E-Racing: Alistair Thomas (Crimson Performance)

The next E-Racing feature Q&A is with Alistair Thomas (Crimson Performance) who says the best thing about e-racing is you’re only a few steps from the shower and the fridge when its done! Alistair also reveals there’s a ‘ghost’ button on Zwift …. 

E-Racing: Alistair Thomas (Crimson Performance)

The Zwift set up in Alistair’s front room, Tacx flux and the laptop through the TV with fan at my side!

Q: What are the essentials to have if you want to go Zwift?
Alistair: Getting set up with Zwift is pretty straight forward although there are a few things you will definitely need. Some sort of laptop/tablet to run the app and a smart trainer is my way of getting online.

HR monitors are not essential however, you will find yourself DQ’d from some of the tougher races if you are not wearing one. Power meters can be used to back up or verify your data but again not necessary if you are using a smart trainer.

Q: Why do you have to know how much you weigh?
Alistair: Zwift doping is probably one of the most contentious issues currently on the online e-racing platform. Your w/kg is the single most important number on Zwift and dropping your weight is an easy way to cheat.

New rules are coming in whereby riders have to have themselves zada verified, by providing accurate proof of weight. This includes socks, bibshorts and a jersey. With races in the A category often requiring 5W/KG for their duration, shaving a few KG off would go a long way to help potential cheats!

Q: What is the best way to keep cool with e-racing?
Alistair: Hands down, no questions, you’re going to need a fan. Windows and doors open just aren’t going to cut it.

Q: What is a typical distance/length of race online?
Alistair: The races vary, but one thing is constant.. they are all hard. Most races last between 25 minutes and an hour. Typically between 10 and 30 miles in length, sprint finishes from depleted groups are common, but be prepared to hang on, on the climbs.

Q: What is an ideal warmup for an e-race?
Alistair: I usually jump on 20 minutes before an e-race and try to get my HR up to mid-range for me. Make sure you’ve hit a couple high numbers before you start as you’re going to need your legs to be awake. You don’t need to worry too much about being warm because when the flag drops you’ll already be sweating!

Q: Can you slipstream in a peloton in an e-race?
Alistair: Thankfully, yes. Just like the real world, sitting in the bunch makes it a lot easier to stay in the race. Although, maintaining your position proves a lot more difficult. The peloton is usually closely packed and therefore provides you with a lot of cover, unless the race gets strung out. Some races offer double draft, which is like sitting in the bunch into a head wind , people rarely escape in these events though, so save your legs for the finish.

Q: How hard is the effort in an e-race?
Alistair: There is no backing off. In the shorter races, you will usually be faced with a sprint effort for position from the start before holding a near threshold effort for the majority of the race. There may be opportunities to back off in longer races on descents, or in large groups on the flat but you will often find yourself yo-yoing up and down the bunch.

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Q: Is e-racing like an egame with strategies and does it have different levels or categories?
Alistair: There is definitely a gaming aspect to Zwift, with many races offering power-ups where you can temporarily boost your w/kg or aerodynamics. Other options include a ghost button where you become temporarily invisible where you can launch that sneaky attack.

Knowing the best time to use these can be as beneficial as having good legs so there can be a lot to learn in your early races. In terms of getting everyone involved, there are categories (A-D) available to ensure racing can be fun for everyone, they are determined by a rider’s 20 minute w/kg.

Q: What is it about e-racing that is hard for pros even to get up to speed with straight away?
Alistair: I think e-racing has taken on an entire life of its own and success can be found by an entirely new type of rider. At the end of the day, if it is a straight man-on-man race, up one of the longer climbs in the virtual world, then the strongest rider will win.

However, there is so much more going on and so many more variables in this world. From power-ups to live power data, it can be difficult to create that race-winning move without someone on your wheel. With larger than usual fields and the ability to actually ride a bike out of the question, the opportunities are there for the less complete rider or someone with that mega sprint to take the spoils.

Q: Are the normal mass group rides on there like races (like sportives) or is it more steady.
Alistair: The point of the mass rides is for a non-competitive steady ride, whilst giving you a target to focus on. However, you’ll often find a solid percentage of those in the group rides racing for the finish. But the same could be said for the modern day sportif. That said, for those not riding them like races, they offer good opportunities to complete challenges and ride along side world tour pros …Virtually of-course.

Q: Finally, do you find e-racing as much fun in a different way to normal racing?
Alistair: I don’t think Zwift will ever replace the thrill of a town centre Grand-Prix or the enjoyment of a summer’s evening local crit. But, there is something to be said for jumping on my bike in my living room and racing people and professionals around the world. The races are hard, so if you’ve won, you have done well but on an enjoyment level, it’s more comparable to those who enjoy a 10 mile TT, you know it’s going to hurt, but there’s a sweet satisfaction at the end!

But best of all, you’re only a few steps from the shower and the fridge!

Thanks Alistair for that excellent Q&A – take care, stay safe!

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