Sunday, 17 May 2015

Zwift Down Under Challenge - Melbourne & Sydney - May 2015

We've just arrived home from Sydney after an amazing whirlwind short notice tour competing in the Zwift Down Under Challenge. Not in a million years would I have imagined being on a plane with a large trophy between my feet and a giant novelty cheque in the overhead luggage.

Back in early April I wrote about Zwift and my experience with the new world of online interactive cycling: Zwift - Next Level Awesome. Since then a few things have changed. Zwift is now on a new and improved island (Watopia) and the code geniuses have added more features (and a mobile companion app). Things are progressing at warp-speed with events such as 'Ride with Jens', partnerships with the Tour of California and Tour de Pier, just to name a few. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what's coming. They've also just gone to 'open beta' which now allows everyone to get involved.

When the team at Zwift announced they'd be coming to Australia to host events in Melbourne and Sydney, I was keen to catch up with them and get an insight into the company and what we can expect in the future. Oh, and to tell them how addictively fun they've made indoor riding.

They'd seen my posts online about using Zwift and were also looking forward to catching up with a passionate (and obsessed) Zwift user. They invited both Veronica and I to their Melbourne base the night before their launch at Bike Gallery for a meet and greet.

We'd planned to spend only a few minutes to say g'day. Two hours later, after many questions, stories, and a few good laughs, both Von and I left them to continue their event preparation, both wearing Zwift t-shirts! As I posted to the Zwift Riders group on Facebook, catching up with these guys was inspirational.

Me (Zwift addict), Eric Min (CEO), Mark Riedy, and Tomas Hrbek.

It was great to meet the team behind something that is going to be pretty big in cycling. I speculated on the potential of what they could do with the platform back in April. It turns out they're already three steps ahead, in every aspect. I left there with my eyes wide open and mind spinning faster than a Kickr flywheel.

Bike Gallery Melbourne Zwift Launch - May 13th 2015

The setting for the Melbourne launch was perfect. Cam and Lincoln have a showpiece store and pump out quality coffee to match.

Not only was the launch to demo Zwift to the local cycling community, there was an added incentive to set the fastest male and female times around Watopia (9.1km) for a winner-takes-all $500!

They'd taken fun and turned it up all the way 11 (speed)!

The pressure was on from the start, I'd been ranked high enough to be one of the last riders off. Even the online Zwift community were talking up my chances at the $500. International pressure, and eyes from all over the world were on this event.

Veronica set a huge PB on Watopia with 14:47, which was leading the women's category until Seda Camgoz flew up the climb and around the course to set the winning women's time of 14:08. Amazing times from both ladies.

Veronica (Von) looking strong and stylish all at once. #hammertime
I kept a nervous eye on the leaderboard all night until it was my time to take on the Watopia challenge. The heat was on, literally, from the start. I'd gone out hard and was soon calling for water. Thankfully I had Stephen Lane and Veronica by my side as assistants. While Veronica was pouring water on me, MC Scott McGrory (OAM, Olympic Gold Medallist) was on the mic pouring on the pressure.

.... and this was just the warm up. :)
The jersey soon came off as I was into the final few kms of Watopia. There had been some great times ridden already, if I could push hard from the sprint banner to the finish line the time should be well under 13 minutes.

Posted by Eric Min on Wednesday, 13 May 2015

It was. 12:31. A PB around Watopia after giving it everything I had. A late charge by Fergus Sully had me biting my nails until his lap time was locked in with a solid 12:47. Another phenomenal performance by a Zwift first timer.

That is a really big trophy. And Eric has really bright Zwift orange shoes.

A highlight was near the end of the night when James Werner was true to his word - if Fergus rode, he'd set a time in a TT helmet and tri-kit. The entire place was in hysterics, then he battled through and set a very reasonable time!

This is what happens when you drink too much!
Posted by Eric Min on Wednesday, 13 May 2015

After the event we had dinner with the crew from Zwift and Bike Gallery, where both Seda and I were invited up to Sydney to be a part that launch. They wanted the Melbourne champions to compete against Sydney's best. Both Seda and I were not going to pass up this unique opportunity to be involved, so we were going to Sydney! Women's 2nd place getter and Team Lama better half (my wife Veronica) was also invited along.

Time to rest up and #rideon in Sydney! Wahoo!

Rapha Cycling Club Zwift Sydney Launch - May 15th 2015

After a rest day and a long 800km transfer stage, Team Melbourne were ready to take on whatever Sydney could serve up.

Team Melbourne arrive in Sydney!

Rapha Cycling Club HQ
The three of us were enjoying the night so much at Rapha HQ we almost forgot we were there to compete in the challenge. In just a few hours I'd caught up with Matt Keenan (Commentator/The human cycling wikipedia), Philip Gomes (Editor/producer at SBS Cycling Central), Peter Rox (, and countless others who wanted to know about Zwift.

8pm soon rolled around and MC Paul Craft started talking up the Melbourne vs Sydney rivalry. As there were different ergo equipment used in Sydney (CycleOps) the times on Watopia were a little faster than we saw in Melbourne. I'd seen both Peter Moore and Tom Sacre set impressive sub 12 minute times. I didn't think I was in for a chance, so it was all or nothing.

In the women's challenge, personal best efforts by both Seda and Veronica weren't enough to match Sydney's Lynne Clarke (who I hear loves a time trial). Lynne time trialled her way around the 9.1km course in 12:49 to secure the $500 and women's title.
Von and Seda enjoying the night.

Finally it was me time to kit up and #rideon. I need ride 11:33 or faster for the lap, almost a minute faster than Melbourne. To put that into perspective, 11:30 was the fastest time on Watopia on Strava.

My extended warm-up involved getting lost in the immersive Watopia world, which isn't hard to do with a giant screen and other riders to chase down.

From the starting gun I had to make this ride count. I knew every inch of the course, every turn, and even where I could get into an aero tuck on the descent, much to the amusement of MC Paul Craft when I did. :)

The crowd noise grew throughout the lap, and went off the charts when I passed the 200m to go banner and my lap time came on screen. 11:15... 16.... 17... I buried my head and chewed handlebar tape until I could hear it was over.

11:25! I had to double check the screen. 11:25? It was official. The fastest time on the night, and a new world record. It took a minute or two to sit up on the bike after that. Lost for words from the effort and from the surprise at taking back-to-back wins.

Eric Min was first to shake my hand and congratulate me, that was a moment I won't forget. To be able to show the CEO of a company their product working in full flight, with the MC going crazy on the mic, people cheering, talking cycling, and enjoying themselves made for a memorable night in Sydney.

I've also been set a challenge.... first at Rapha in Sydney, then on national TV. Looks like I'll be clocking up some serious kms when the Richmond world championship road course is released on Zwift.

Zwift have set out to make indoor cycling fun, and for me they're right on the money. They've taken static ergo sessions and made them dynamic, interactive, and have created a virtual world where you can meet people from all over the world for group rides, races, and events. Something you just have to experience yourself to understand how much of a game changer this really is.

A huge thank-you to everyone involved:

- Zwift: The team who came to Oz and everyone else behind the scenes throughout the world. Special mention to Dave and Tom who did a lot of heavy lifting and the drive from Melbourne to Sydney on Thursday.

- Bike Gallery and Rapha Cycling Club for hosting the two events.

- The cycling communities of Melbourne, Sydney, and beyond who turned up on the launch nights or followed along from afar.

- Von and Seda from Team Melbourne who travelled to Sydney and back. Great company to share such a random and rewarding experience with.

If you see Zwift launching somewhere local to where you are, I encourage you to go along, you'll have a blast. You never know, maybe I'll be there too. In the mean time, download Zwift and let me know what you think.

Zwift Links:


Complementary lollies at the hotel..... time to fill up the cup!

Heading home. Giant cheque and boarding passes!


Unknown said...

Fantastic shane well done....opens up a whole new world.

Unknown said...

Well done, you paid the price with sweat and tears of laughter. Here is a write-up of the Sydney event and photo of yourself racing to the finish line:

Shane Miller - GPLama said...

Cheers for the link and write up Christopher. Roxii over at Transitions had much more unflattering shots of my pain face on the night :)

Unknown said...

Brilliant write and a great performance Shane!