Casey Schumm knows his way around Zwift racing. He has been riding on Zwift since December 2014 and even participated in the first races that were held on Jarvis Island, the beta test world that came before Watopia. Now, he has hundreds of virtual races under his belt.
Casey is a team player and a long-term member of Team X, short for Team eXperimental. In January, the strong all-rounder was named as one of the Zwift All Stars for the KISS Super League. When he was racing in the league, he worked to help the team get the best collective result possible. On his weeks off, he was on the microphone in Discord, giving his teammates encouragement and instruction. The All Stars team ended the KISS Super League in third place on the overall podium.
Recently, Casey talked to us to share some of what he’s learned over the years, including how to work as a team and help others to victory.
Zwift: Have you done much racing outdoors? What kind?
Casey Schumm: A little. I have done about 6 road race/crits, 6 cyclocross races, and 5 time trials. I currently hold a Cat 4 Cyclocross and Cat 4 Road licence for USA Cycling.
What’s your favorite Zwift race course and why?
CS: Watopia Figure 8 – This course is a good mix of flat and small climbs and it doesn’t just repeat the same terrain throughout the race. This course favors my skills as it has enough hard bits to shake some riders and flat places for adequate rest.
If you could invent a Zwift PowerUp, what would it be?
CS: I think another PowerUp that could be effective to finish a sprint race. Right now aero is king. Something like a watt booster that could rival an aero to finish a race but work a little differently. It could be similar to a feather on a hill and an aero in a sprint. Depending on how strong you made it. Maybe a 1.5-2 w/kg boost.
Do you have any favorite workouts that help you in races?
CS: I don’t do a lot of workouts but I have 3 that I will do when I want some structure.
- The evil 40/20’s – this is 40 seconds VO2 Max and 20 seconds rest – repeated for about 10-12 minutes. I typically do 3 sets with about 3 minutes rest between. This is great for building the attacking type skills in a race or learning how to kick again in a race when you are still on the limit.
- Low cadence/high force work – I’m not a big fan of gym and strength work so I use this to do that on the bike. Often I pick a course like London loop. Ride loops – on the hill you go to max-gear and hold 55-65 cadence at threshold for the KOM (6-7 minutes). Then ride the rest of the loop Zone 2. These climbing efforts are similar to doing low weight-high reps in the gym.
- Jersey hunting – I have some workouts that I use to do sweet spot and threshold work while jersey chasing on Watopia. I build the workout to have the work and rest duration longer than they need to be. I manually turn and u-turn on Watopia and use Tab to jump to workout intervals so they start/stop in time with the jersey points. So one workout I may try to get both orange jerseys and the volcano laps and volcano climb. This helps keep me motivated for threshold work.
You race a lot in support of your teammates. How do you race effectively as a domestique?
CS: Racing as a support rider is so much fun. First – there is much less pressure or stress as in the end you don’t have any expectation for your final positioning. These roles in races are typically harder than if you are racing for yourself, as you will often do different efforts and must be willing to go deeper mid race then you would in a solo race.
Your focus in this role has to be to do whatever you can to shape the race to favor your teammate. The only purpose for any pacemaking or efforts in this role must only be to increase your team’s odds at success. Depending on the race participants and course this can shape up many ways. This could be repeated attacks to soften a group, setting a brutally hard pace on a tough section, or simply covering every move on the front of the pack.
First and foremost the key to being a team is trust. Your teammates need to have 100% faith that you will cover the move and stay by their side no matter what. As the domestique you need to have complete confidence in the person you are working for. If you don’t have this full partnership and complete trust the strength of the team is severely diminished because the domestique will save a little for their own finish and the leader will burn too much energy protecting themselves versus trusting their mate to protect them.
This inherent selfishness and lack of trust is hard to overcome at first, but once you witness it first-hand it is magic.
You’re strong enough to win races yourself, but you’ll still work for others!
CS: This plays out in 2 ways in a support role. First is the fact that you’re able to use your talent to support another person. I strongly believe in the idea that any gift you have if you aren’t sharing, assisting, or helping others with it then you are not fully recognizing your gifts.
Second, being strong enough to win races makes you more effective to play your opponents. If the players in the partnership are all able to win races then only the players and not the opponents know the roles of the individuals for that race.
How do you change your approach to races when you're the one going for the win?
CS: Racing for the win I’m constantly evaluating every effort if it is helping me win. Any work that isn’t obviously increasing my chance to win is avoided. No low success rate type attacks. That is something I always try to stress when I am calling races. Avoid any excess work that isn’t increasing your probability to win.
What's one thing you would tell new Zwift racers to help them perform their best?
CS: Remove expectations for the first few races. Jump in and focus on riding wheels and experiencing the pack style riding. There is a learning curve and you can easily get discouraged if you expect to be competing for podiums in your first few races.