Eracing used to be all about Zwift. Not anymore, as this year more virtual cycling platforms gained online exposure during the Pandemic of 2002. RGT is one such platform and widely considered the biggest rival to Zwift. Although still relatively small in comparison, RGT does represent something different - both with regards to event organisation and in-game dynamics.
The Canyon Esports team (or Canyon Barbarians as we are known in this league as it's a mixture of Senior and Development riders) lined up men and women’s teams on all three days of the Real Road Stage Race that Echelon Racing League was offering. For most of the riders, it was their first time racing off Zwift. It was a weekend of discovery, but also success for our riders.
A fast course with little elevation called for strategic placement in the peloton to hide from the virtual wind. This inaugural stage of the series acted as a good weekend opener for our riders. Out of all the stages this was definitely the most difficult with regards to "RGT race craft" with not everyone making it to the finish line. But whilst the team didn't achieve huge success on the results board in Stage 1, they definitely learnt a few things to take into the next stages.
This is the stage the team had been really excited to race on: 6 laps on rural Belgian road. Each lap would prove to be brutal with two steep ascents of the “Baby Patterberg” and the Paterberg itself, a 400m climb with gradients reaching up to 20%. These cobbled roads would season the legs of the riders, demanding extra effort twice a lap, and giving the most daring of the racers many opportunities to establish breakaways (something not possible on Zwift).
The combination of tactical placement on the flat roads combined with the demonstration of power on the hills made for an exciting stage. Charlie Velez and Philipp Diegner broke away from the rest of the peloton with one other rider, getting a significant enough gap from the rest of the field to have a three-way battle up the cobbles of the Paterberg. Charlie pulled away from the other two in the final meters to take the win, with Philipp joining him in third. Gary Muller finished 12th. On the women’s side, Claudia Behring, Lydia Hunter and Daniel Garcia crossed the finish line together in a group, respectively in 26th, 29th and 31st.
In this last day of racing, the peloton faced the ultimate challenge - the Stelvio! The fastest men averaged just under 20km/h, which should give you an idea of how abrupt the road was. The steady hill meant drafting was minimal on this stage, and there would be no hiding. The riders with the best power to weight ratio would be the front players in this gruelling stage. So it was with that knowledge that Charlie Velez decided to attack pretty from the gun and put the peloton on the backfoot. For a long time it looked like it he would take it all the way to the line in a show of defiance - but it was not to be. The mountain proved to just be a few kilometers to long as Charlie cracked only to be overtaken and finish in 4th. Teammate Alban Puech also had a great ride to finish in 7th. On the women's team, Kristin Falck shone in the mountains and was able to take a 6th place, just outside of the top five.
Well done to Charlie who finished 2nd on the GC leaderboard and to all the riders who participated. Next up is the 'Tour of Gila' on 4th - 6th December 2020. This is a stage race designed for the riders based in America so expect to see the likes of Charlie Velez and Claudia Behring back in action over all 3 days.
All in-game photos by TLB Velo