Is this the future of racing?

Posted Chris Articles

Last week, the CVR (Cycling Virtual Racing) world cup finals took place at the LA velodrome.

However, participants were not competing on the track. Instead, they raced on bikes hooked up to trainers linked to Zwift, the online cycling platform that has taken over the virtual cycling and training market. Over the course of the weekend, participants competed in several virtual cycling races for a huge purse prize.

Seeing racers here and online racing take off over the last few years got me thinking about whether this is the future of racing.

Imagine this:  

  • You first complete a 750 m to 2.4 mile swim on a Vasa Swim Ergometer connected to Zwift. I have tested this out myself. You can actually “Zwim” using the Vasa SwimErg connected to Zwift. Your avatar does cycle in the online world with watts and cadence displayed on the screen. I am hoping Zwift will eventually add a swim feature.
  • Then you get on your bike mounted on a smart trainer. And race through the hills and roads of Zwift’s Watopia.
  • After which you get right onto a treadmill to run while your foot pod communicates your pace and even “power” to Zwift.

All of which you can do without getting out of your training cave. Yet you can race against people from around the world.

Don’t get me wrong: I do not think that virtual races will replace outdoor races anytime soon. People love running, cycling and open water swimming outdoors to connect with nature and fellow racers. But I think there are appealing aspects here for both triathletes and race organizers.

For one, there is a big convenience and efficiency factor to this type of setup. I personally love and frequently do aqua-velo bricks (click the link for what these look like) where I will do a swim workout on the SwimErg and then get right onto the bike to do an interval workout, virtual race on Zwift, or a virtual course on Rouvy. If I had a treadmill, I could do mini practice triathlons before work. If I can’t get outside because of time constraints or  the weather, such training tools help pass the time. And my workouts are much more time efficient and focused.  

From a race organizer’s perspective, organizing races would be much easier and safer because you do not have to organize municipal permits, lifeguards, closing roads, or aid stations. Similar to the CVR, I could see a winter tri series emerging. Even gyms or studios without pools could put on triathlons or host triathlon practices with a fleet of SwimErgs, trainers, and treadmills. At first there would definitely be problems with officiating and ensuring fairness. But it could work with the right type of regulations. Such race formats could be a good way to get people involved in the sport and give them confidence to take triathlons outside.

If these indoor tris ever emerged they would not replace racing for me. But it would be an engaging, effective form of training and prepping for racing. Would you sign up for an indoor tri (SwimErg/Trainer/treadmill) like this?

Coach Chris
Tri Swim Coach