A virtual cycling experience written by professional triathlete, Morgan Chaffin.
When we’re all trying to find some positive light as a result of COVID-19, I was lucky enough to discover E-Racing, which has become the bright, shiny star of my otherwise uncertain 2020 race schedule. It has also been a great way for me to spend more time focusing on my cycling aspirations. E-Racing is done on Zwift, which is an at home indoor training app that connects cyclist, runners, and triathletes from all over the world. So in March, I asked my coach, Dr. Krista Austin, if I could participate in a few E-Races. She replied, sure, with a link to a USA Cycling series. From the minute I tried it, I was hooked!
Shortly after my first race, I started researching Zwift Teams and noticed the Velocity Vixen’s had a commanding presence in Women’s E-Racing. I applied to be part of their team, and soon became a Velocity Vixen!
Fast forward, we were then invited to participate in Project Echelon Racing’s Virtual Tour and Gila. For those of you who don’t know, Project Echelon is a racing team that has a wonderful mission: to educate, equip, and empower Veterans and their communities through physical activity and self- discovery. To be inspired follow them on social media-Facebook @ Project Echelon Racing Team and Instagram @projectechelonracing!
We were also asked to race in the Virtual Joe Martin Stage Race, which was held June 19th-21st. Both the Virtual Tour of Gila and the Virtual Joe Martin series were comprised of female and male elite and domestic teams from around the world. Our team for the Virtual Joe Martin Race consisted of seven Velocity Vixen Racers: Dixie Newsome, who resides in Virginia, is a Cat 2 cyclist and our amazing team manager. She is the foundation and support for our women’s team, organizing, encouraging, and keeping tabs on it all! Bronwyn MacGregor, a rock-star cyclist, who I am trying to convince to move from New Zealand to Nebraska. Do you think I’ll succeed?! Selma Trommer, not only small and mighty, but wow, can she sprint! We rode one of the courses prior to the race and I thought oh, neat, I got the sprinters jersey, fun! Nope, here comes Selma, blasting the watts at 11-12 w/kg! In the tour Selma lead the sprint points into the final day and finished 2nd, just 1 point shy of having the jersey throughout- Congrats Selma! Eve McCrystal, a very strong rider, based out of Ireland, who will be competing in the Olympic Games in 2021, Go Eve! Darlene Krohn, a former swimmer turned strong cyclist, living in California. And last, but certainly not least, Chloe DesRoche, a former rower turned cyclist racing with Hamilton United Pro Cycling!
If you’re not familiar with stage racing, here of some of the highlights from the event:
Stage 1- Bologna Individual Time Trial Course: https://zwiftinsider.com/route/time-trial-lap/
A 5-mile time trial that consisted of a flat 3.7 mi stretch leading into 1.2 miles at a 9.6% grade. I struggled with finding the best bike and wheelset to suit me for this course, eventually picking the Cervelo P5, a top climbing TT bike on Zwift. And I chose the Zipp 808 wheels, but in all honestly a lightweight set such as the Lightweight Meilenstein or the ENVE SES 3.4 would have been a better choice. On the flat portion I was holding 10th/11th place, but found myself dropping back on the steep 1.2 mi section. I was happy to see that I finished four spots behind the time trial champion, Chloe Dygert. It was a good effort and a great learning experience! I finished 29th out of 92 racers. Ready to take on stage 2!
Stage 2- Stand and Sequoias Road Race Crouse https://zwiftinsider.com/route/sand-and-sequoias/ (3.5 laps)
Stage 2 started with a 1 minute moment of silence to raise awareness for social inequality and the #blacklivesmatter movement. After our moment of reflection, we started a 1k neutral roll out to honor and remember those who lost their lives or loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a bit of confusion regarding the neutral roll out and several us got dropped within the first 2 miles of the 47.4 mile course. Eve was in the main pack, but had an internet glitch during the final miles that took her a bit to recover from. However, we are proud of the time she spent representing us up at the front! I, along with my teammates, Bronwyn and Chloe, were in the chase pack. Together, we worked great within the group. We were able to draft off of one another and push the pace at times, putting distance between us and the racers behind us. Bronwyn lead me out on the chase pack sprint for a 23rd place finish out of 92 racers. Selma came away with the sprinter’s jersey thanks to great team work and communication on Discord, which is a free app used for communication via voice, video, and text.
Stage 3- Richmond Worlds Road Race Course: https://zwiftinsider.com/richmond/ (4 laps)
Stage 3 happened to land on Father’s Day. As many of you know, I lost my father at the age of 45 due to health complications. To this day, he remains my best friend and there are days I know his spirit is here giving me “wings”. So, on that day I told myself I was going to hang on to the front pack. I knew it was going to be a fight and it would take a lot of physical and mental strength! But I was prepared! The course was very challenging and the commentaries described it as being one of the toughest on Zwift. On a few of the punchy climb sections I found myself on the back of the lead pack. My response was to stand up on the pedals and push as hard as possible to stay with the lead group. Dixie was on discord shouting, “Morgan can you do this! Grab that wheel! You’re doing great!” Just hearing those words of encouragement brought me back each time! Finishing 13th out of 92 cyclists took all of the strength I had for the day but I couldn’t have asked for a better team helping me reach my goal or a better tribute to my father!
I can’t wait for the next E-Racing adventure with my team! If you’re interested, follow us at @velocityvixenfox and @morganechaffin to find out what is next!
Photo Credit: Tammy Brimner-TLBVelo IG: @tlbvelo