Yesterday I rode my first stage of the Tour de Zwift on Watopia. It continues to amaze me how strange it is to participate to the on line cycling world.
I joined Zwift at the end of 2018 when I worked in Luxembourg as a way to bike after work when it was dark and dangerous on the countryside roads in Wallonia.
From the start I liked the concept and got hooked up. The idea of biking with hundreds, even thousands, of other weirdos in their basements, attics or bedrooms created a clear feel of community and banding. Other guys with a Belgian flag got my immediate friendship and Dutch ones made me go faster, especially when they wanted to overtake me! It got really crazy when I started to feel oppressed by the crowd when too many riders exercised in the same area of the virtual world. I was alone in my living room but really wanted less traffic in my immediate surrounding. It's really immersive!
But with this Tour de Zwift event it's even crazier. It's not even a race, it's a series of group rides and nobody forces you to participate to the madness. But here's the point. 1790 other cyclists in front of a timer counting down till you're released on track. You're relaxed up to the last 20 seconds of the countdown but then, by magic, you start to pedal faster, your heart rate rises. The timer reaches zero and you're instantaneously relegated to position 450 in the pack. You look at this ranking, whether you want it or not... The pace is incredible, you know it's just 2 laps, an easy 25km to pedal, and you want to keep up with the mavericks. I'm sure most of the others think the same way. Luckily there's no sensor for testosterone yet because it's going through the roof. Of course you started too quickly and except for those who are even more total loss than yourself you don't overtake anyone. As time passes you have to slow the pace and review your objectives. Well, let's make sure we're in the first 50%, no? After 40 minutes you cross the line, position 720 (why do I even look at that?) and can't wait for stage 2.