2023 E-Sport World Championships Race Recap
Posted by Andrew Davidson on March 26, 2023
While riding a trainer used to be somewhat of a necessary evil for cyclists who experience true winter climates, the advent of virtual cycling realms has made it not only enjoyable but a new realm of possibilities for talent scouting and racing. Recently, two talented Canadians, Warren Muir from Calgary, Alberta and Jean-Michel Lachance from Quebec City, Quebec, earned a spot and competed as members of the Canadian national team, at the third edition of the UCI E-Sport World Championships, hosted by Zwift. It was both riders first time competing in the championships and we had a chance to catch up with them a couple of weeks removed from the event to get their insight on the experience.
The format of this year’s event was unique compared to the last two editions, with a series of three elimination races that narrowed the field down to a final 10-rider showdown for the title and podium. What did you think of the format?
WM: The format made for more interesting viewing vs a 1 hour scratch race and created a deserving UCI E-sports World Champion.
JML: I really liked the format. It favoured punchy and complete riders and the short rest between the races made it quite challenging. The only downside to it I found was the steep eliminations. I would have extended to 50% elimination for the first two races to keep the race more interesting.
Zwift unveiled the new courses, on Scottish roads, just before the world championships. Did you get a chance to train on them leading up to race day and what did you think of the circuits?
WM: I really like the courses with 3 separate events that show cased all types of riders: The Punch, The Climb and The Podium. The Punch was created for a rider with a good sprint/ 1 min power. The Climb show cased riders with good 3 min power to weight with repeatability. The riders that made it to the Podium had to have a good sprint and repeatability.
JML: Yes, I did a few Zwift events on the courses to familiarize myself and also took part in the Zwift Insider Worlds Experience a week before the race, which was an excellent opportunity to get a sense of what would be coming up with the world championship peloton.
Was there a strategy going into the race among the members of Team Canada or was it everyone racing for themselves? Was there any communication during the race, via discord etc?
WM: Cycling Canada organized Zoom and Discord meetings to talk about strategy, team strengths and the courses. We knew the first two races were going to be everyone for themselves. The first course was very high-paced and the chance of a breakaway sticking was extremely low. The second race was more selective with the three climbs. It was much harder to use the group to save energy for the finish. The goal was to get as many people to the final race where tactics could possibly be used. We did a few events with our team director Tristen Chernove on Discord to communicate time gaps, riders in any breakaways, features of the course and help with rider positioning in the peloton.
It was amazing to have Jean-Michel make it to the second race. The team stayed on discord to cheer him on! He was so close to making it into the top 10. The way the team and staff pulled together made me proud to be Canadian.
JML: Tristhen Chernove, along with Ross Wilson and Evelyne Gagnon, did a great job helping the team on many levels in the weeks leading to the event and race day. We were all on Discord, but personally I don’t talk much during these intense events. It was great though to have feedback and encouragement during the races. As for team strategy, we had a flexible plan. For instance, with Discord, we knew Travis was in the breakaway on the first stage and so naturally, if any of us wanted to bridge across, it would have had to be a clear attack and not a chase.
E-Sport racing is unique in many ways, one of the obvious ones being the gamification aspect, including “power-ups”. What effect did those have within the race if any do you feel?
WM: In the first two races everyone received one Power-up; Burrito (race one) and one Anvil (race two). I was not a big fan of the Burrito power up as it negatively affects your draft and that of everyone around you. I did not use it during the race as I did not want to lose the draft of the peloton. Sprinting from a group of 80-90 people it was more of a lottery during the sprint if people affected you negatively with the power up. Not everyone used the Power up during the sprint so there was a game of chance in regards to your positioning and if a person used the burrito next to you.
In race two, the Anvil played into the strategy on the descents adding 50kgs to your rider’s weight when on a decline more than 2%. It created tactical racing and the chance to attack on the descents. The strategy within our team was to save it for the final descent. I liked the inclusion of that power up in the event.
In race 3, the burrito was used again, collected each time under the sprint arch, again, not my favorite power up.
For those unfamiliar with virtual racing at a high-level such as this, what kind of procedures are put in place by the event organizers to ensure accurate data and fair competition among racers?
JML: For one, all riders were sent the latest Wahoo V6 to be used as the primary power source, with the same training resistance of 100% set as default. A few weeks before the event, we needed to send a recorded video and training files of a “Zada workout”, including various maximum efforts with data recording from both the Wahoo V6 and a mandatory precise secondary power meter.
The other procedures put in place were anti-doping whereabouts for ten days around the race, a video stream during the event, and a video recorded weight within two hours of the start of the race. Finally, following the event, we had to send files from the secondary power meter for performance verification.
What are some of the elements of an online racing set-up that you find beneficial and motivating for a good performance (fans, riding in a cold place, big tv, loud music, etc)?
WM: I’ve bought a gaming PC attached to TV for better graphics and less lagging. Good air circulation from fans for cooling is key. Also, the high intensity training needs a good fueling strategy, like gels and drink mix.
JML: I keep it simple, but generally, a powerful fan, a towel, being in a cold place, and good music are all great motivators. I usually race on an 11-inch iPad, but I Airplayed it on the big TV for this important event to improve visibility. Another tip I would add is to strap your trainer to the ground. Zwift racing has been a big part of my preparations for races outside and I wouldn’t do it otherwise. When doing over 1000 Watts on the trainer, having your trainer secured to the ground helps me a lot in outputting my best power.
The beauty of virtual racing is you can do it from your living room or garage, allowing friends and family to cheer you on quite easily. Did you have any people on-hand to spectate during the event?
WM: My Dad, Wife and Son were cheering me on in person!
JML: I was self-sufficient at home but had various friends and family members following the live and on the Zwift Companion app.
How would you rate the effort of the event, on a scale of 1-10? What were the hardest aspects of it?
WM: I would rate my effort as an 8 out of 10. When I completed the verification test at 4100ft elevation my 1 min power was 686 Watts fresh (first interval). I travelled to a lower elevation for the race and was able to produce 678W for 1 min at the end of 17 mins at 350W in the first race, finishing 50th in the world. It was not the result that I was looking for, but after reviewing the data I was satisfied with my performance. The goals I set for myself were to be the WC but at the very least was to finish in the top Canadians. I was 2nd of the 4 Canadians.
JML: For me, the hardest aspect was managing the event leading up to it. I got a Covid positive a few weeks before and unlike the first time I got it, it hit me pretty hard. I was 30-40w off my usual power target for some of the Vo2 Max intervals I did in the weeks before the event. I had to adjust the intensity and recovery to have enough stimulation and recovery. Regarding the effort rating of the actual races, I would rate them an 8 or 9 / 10. There was a good mix of strategy and knowing how to surf the peloton to preserve energy and when to start your sprint. On that note, that’s where I screwed up on the second race. The top 15 was pretty much all within the same time for the last climb and it was more a matter of timing the sprint well than pure Watts.
If possible, can you share some data points from the race(s)? (max power, average power, normalized, 1min, 5min, RPM, average heart rate, etc)
- 14.1km / 17min
- Average Power: 350W
- Normalized Power: 413W
Final 10 mins:
- Average Power: 380W
- Normalized Power: 450W
- Max 1 min Power: 678.9W (Avg)
- Max 5 min Power: 406W (Avg)
- Max power: 979W
Final 36 seconds: 821W (Avg)
- 14.1km / 16min 54s
- Average Power: 353W
- Normalized Power: 420W
- Average Cadence: 101rpm
- Heartrate: 161-182bpm
- 8.6km / 11min 52s
- Average Power: 332W
- Normalized Power: 409W
- Average Cadence: 97rpm
- Heartrate: 163-179bpm
- Final Climb: 2min @ 541W (Avg) - 96rpm
Any other thoughts, comments, or insights from racing the E-Sport Worlds you might want to share?
WM: I just want to say thank you to Cycling Canada for selecting me for the project and everyone that helped with the organizing of the team! It was an amazing experience to represent Canada and be a part of the national team for an event at the UCI Elite level. It has always been a dream of mine. Let’s get them next year!
JML: Although disappointed in not making it to the last round, I am satisfied with how I performed given that my preparation was impacted while recovering from Covid. The only changes I would make are: practicing more with the trainer set at 100%, showing up with even more muscular freshness, and not hesitating to go a little earlier in sprints.
The final outcome from the day of world-class competition saw Jean-Michel finishing 13th and Warren finishing 50th in the elite men’s field of 82 international riders. If you missed it live , a full replay of the men’s and women’s events is available to watch.