Meet and Greet: 6 Zwift National Champions

Meet and Greet: 6 Zwift National Champions

ON 8 février 2019 by Zwift

The biggest one-day race on Zwift returns February 24, 2019: the Zwift National Championships! Last year was the inaugural event, with victors earning the right to wear their country’s Zwift National Championship jersey for a year. Over 3,500 racers from 14 countries competed, and this year’s races will certainly see larger fields with more competition than ever!

We caught up with several 2018 National Champions to learn what they’ve been up to since their wins, and what they’re planning for 2019.

Adam Zimmerman
USA Men’s Champ

Zwifting since February 2015, Adam first joined in order to train for mountain bike racing. “I loved how engaging it was compared to other programs, and of course as the [Zwift] racing scene grew so did my interest,” explains Adam.

A very successful Zwift racing season in the winter of 2017/2018 helped Adam refine his goals as a cyclist. “I now consider myself a ‘hybrid’ competitive cyclist where I race MTB XC Pro from April – September and then race primarily indoors on Zwift from October – March.”

Of course, that isn’t all he’s been up to.

Adam has continued his coaching efforts, running an elite junior development team (15-18 year olds) and working as a cycling coach for adults. And he’s racing in the Zwift KISS Super League on the Zwift Community All-Stars team, with plans for specific preparation in defense of his Nats title.

“… as we get closer to the date I’ll start doing more course recon and efforts associated with that course. Watopia Figure 8 has two climbs… so I’ll adjust some of my workouts to simulate such efforts.”

Like any good racer, Adam is keeping an eye on his competitors. But he isn’t focused on one particular rider.

“There are about 5-15 riders on my ‘watch’ list. Those American Zwifters have been at the top rankings and been putting up impressive numbers throughout the winter. Anyone can win on any given day so I feel it’s important to watch several riders with different disciplines.“

The USA Men’s race was last year’s largest Zwift Nationals field, and Adam is the defending champ. So he knows a win won’t come easy, no matter how much he prepares!

“… I will be closely watched and be put to the test as various riders throw everything they have to shake me from the group or in the final sprint.”

But he’s going to give it everything he’s got for a chance to make Zwift history, again.

“It’s a chance to win a title that only one person can hold for an entire year. Although nationals is not a sanctioned race by a governing body, it still holds value to me and the Zwift racing community as one of the single most important races to win each year. It holds a special place in my heart because last year I was crowned the first ever Zwift US National Champion. Who knows where this game will go in the future but it’s nice to know I was there at the beginning of something big.”

Cassie Baldi
UK Women’s Champ

When she isn’t outside completing long sportive rides and amateur races you’ll find Cassie indoors racing and training on Zwift. Racing with the Zwift community has had a deep effect on her, as she explains:

“I suffer from a serious mental health condition, which means that it can sometimes feel very difficult to go out for a club ride or even leave the house, so Zwift really has been a lifesaver for me.”

Despite these challenges, Cassie continues to train hard, inspired by a successful winter race season and a community of close Zwift friends. “Last year’s KISS Crit Series was the first time I really raced any race series, outdoors or indoors,” she says. “This has enabled me to make very close friends, especially at the live final, where I could meet the people behind the avatars.

For Cassie, Zwift is much more than just a training platform. “It’s a community of like-minded people.”

Like Claudia, Cassie is focused on training and racing as part of the Zwift Community All-Stars team in the coming weeks. But she will also be there at Nationals to defend her jersey. Because she wants to give her best, against the best.

“It will be a lot harder this year with a more and tougher competition…which is always a good thing! For me, they are as important as any other race on Zwift: I race for fun, for pleasure, and for training. Whether it’s a Hare & Hounds group chase or a National Championships, I race to be my best.”

Of course, she knows taking a win this year won’t be an easy job! When asked to size up the UK competition, Cassie gave us some good riders to watch:

“Depending on who turns up to race, Mary Wilkinson should be the favorite to win: she has both the raw power and the w/kg to challenge the peloton. Leah Dixon and Caitlin Rice would be good riders to watch. I would also love for Rachael Elliott to race, she is still stronger than most.”

Mathieu Drujon
French Men’s Champ

“Last year there was the first edition of the national championship, and the opportunity for me to be the first champion of France in the history of Zwift… an honor,” says Mathieu.

After retiring from an 8-year pro road racing career, he has logged over 12,000km on Zwift and shows no signs of slowing down.

When he began Zwifting in 2015, Drujon didn’t know any Zwifters in France. Since then he has seen the French Zwifting community grow very large, and he knows the level of competition at this year’s nationals will be quite high.

“I am curious to see how many will be on the start list, given the magnitude that Zwift has grown this year in our country,” he says. And he’s already got a short list of key competitors he will be watching closely:

“The experienced riders in racing on Zwift: Stéphane Kiwi Ouaja, Clément Cambier, Valentin Cheval, Jérôme Mariaud…“

Drujon has made a name for himself on Zwift, competing in two CVR World Cup events and now racing for the Zwift Community All-Stars team in the KISS Super League. He’s quite happy with the All-Stars’ results so far and remains focused on helping his team as the league progresses.

“Right now we are the first team overall after two heats, so it goes very well, and as it will last until the end of March, I will continue to train for this goal,” he explains. But the French National Championship is also on his mind.

“I hope to shine at Nationals, and this year’s course pleases me well. The France championship is the most important one day race of the year. And you get a unique jersey.”

Claudia Behring
USA Women’s Champ

Change is inevitable, and Claudia has seen her share of it this year. “I have changed both IRL and Zwift teams and moved twice, just recently landing here in Boulder, Colorado (at altitude), so it has been a year full of transitions,” she explains.

She rode her first Zwift race in the fall of 2017 and spent a lot of 2018 racing indoors, where she won Zwift Nationals and was 2nd overall at CVR World Cup… twice! But Claudia is more focused on outdoor road racing for 2019, with big goals for her road racing season including moving up a race category, winning the GC at a stage race, and mixing it up with some pros.

In the midst of all the change and training, Claudia has been busy at her real jobs planning elaborate weddings around the world and coaching triathletes.

And of course, she’s still riding on Zwift.

“I’m racing once a week in Zwift to break up the monotony of structured training, and also I look forward to representing the community as an All-Star in the upcoming KISS Women’s Super League.”

When it comes to February’s nationals, she is more prepared than ever. Finishing on the podium in highly-contested Zwift races requires much more than pure power. Claudia understands this more than most.

“To be good at Zwift races, you have to be willing to throw out some of the rules you know of traditional races and to go deeper than you really thought you can go, over and over again… My training has been very different from last year, but I have gotten smarter as a racer, so I am hoping this newfound knowledge will help me retain the title in 2019. Being a champion whether inside or outside validates all of the training you put in and the sacrifices you make, day in and day out.”

Kim Little
UK Men’s Champ

A Zwifter since early beta days, Kim lives on the south coast of the UK, racing for the Merida UK team outdoors and Team X on Zwift indoors. He competes in a number of disciplines including MTB, road, TT, and Duathlon.

“The past year I have mainly been focused on Zwift races, competing in a number of live events. But also a few local road races and MTB XC races.”

“After signing up I got quickly hooked on the racing aspect,” Kim admits. And that may be an understatement. He is one of the most experienced racers on Zwift, a level 50 rider (and level 13 runner) who has completed 500+ races.

The competition on Zwift is greater than ever this season, and Kim is right in the middle of it as part of the Zwift Community All-Stars team currently competing in the KISS Super League.

“Coming into the race as last year’s title winner I know I have a big goal ahead to try to achieve the win again but am willing to give it my best. Competing in the KISS Super League I am hoping will be good preparation riding with pros and other top-ranking racers.”

Kim knows even more strong riders will be chasing the UK title this year. “The Madison/Genesis boys are very keen and have picked up the game fast, especially Ian Bibby and Jon Mould,” he says. “If it comes to a sprint finish Steve Young is a tough one to beat and Gavin Dempster from Scotland I am sure is going to have this race as a goal.”

So Kim continues to use every race as an opportunity to push his limits and become stronger, both mentally and physically.

“I will be focusing on improving my sprint for the inevitable finish and also closely studying the course in order to get a heads up on where any breaks may happen or opportunities could arise to attack,” explains Kim. “I’ve enjoyed wearing the coveted jersey in-game so would really like to retain the title. I am very much looking forward to the challenge and hoping to animate the race.”

Willemijn Prins
Netherlands Women’s Champ

Racing as a U17, Willemijn is the youngest-ever Zwift National Champion. But she’s been racing since the age of 9, giving her the experience and fitness necessary to excel both indoors and out. She’s been hard at work since winning Zwift Nationals, and has goals in place for the 2019 outdoor season:

“So far I have been doing a fair bit of cyclocross this winter. My main focus from this week onward is the 2019 road season, in which I will try to excel on ITT.”

She plans to defend her 2019 Zwift Nationals title, but admits she hasn’t been training specifically for the event.

“I hope of course that I can again play a role in the Zwift National Championship and will give it my best. In my opinion, Sylvie Boermans is the favorite to win the title in the Netherlands this year, if she participates. She is an acknowledged female elite road racer in the Netherlands and has proven to be with the strongest female riders on Zwift today. I am still a U17 rider and although fast sometimes, know my power and limitations.”

Still, Willemijn is excited to be a part of it all. A Zwifter since the fall of 2017, she has seen the community grow much larger and believes the world will see much more Zwift racing in the future.

“In my opinion, Zwift (or eSports in general) will become part of the future, as a new facet of sports practice.”

Ready to Race?

Visit the official 2019 Zwift National Championships page to learn more or sign up for your Nationals race!