Sunday morning, March 25, 2018: Monica and I arrive at the Stubhub VELO Sports Center for the second and final day of CVR World Cup racing. Yesterday’s qualifying heats have placed each of the 40 riders into their brackets, and now it’s down to this: meeting up in person to race in a virtual world for real money. And it’s no small amount of cash–over $72,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to today’s racers, with everyone winning a prize of at least $1,276.17! When was the last time you took part in a race with payouts like that?

How The Points and Stages Work

Today’s racing takes the form of a “mini stage race” with riders competing on the following courses:

  • Hill Climb: from the start pen to the castle on Watopia Mountain. 8.9km, 224m elevation gain.
  • Hilly Road: two laps of Watopia Hilly reverse. 18.4km, 202m elevation gain.
  • Flat Crit: three laps of the Volcano Circuit (clockwise). 14.8km, 69m elevation gain.

Racers will be given points based on their finishing position in each stage, and the racer with the most points after three stages wins:

  • 1st place: 20 points
  • 2nd: 16 points
  • 3rd: 13 points
  • 4th: 11 points
  • 5th: 9 points
  • 6th: 7 points
  • 7th: 6 points
  • 8th: 5 points
  • 9th: 3 points
  • 10th: 1 point

Click a race below to read how it unfolded, see final results and prize payouts, watch the full race video and more:

Men's Performance Final

Start List:

  • Greg Ambroisine
  • Mike Davis
  • Ryan Goldenberg
  • Bill Gros
  • Sadao Ikebe
  • Frank Levick
  • Tim Norris
  • Motti Pikelny
  • Stefan Stefanov
  • CJ Tully

In the first stage Ikebe quickly rides away from the field, showing that same smile-inducing form he displayed yesterday. Ikebe is here all the way from Japan, and despite his constant smile he’s not messing around! (His trainer is feeling the effort, though, as Ikebe rocks back and forth and taps out a tempo that forces the other riders to suffer.) Ambroisine tries to catch Ikebe before the finish, but Ikebe stays away. Stage podium: Ikebe, Ambroisine, Norris.

The pack stays together on the second stage until they hit the big reverse hilly KOM and Davis attacks in a big way. Goldenberg, Stefanov and Gros get dropped. Levick gets dropped on the second lap’s climb, and Ikebe goes off the front with a pack of five chasing. They can’t catch Ikebe though, who finishes first with a pack of five sprinting for places behind him. Stage podium: Ikebe, Pikelney, Ambroisine.

We have a pack of nine together for most of the final stage, which gets whittled down to seven near the end when Ikebe jumps off the front for a long break. Racer Alison Kubota and I are standing next to Frank Levick as he nears the end of the race with the pack, and Alison asks him, “Do you have a good sprint?” He shakes his head no. With only a few hundred yards left to go, Alison and I both tell him, “Frank–you’ve got to go now! Surprise them with a long break, give it everything you’ve got!” Frank goes… and wins the pack sprint with us yelling in his ears! Stage podium: Ikebe, Levick, Norris.

Men’s Performance Final Results and Payouts:

  • Sadao Ikebe ($1,374.41)
  • Greg Ambroisine ($1,369.86)
  • Tim Norris ($1,293.52)
  • Motti Pikelny ($1,297.31)
  • Frank Levick ($1,327.24)
  • Mike Davis ($1,303.23)
  • CJ Tully ($1,295.21)
  • Bill Gros ($1,269.20)
  • Stefan Stefanov ($1,268.19)
  • Ryan Goldenberg ($1,276.17)

Watch the entire race broadcast:

Women's Performance Final

Start List:

  • Mila Allinson
  • Laura Conway
  • Catherine Fortier
  • Holly Gabel
  • Julie McKenzie
  • Lauren McMurtry
  • Cheryl Muldoon
  • Liz Rice
  • Ingelin Rod
  • Jessica York

In the first stage Fortier (who wins the “Best Women’s Pain Face” award) quickly climbs away from the field. Gabel chases and  keeps the gap close, but is disappointed at the end because she had more to give (she thought the race ended at the top of the KOM, not at the castle!) Stage podium: Fortier, Gabel, McMurtry.

After the first lap on the second stage a pack of eight is in the lead, with York and Rice off the back. Everyone knows the reverse KOM is where it’s going to break apart, and that’s what happens: Fortier goes off the front with Gabel, Rod and McKenzie chasing. The pack can’t catch Fortier, though, who takes first again. Stage podium: Fortier, Rod, McKenzie.

We have a pack of nine together for most of the final stage, despite Fortier putting in some attacks hoping to shrink the final field. Conway jumps early but can’t hold it, then Rod flies through the group with a strong sprint that wins the day. Stage podium: Rod, McKenzie, Fortier.

Women’s Performance Final Results and Payouts:

  • Catherine Fortier ($1,374.80)
  • Julie McKenzie ($1,338.06)
  • Ingelin Rod ($1,315.59)
  • Holly Gabel ($1,343.32)
  • Lauren McMurtry ($1,305.22)
  • Cheryl Muldoon ($1,381.21)
  • Mila Allinson ($1,371.19)
  • Laura Conway ($1,286.17)
  • Liz Rice ($1,285.15)
  • Jessica York ($1,308.13)

Team Vixen’s Cheryl Muldoon wins the grit award for this race, riding with massive bruising in her upper right leg that made even walking very difficult. She tells me, “If this was any other race I would just skip it.”

Watch the entire race broadcast:

Men's Elite Final

Start List:

  • Gavin Arber
  • Soren Bay
  • Mathieu Drujon
  • Matthew Gardiner
  • Kim Little
  • Dan Netzer
  • Lionel Sanders
  • Casey Schumm
  • Eric Sorenson
  • Adam Zimmerman

In the first stage ITU World Champ Lionel Sanders simply rides away from the field–and nobody is surprised. Lionel is a TT machine, so the hill climb stage is his to lose. The question is, can he get on the podium in stages 2 or 3? Stage podium: Sanders, Gardiner, Zimmerman.

The second stage sees several non-CVR racers involved in the event, which is an annoyance. Zwift needs to allow for “private” events! The attacks hit on the first KOM, and Drujon is off the back, deciding to rest for the final stage. Little, Bay and Arber get popped off the back as well, so a lead group of six heads into the second lap. Sanders throws down major attacks to get away knowing he won’t win a pack sprint, but the experienced riders are marking him and holding his wheel. A pack of five contests the finishing sprint, and Zwift veteran Schumm takes it. Stage podium: Schumm, Netzer, Zimmerman.

The entire pack of ten elite racers stays together for the full final stage, with Sanders again throwing down multiple attacks in a desperate attempt to get away. And once again non-CVR racers are involved in the event–this time possibly effecting the race outcome as “T. Teipen (Atlanta)” jumps early in the sprint and Drujon mistakenly chases him then has to softpedal when he realizes his mistake. I’m standing next to Adam Zimmerman as we head into the final sprint, and I yell myself hoarse as USA Zwift Champ Zimmerman throws down an incredibly strong sprint to take first and the overall win. Stage podium: Zimmerman, Drujon, Bay.

Men’s Performance Final Results and Payouts:

  • Adam Zimmerman ($7,750.09)
  • Lionel Sanders ($2,706.03)
  • Casey Schumm ($1,754.22)
  • Dan Netzer ($1,608.02)
  • Soren Bay ($1,533.42)
  • Matthew Gardiner ($1,698.44)
  • Mathieu Drujon ($1,607.91)
  • Eric Sorenson ($1,473.88)
  • Kim Little ($1,558.85)
  • Gavin Arber ($1,499.82)

Watch the entire race broadcast:

Women's Elite Final

Start List:

  • Claudia Behring
  • Carey Conabeare
  • Inge Jansen
  • Emily Joyner
  • Alison Kubota
  • Esther Meisels
  • Athena Padouvas
  • Katie Pathier
  • Jennifer Real
  • Beth York

In the first stage Behring shows her superior watts/kilogram, just putting out enough effort to stay ahead and win. Padouvas, who had made it into the Elite race despite being a Performance pick, puts in a mighty effort with the encouragement of a large crowd around her but eventually overcooks it. She’ll come back and race well though! Stage podium: Behring, Meisels, Real.

On the second stage, the first KOM sees Jansen, Meisels, and Pothier dropped from the pack. (I’m just happy to see Pothier able to race decently after yesterday’s massive effort.) The pack stays together until the second lap’s KOM, where Conabeare attacks and Kubota gets dropped. The pack of six contests the sprint finish, with Conabeare putting in a massive sprint to take it. Behring is a stronger rider in terms of pure w/kg, but this is going to come down to race ability and teamwork. Stage podium: Conabeare, York, Behring.

For the final stage of the day, a pack of nine stays together for the entire flat stage. Once more Conabeare takes the sprint with a massive jump off the front, taking the stage and the overall win. Well done, Team Velocity Vixens. Stage podium: Conabeare, York, Meisels.

Women’s Performance Final Results and Payouts:

  • Carey Conabeare ($7,801.83)
  • Claudia Behring ($2,645.61)
  • Beth York ($1,687.15)
  • Esther Meisels ($1,930.77)
  • Jennifer Real ($1,530.07)
  • Emily Joyner ($1,467.52)
  • Alison Kubota ($1,590.48)
  • Athena Padouvas ($1,505.45)
  • Katie Pothier ($1,484.42)
  • Inge Jansen ($1,453.38)

Watch the entire race broadcast:

Nice Work, Fantasy Team!

My cycleFANTASY team got second place overall, winning me $220. Well work, team!

These Are Real People

This was our first time attending a CVR event, and Monica and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was fun to talk with riders from around the world and hear their stories. On top of that, my mind was expanded as I spoke at length with some key race organizers, discussing what the future looks like for CVR and Zwift racing.

Our favorite part, though, was standing near the riders as they raced, cheering them on and (in some cases) giving them a little guidance when their glycogen-depleted brains weren’t quite working right. It felt like we were really able to be a part of it all, and even help out in some small way.

The Future of eSports

Zwift has caused a stir in the eSports world, due in no small part to CVR’s pioneering efforts. I say “Well done” to Frank Garcia and his team, and I do hope CVR and Zwift can work together to further develop this side of the Zwift world.

As more riders participate and sponsors join in, the opportunity for exciting races with large payouts will continue to grow. Larger prizes means more and more participation from top riders: how long will it be until we see world tour pros at Zwift race finals? It’s coming, but not overnight: Zwift and its community must work together to build the technology and audience first.

A Few More Photos