More than 40 cyclists converge on the virtual tarmac of Zwift’s fictionalised Watopia island for Maccabi’s inaugural digital race. The on-screen countdown marches towards seven o’clock … 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … biological engines spin into gear; ‘red-lining’ in those early, critical moments as contenders vie for a position in the lead peloton. The front of the pack, having attained breakaway escape velocity ease off the throttle slightly and settle into a steady but still blistering pace. The rest of the group also ends the initial surge and finds their natural rhythm in smaller groups where slipstreaming is possible and social distancing doesn’t apply.
Riders are propelled forward through the 40.9km course based on Zwift’s ‘black-box’ logic that calculates speed using several factors, most notably power-to-weight ratios. It is an impressive platform but not flawless and is still evolving for private club races. Regardless, at its heart this Club event is really all in the name of fun and fitness.
The deserts of ‘Fuego Flats’ flash by as the first 0.50km time trial is underway. Race leader Matt Sherwin takes the cup in 38.34s, a mere 8 split seconds ahead of Michael Linton, with David Lavecky a further 12 splits behind. The interim race segment is over in the blink of an eye.
About 2.5 kilometres later, the formal 0.36km sprint is upon us. David Lavecky seizes the green jersey in a rapid 28.01s followed by Matt Sherwin and Jarred Shein just a fraction of a second later.
From here, there’s about 17.5km of flat terrain before the first ascent (3.8km), up an active volcano. It’s about to get hot in Watopia but it’s already much hotter in real life where cyclists are sweating buckets pedalling stationary trainers at home – from bedrooms, garages, studies, gardens. Grand Tours are won in the mountains and this is no different. Bunches at the front, middle and back spread out as the climb extracts its pound of flesh. Matt Sherwin peers into the crater as he crests the peak in a blazing 7:39.0 extending his lead over Gidi Segal (8:10.1) and Sydney-sider Jarred Shein (8:08.8) who is wedged between the two Melburnians. The erupting battle here is a microcosm of the much broader (friendly) battle now in full force between the two rival states, cities and clubs! And one that is expected to continue in future online races. Other commendable, sub-9-minute climbs are achieved by Randolph Baral, Craig Pager, Sean Bloch, Brayden Bloch, Steven Hatchuel, Daniel Tanne and Alan Kaplan.
Following a short descent and crossing the flat land road to the Italian Villas, the crew inevitably reaches the second and final ascent (2.4km), each in their own time. Young gun Gidi Segal’s still got his climbing legs and claims the fastest ascent in 4:22.4 reining in Jarred Shein (4:39.0) but it’s not enough to catch first place Matt Sherwin (4:24.5) or snatch the polka dot jersey from his fellow statesman across both climbs. Randolph Baral is the only other cyclist to accomplish a sub-13-minute time for both KOM segments.
From the mountain summit, it’s a fast descent to sea level, where the beaches are open, the Ocean Boulevard is crowded, and the finish line awaits. Game over! Pain over! Matt Sherwin secures first place (0:59:49 // 41.0kph), Gidi Segal is second (1:00:47 // 40.4kph) and New South Welshman Jarred Shein shares the podium with the two Victorians (1:00:54 // 40.3kph).
The sole female competitor, Jana Greenblo, delivers a superb performance leaving much of the field in her pixelated dust. With an enviable power-to-weight ratio, she whips through the course – conquering the first ascent in 10:19.4 and the second in 5:44.4. She crosses the finish line in 1:10:52 (34.6kph) in the yellow jersey and as QOM. We encourage more women to get involved in the Club.
Thank you for being part of this Club’s first digital race. Your involvement is crucial to its success, fun and communal energy. Collectively, during the event, we generated enough green energy to power an average Australian home for half a day. That’s a lot of watts and great way to stay fit.
Stay tuned for details on future Club events.
- Daniel Bos