all) and weigh about 59 kg. You can see my peak powers on Zwift Power, but they are not as good as the girls in prior interviews.
What type of rider are you? Has your riding style evolved as you become more involved and successful in esports?
IRL, I am an all-rounder with pretty good hill-climbing skills, but I can also sprint a bit at the end of the race and do a decent TT. On Zwift, I am good at 1-minute power but also a decent sprinter and hill climber. Maybe I am the worst at TT while I am the tallest, and absolute power does not help me so much on Zwift.
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?
My favorite workout is a dynamic group ride with a bunch of friends outside with lots of climbs and necessary cake stops. On Zwift, I like to do hard efforts on the edge of doable, but they are very satisfying when I can do them.
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?
The Zwift races are only my winter training for the biggest Gran Fondos in the world which I would like to win. It’s not my goal to win the Esports World Championship. I am happy to represent my country, and I do not think I can win either with all the superwomen out there, but a top 5 may be possible.
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 do not consider this stuff much, but sometimes I wonder how some of the athletes’ performances are possible compared to their IRL or no IRL results. I perform better IRL than on Zwift, and depending on my results, I am regularly doping tested a few times per year.
Tell us about your setup. Where is it located, and what do you use? What steps do you take to verify your accuracy?
My setup is located in the winter garden in the house of my partner and me, where we have two bikes and trainers one beside another that we can train together side by side. I use Wahoo Kickr V5, Wahoo wind and Assioma Favero Duo power meter, and Wahoo Bolt head unit. The bike for the trainer is usually my partner’s aluminum Specialized Crux pink bike.
What is your opinion of the new race formats being used during the Zwift Grand Prix and the World Championships?
I like the three races elimination format and race formats where riders are eliminated after winning intermediate sprints, but I do not like multiple very short races, which are hard to follow.
Okay, I need a juicy exclusive. Tell us something about yourself that none of your fellow racers or fans know about you. Please?!?
I was the U18 National Champion in the half marathon and the National Champion in the sprint triathlon. I was also a golden grammar school graduate and earned a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine.
The floor is yours! Is there anything you would like to say?
You are most welcome to come on cycling holidays to Slovenia to our apartments in Bled (link here) to show you the training roads of Pogačar, Roglič, and Mohorič and our divine and unknown landscape. My partner and I will be happy to show you around.
Thank you, Laura!
Anything you’d like to ask or say to Laura?
Ask away. Comment below! I’ll see what I can do.
To subscribe to the Zommunique and receive more informative and entertaining articles like this one sent directly to your inbox, click here!
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!