Editor’s note: here at Zwift Insider we’ve been reaching out to women’s Grand Prix teams, inviting them to write race recaps for each round. This week we’re featuring Team Saris | NoPinz, with an article written by Saris NoPinz racer Anna Russell. Enjoy!
Zwift Grand Prix Round 3, the Squad Skirmish, was probably one of the most innovative and different styles of Zwift racing that we have experienced so far.
The first round of the day was the Qualifier events, which involved 3 races all done multiple times, let’s call them the ‘sprint’ stage (300m all out from banner), the ‘flat stage (2.2km along Fuego Flats), and the ‘climb’ stage (straight up Watopia KQOM).
There was a lot of back and forth amongst our team as to who would be best placed where. We don’t have an absolute sprint specialist so unfortunately for Jenn Real, also the Team Manager and DS, she drew the short straw and took on the sprint stages. Morgan Uceny, our Olympic 1500m runner, and Eleanor Wiseman, freshly returned from her pro racing season IRL in Europe, took on the flat Fuego stage. Liz van Houweling, the recently announced Zwift Academy finalist, and I (Anna) challenged ourselves to the climb.
As a racer this format can be really anxiety-inducing as you have to sit through so many of your teammates’ races before it is your turn. The nerves tend to build up and build up and that definitely impacted our first set of races in Round One. We were sitting outside of the Top 5 necessary to make it through to Round Two and we really needed to rally to haul in some points in the second part.
Eleanor and Morgan threw caution to the wind and under Jenn’s guidance performed a hail-mary attack off the front. Morgan managed to sit in the pack while Eleanor pushed pace off the front, keeping her fresh enough to smash it for a 2nd place and some valuable points.
It all came down to Liz and I in the last race: if Liz could get top 3 again and if I could get top 8 then we’d have a shot at making it through. I felt significantly more relaxed the second time around and we actually managed to pull it off! Liz came through in 2nd and I came in 8th, securing just enough (1 point over Movistar!) to make it to the Finals. I was happy… my quads not so much!
We were into the Finals, where only the top 5 teams got to race. This meant very small race fields and huge opportunities for breakaway efforts!
Eleanor tried a breakaway in the first race but unfortunately got swamped on the line with some very quick sprinters (love her brave racing style though, a great one to watch). Jenn and I hit the Volcano which again ended in a sprint. Then it was up to our power hitters Morgan and Liz to showcase their skills through and up Titans Grove. Unfortunately, a break went away up the road and they just couldn’t quite get on it in time. Points were gathered but we ended up 5th on the day… and 5th overall heading into Round 4.
Thoughts on Round 3
Honest thoughts on the Squad Skirmish: as a rider, it was a big chunk of time (2-1/2 hours total for me) with less than 15mins of actual racing. I like the idea of Squad Skirmish but think it could be refined somewhat, maybe just one round of Qualifier races then more of a mass start type event for the Final.
Our team loves zwiftcraft and actually racing as a team, but when we get split across multiple races it really does become just a power test, kind of like a race version of the dreaded ZADA test!
What is awesome though is that Zwift is trying new things and they are very open to feedback after each race. Bring on Round 4, another completely different format. We’re excited!