Stuart Lynne is a veteran of the Zwift racing scene. He has been competing on Zwift and helping others learn to race since December of 2015.
But you won’t find him at the front of the big races. His podium places and wins are in the B category, where the battles are just as hard-fought outside of the spotlight.
Stuart began racing on the road and track in 2006, at age 52. As a relative latecomer to cycling, he’s used to racing both with peers and with faster, younger riders. These days, most of Stuart’s racing is on Zwift. While it is a different experience, he still gets the same competitive urge to beat the riders around him. You don’t have to be an A category racer to feel it.
He took the time to share some of his advice for Zwifters who want to improve in races – no matter where they rank.
Zwift: Tell me about your outdoor racing experience. How does it compare to racing on Zwift?
SL: The road racing was as a Cat 4 on the road doing our local Spring Series, which are 8-10 races run in March locally. I did our local Masters races which feature Australian pursuit style races, about 4-6 races per year in the summer and two weekly crits in the Vancouver area. Spent several years doing those. In fall and winter, I did track racing at Burnaby Velodrome. It is a 200m track and we have a fall and winter series of Friday night racing. Accumulated a lot of races over about six to eight years. Racing in both the B and then A groups. Was competitive in B’s, but did have a lot of fun in the A group as well, trying to stay on at the back of the peloton of young Cat 1/2 riders.
I also spent many years doing time trials, winning BC Provincial Master C championships in 2010 and 2011.
I have cut back a lot on track and outdoor racing over the last three years. I organize and run 30 of the outdoor races in the Vancouver area and do timing for about 20 more, about 50 events a year. That doesn’t leave a lot of time, which makes Zwift racing very attractive, time efficient and available as and when needed.
I find Zwift racing is a lot more like track racing than road racing or crits. Intense starts and fast-paced action. With most Zwift races being a little longer than most track races (which at our track are typically 15-20 kilometers maximum length) and a lot shorter than road races, Zwift ends up maintaining the intensity of track races.
What do you like most about Zwift racing and why?
SL: Zwift racing lacks some of the physical aspects of IRL racing. Group riding, staying safe in a pack, not being able to move around in the group.
But overall, stick a (virtual) number on my back and I’ll fall over trying to catch the people ahead of me. And that is exactly the same on the road, track, and in Zwift.
What do you dislike most?
SL: While I like PowerUps generally, I really dislike them for the finish. They provide some interesting capabilities that mid-race are fun and useful. But for the finish sprint, it should not come down to who did or didn’t manage to get an aero-helmet. I’m not quite ready to turn them off for my races and only do races without PowerUps. But if Zwift offered an event option to disable them for the last few km I would enable it for my races.
What’s your favorite Zwift race course and why?
SL: The 6 Train reverse. Rolling course with no large hills, and a really fun uphill finish. Also, my best (only) win ever in a KISS EU race.
As a B racer, would you rather do a race where categories start together or separately? How do you approach each of those types of races?
SL: I prefer mass start and race with whoever I end up with. Depending on my goals for the day, I vary from trying to stay with or as close to the front as possible to get a very hard workout, or sitting up and riding with slower riders to get a Sweet Spot training ride in.
Most of us aren’t among the fastest people on Zwift. How can people stay motivated and have a good race when they’re not at the front of the field?
SL: You don’t get faster racing with people that are slower than you are. You get faster by trying to stay with people that are faster.
Find the fastest group of riders you can hang on to. Then work with them to catch as many people ahead of you and not get caught by anyone behind you. Then sprint for the finish.
What advice would you give to someone who’s having a hard time keeping up in their category?
SL: Practice makes perfect. If you are ending up in no man’s land between groups try larger races with more entrants. That will increase the number of groups that you can ride with. But always be trying to catch the faster groups.
Do you have any favorite workouts that help you in races? Would you recommend different ones for specific race situations?
SL: I use Zwift races for workouts and try and target specific flat or hilly or rolling courses to provide different results. As a strong time trialist my weakness for racing is sprinting and short term power (30 seconds to 2 minutes). I use (for example) Volcano CCW to practice short sprint climbs. In a typical 8 lap race I’ll try and attack from the bottom of the climb at least 4 times.
Do you have any pre-race rituals? How about post-race?
SL: About 45 minutes before the race, start Zwift and log in to verify PC is working and no updates. Then change and try to get on the trainer at 30 minutes. Typically, [I warm up with] 2-4 hill repeats on Watopia KOM. For large events, join to get a good starting position, then do a warmup.
What’s one thing you would tell new Zwift racers to help them perform their best?
SL: Don’t be afraid to do a very hard warm-up before the race. You’ll have a much better start if you do 20 minutes at 80-90% of your FTP and have your heart rate up.