The View from the Back – Nations Challenge, Team Great Britain

The View from the Back – Nations Challenge, Team Great Britain

One of cinema’s most iconic moments comes from the film ‘Forest Gump’, when Tom Hanks’ character Forrest Gump casually states, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

That saying applies to the Zwift Companion app, as when you open it up and scroll through the day’s events, there are usually a few treats on offer.

This weekend’s little sweetie was the “Nations Challenge” run by WTRL. It was something quite different to the normal races offered on Zwift, so I signed up as the chance to represent my country in a sporting activity doesn’t come around often for a novice like myself. Clearly many felt the same, as 523 other riders had eagerly signed up!

About the Nations Challenge

The Nation’s Challenge was a country-based race where riders from the same country would race around Watopia on a custom 50km length of the Figure 8 Reverse route, decked out in their country’s jersey. The route was the same course that the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship would be contested on, giving us a taste of the pro life.

The premise was that people from the same country would work together and team up and race the course with the top 10 percent and bottom 10 percent being discounted and the average time for the country calculated from the remaining 80 percent. So teamwork seemed essential if you wanted to win this challenge, as it was simply one giant country team time trial.

Carnage at the Start

Now, those who have raced in a bunch or undertaken a well organised group ride know the power of the bunch. So, in my naivety with 524 riders, I expected our British Team to cruise around the course and quite literally win the event. As I sat spinning my legs waiting to start, the thought of riding in this “mega blob” was appealing.  Unfortunately, it would quickly become apparent that not everyone was on my wavelength.

Immediately from the start it was carnage, with the usual Zwift 400-watt start we are all accustomed to.  I couldn’t help but feel that the ‘team’ concept may have been lost on a few and back down the field there was unorganised chaos as people rode at their own speed, trying to find a suitable group.

Within moments I was in 250th position, which meant that the front group had already put some distance into my group and was already up the road, long before most people had literally got off the start. The first message I saw was “We need a DS” – absolutely. We certainly did need a Director Sportif to organise this chaos!

It was at this point the value of the “Beacon” would have prevailed and an experienced Group Leader, to help guide the masses. 

Teaming Up

Recognising the need to “blob up” I joined the message chatter as a few other riders realised the importance of teamwork. One rider was Russell, a classy rider from Race3r, who I had ridden with previously in a Team Time Trial, and we began organising our group, which was now in 290th position.

Russell was slightly behind in around 320th but he managed to pull his group into mine. This larger group soon found its rhythm and we began “hoovering up” smaller packs as we began making headway.  The strength of the group began to prevail.

What I learned was that trying to manage a group is a challenge. The group could sustain around 3.2 watts per kilo, however when we tried to push the pace, we occasionally and unintentionally caused small splits and had to slow down, or in some cases, drop back to fill the gap. With this in mind, the first major challenge was the KOM, which Russell led the group up far better than I did. Unintentionally, I slipped into my climbing rhythm and was off up the climb without realising – that will be all those Zwift Hill Climb races I have been involved with.

Over the ensuing rollers I dropped to the back of the group to help try and pace those who were less confident on the climbs, whilst Russell kept it steady at the front.

Tempo and Tactics

In between talking tactics of the group, we discussed which nation may potentially win the event overall. We concluded that having a group of 500 riders was simply too big and unmanageable and perhaps the victor may come from a nation with a smaller team. We opted for Japan. (Incidentally, for the first round of races our guess turned out to be correct, with Japan’s 188 riders in first followed by Sweden in 2nd with 111 riders.)

As the race pressed on, riding 50km on the Watopia Reverse Figure 8 became confusing and I lost all sense of where I was as my focus was solely about trying to maintain the group. We were growing in size with each kilometre as our massive group was able to make significant gains on the smaller groups and individual riders on every descent.

Keeping a steady tempo, the kilometres ticked by and we led the now large group up the final KOM. I finished in 1 hour 18 minutes 36 seconds, in 248th position. 11 minutes, 40 seconds behind the leaders. I like to think that my domestique duties helped some riders finish quicker than they might have otherwise, and for me, it made a nice change to be riding cooperatively.

Preliminary Results

Team Great Britain placed 3rd overall after 1 event, with an average of 3.23 watts per kilo. This was on par with our group with an overall time of 1:17:18, 1 minute and 3 seconds behind early leaders, Japan.

Final Results

It transpires that Team GB didn’t do too well in the second race, dropping from 3rd to finish in 6th place 2 minutes and 35 seconds behind Sweden’s winning time of 1:14:58. Belgium and Japan finishing second and third respectively.

See full results at wtrl.racing >

Congratulations to WRTL for another entertaining event!

Your Comments

Did you ride in this weekend’s Nations Challenge? What did you think of the event? What are your thoughts on reasons why some countries did better than others? Share below!

About The Author

Tim Perkin

Tim is a six-year cancer survivor who has finally regained and surpassed pre-cancer fitness levels through the intense use of Zwift. For news about good events on Zwift follow him on Twitter @GoZwiftTim.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
39 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Craig H
Craig H (@lego_2001)
5 months ago

Rode in the 1st USA slot. Agree that it was an entertaining & challenging race/ride. Too bad US did not even make the top 10. 😕 Congrats to the other nations!

There was a lot of talk in the pens and early about having trailing riders quit the race before finishing in order to raise the group’s average time. Kinda defeats the spirit of community and “everyone contributes.” I wonder if other countries pulled that tactic.🤔

Colin Peerman
Colin Peerman
5 months ago
Reply to  Craig H

‘taking one for the team’ is part of everyone contributes. Sacrifice for the greater good….

Mick Such
Mick Such
5 months ago
Reply to  Colin Peerman

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few….

So said Spock. 🤔

davep
davep
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Perkin

Wrath of Khan. (pushes glasses up his nose). 😉

Enda
Enda
5 months ago

Where are the results. I cant find them in wtrl. Do i have to register to see results?

Simon
Simon
5 months ago
Reply to  Enda

Same problem here. Not even to find the result when logged in. This wtrl page is quite a mess.

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
5 months ago
Reply to  Enda

Yeah, I can’t see the results anywhere except on the short YouTube video which only shows top 10…. looked high and low on zwiftpower and wtrl.

Warren
Warren
5 months ago
Reply to  Enda

Same for me. No idea where detailed results are. That being said, the short summary video was pretty cool.

Warren
Warren
5 months ago
Reply to  Warren

Actually – try Zwiftpower, events->history. Good stuff there. I attached a screen snip.

results.png
Marco
Marco
5 months ago
Reply to  Warren

The average time of a nation can be seen?

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
5 months ago
Reply to  Warren

I did that like i do all races, so where is the nation rankings and results minis the top and bottom 10%?

Warren
Warren
5 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin

yeah fair. I’m new to Zwift power so I got all excited when I found that page. But I don’t see country averages, etc … Maybe they aren’t going to publish?

Mirco
Mirco
5 months ago

2 time slots so few. Hope Better time slot next tim

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
5 months ago

Another big issue I found in both races – there was some semblance of team work, but almost 1/3rd of the field weren’t Aussies. And also, there was zero way to know who had actually jumped through the hoops of zwiftpower AND wtrl signups. So when working for the team, who is the bottom 10%, who are we really working for??? Next time they either need to enable all zwifters registered for the nation, or make it far easier to see who is actually in the real event. It was fun, but really difficult to workout what needed to be… Read more »

Troels Walsted Hansen
Troels Walsted Hansen
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Perkin

Having a WTRL account was not a requirement. This was an error in the event description, the requirements stated on the WTRL site are correct (ZwiftPower account required). I confirmed this with the WTRL organizers.

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
5 months ago

And any word on seeing the actual results? That’s half the fun, seeing the stats…..

Luca
Luca
5 months ago

In my opinion, since this should be also a social event, the averaging of the central “80% of the riders results” is not enough to build up the winning board. If a nation would have aimed to win, then the best tactic would have been to make ride only Class A/B riders… so in my opinion a weight average considering also the number of riders of different classes A/B/C/D should be more fair!
Anyhow was a pleasure to ride for my nation (Italy) even if we did not do in the top 10 🙂

Mark
Mark
5 months ago

Because it was average time rather than first to get 90% of riders across the line, it would have worked better with stronger riders making their own smaller blobs/lines (perhaps based on climbing speed) and pushing ahead.

From a lot of pace-partner experience, smaller groups travel same speed as bigger groups on lower wattage. It’s because of that sticky drafting.

(Anyone positioned in top 10% should obviously continually drop into a scoring position.)

Pete
Pete
5 months ago

Looks like UK improved their W/KG by a massive 0.01 after the second event. More teams improved by considerably more.

Neal F.
Neal F.
5 months ago

Another excellent article, Eric. It makes sense that countries with smaller numbers of riders crossing the line stands the better chance of winning over much larger groups–it’s a numbers game. But with the opportunity to ride as a representative of your country in a nations’ challenge (sort of like a world title championship), we will ride because we will have no other opportunity in our real lives (outside virtual racing) to do that. Definitely exhausting, but how cool was it to wear your country’s colors!

Chris
Chris
5 months ago

My team were discussing the best tactics for the race, given that there were several of us (Cats B/C) racing on the Saturday. We decided a huge blob just wouldn’t cut it, as you would be trying to keep the Ds in the pack. From the event perspective of 500 riders entered and not counting the top/bottom 10% then send a group of 50 up the road, and drop the slowest 50 riders, or use some up doing ‘hero’ stints. I had a thought that maybe the best option would be to have Pacers in the race? There’s also the… Read more »

dan
dan
5 months ago

the wtrl website is a wreck

C.L.F.
C.L.F.
5 months ago

Thank you for the article – I’m glad that other nations faced similar “problems”. In fact, your story almost exactly describes our Germany’s race on Saturday 😀 I’ve been positively surprised from the amount of thought and discussion via chat, that was going on before and during the race. Apart from some “racers” who were not able to control themselves for the team, I think most riders worked together quite well, forming some big enough groups to accommodate the different level riders and give good drafting. As an emotionally uncontrolled human I have to admit I encouraged a guy to… Read more »

C.L.F.
C.L.F.
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Perkin

Hi Tim, that’s definitely a good plan for Sunday. Currently I’m thinking of joining LEQP for the PRL Full – would be nice to tackle it in a bigger group at decent speed. But if I should not feel like riding 180km on Sunday morning I will join the Fondo!

Andyb
Andyb
5 months ago

I was in the Saturday uk race on the front. During the initial few kms we discussed tactics and it was interesting to hear everyones thoughts. In the end we sent a number of riders back to 50th place (myself for included) to pace and provide wheels to follow. The thinking was 50th and behind were the numbers that counted, so help them was most important. What we didn’t know was is the top 10% and bottom 10% dropped from each race? Or the fastest and slowest from both combined? As you say, race 1 was quicker than race two,… Read more »

Robert
Robert
5 months ago

I started the saturday ride for Sweden, only for my ANT+ connection to miserably fail after 5km forcing me to abandon. Oh well 🙄 😁

Robert Jonsson
Robert Jonsson
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Perkin

I am indeed.

Dennis Tall
5 months ago

All Swedish cyclist should be able to ride in a nations challenge kit! Until next time 😉

Alan G
Alan G
5 months ago

I rode in your group. In fact I was the one who said we need a DS! I tried to do a bit of work on the front but got dropped at the end courtesy of some technical gremlins (laptop froze).

Quite interesting trying to manage a group of that size where no one knows each other and abilities very wildly.

39
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x