Sam Anderson is part of a twelve-woman team from Tri Energy that decided to compete against other clubs in the virtual cycling and running competition at the SLT Arena Games London Club Championships Powered Zwift
“We received an email from our regional manager about the opportunity to take part in the Super League Arena Games Club Championships. This came at a great time for us as we had been doing weekly turbo sessions as a group on Zoom, and more and more of us have started to invest in turbos or link up to Zwift so this was a fantastic opportunity to step into the world of virtual racing,” said Anderson.
“It was amazing fun. I definitely pushed myself harder than I would have otherwise. Also, I'd spotted the points scoring system whereby you receive more points for the club if you finish in the top ten, so I dug very deep to finish 6th in week one and also finished 6th, one place ahead of my teammate Lisa, in week two.”
The Club Championships began on 22 February and offered triathletes the opportunity to join together with other club members and compete for prizes including the chance of a virtual meeting with a Super League athlete.
The championships took place over three weeks, with six races offering a variety of distances and Zwift routes, with Anderson saying: “Not many of us got the chance to race last year, then add into that a long cold winter of training by yourself, this series really gave us a chance to dust off the cobwebs, get competitive and get those butterflies in your tummy again. It's been fantastic.”
The ladies who took part heralded the virtual racing for bringing out their competitive sides and increasing their motivation and the team spirit around the club.
Jan Golding, one of Anderson’s teammates, said: "I love Zwift and have done a lot of Zwift training and a bit of racing. The SLT races are really bringing our club together virtually at a time when we can’t meet up face-to-face. On a personal level, it is getting me on the turbo once a week at a time when I am really struggling to find the time to train. I’d like to do more virtual club events like this, it suits me because of not living locally."
Another participant, Bex Champs, said: "It’s given me confidence and belief in my own biking abilities and my FTP [functional threshold power] increases each time too. I would love to see these races perhaps once a month or so to keep me motivated. They have certainly given me the motivation to get out in the real world on my bike this weekend."
Many of the women were using Zwift for the first time for the Club Championships, allowing them to emulate race day without feeling too much pressure on the virtual start line.
Carole Hender added: "Zwift and the racing league was an unknown entity to me two weeks ago and only through the Tri Energy club Facebook comments was I encouraged to join in. As a Zwift virgin I was worrying about the technology and how these things work. But despite initial nerves I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“It’s very competitive and whilst alone in your lounge, conservatory, garage or bedroom you’re racing others who are also alone in their space but together in a virtual world. Great fun, I will do more. I thoroughly enjoyed participating and any points gained in the Zwift league for our club is a bonus."
Equally, Kathryn Thomas, who was racing for the first time said: " I was apprehensive at first, but as soon as the race was underway, I settled into it. It's also a great way to learn some race discipline, and a safe space in which to make mistakes like pre-race nutrition and in-race tactics.”
Recognising the importance of virtual racing in the current period of isolation, Anderson said: “People need to feel connected and the SLT games has enabled this for club members by racing virtually. Add in the team points and you really feel a purpose and you're like a part of something.
“With the weather being so cold, Zwift provides a way to do some quality training in a safe environment. We would definitely take part in any future leagues the BTF/Zwift can offer. It's also motivated and encouraged lots of people to look into real time trials this summer, something they may not have considered before.”