2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships
3 March 2022
By Ben Hill.
The Australian team headed into the 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships with confidence in the plan they had made, and knowing that we had the riders to pull it off. As in the inaugural edition in 2020, the event was staged on the virtual platform Zwift and the team was filled with some very experienced Zwift racers: Jay Vine – winner of the 2020 Zwift Academy; Freddy Ovett – 8th at the 2020 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships; and myself – 5th at the 2020 UCI Cycling Esports World Championship.
In the week of the event, we had a meeting led by team manager Donna Rae-Szalinski to discuss our strategy. Together we decided to split the team into two groups, the first group was three protected riders who we all believed could win the race – Jay Vine, Freddy Ovett, and myself. We were to be supported by Aiden Sinclair, Torben Partridge-Madsen, 2021 Zwift Academy winner Alex Bogna, and my brother Sam Hill who was racing just 36 hours after his own wedding.
Our plan: We would use the discord app on our phones to keep constant communication between riders and Donna throughout the race. The first goal for the support riders was to deliver the protected riders into the bottom of the final climb at the front of the race. After that if we had some firepower left they would then make the pace high for the beginning of the climb. With just over 1km to go it was then up to the 3 protected riders to have their own opportunity.
Below is the profile of the finishing climb and how we divided it so we all had our own chance for the win. As you can see, it was Jay’s opportunity to attack in the first part of the climb. If that did not succeed, it would then be my turn. If it came down to a small group sprint, Freddy was our man to finish it off.
So that was the plan. Now, the race from the perspective of the Hill boys. One being a support rider and the other a protected rider.
Sam Hill’s race as domestique:
Of the 54km race Sam’s job was to keep the race together for the first 52km into the bottom of the final climb. This included 2 times up the New York KOM. Sam spent the first 36.7km in the bunch as we rolled along at a fast pace. He averaged around 5w/kg for this period including 2 efforts of the KOM around 3m:30s long at 7w/kg. This fast pace saw the Australian team lose Aiden and Alex from the group but we still had our 3 protected riders in the front group so everything was under control.
This is when things changed… With 18km to go a strong 6 rider group went up the road with most of the main countries represented, but Australia had missed it. They were working well together in the break and it became apparent it was going to be up to Australia to take up the chase. The gap to the leaders got up to 17 seconds but Torben and Sam, with very little help from any other countries, set to work on bringing it back. For the next 21m:32s Sam averaged 402w at 5.5w/kg into the bottom of the final climb. Sam and Torben had reduced the gap to the leader down to 10 seconds into the base of the final climb. It was then up to our three team leaders to finish it off.
My race as one of three protected riders:
The first part of my race was physically not too stressful. I rode in the wheels the first 52 km and besides a little concern about whether I needed to help chase with Sam and Torben or not, it was more or less an easy ride into the base of the final climb – 1h:12m at 4.1 w/kg.
My race really started when we hit the climb for the last time – 1.88km at 5.8% and 16% at its steepest. The first 900m was not too hard (1m:30s at 7.3w/kg).
It all really kicked off when we hit the steep part and Jay attacked. I followed behind in the small chase group (46 seconds at 10.8w/kg). Jay created a small gap over the top leading us onto a plateau with 600m to go. At this point Jay decided he did not have the gap he wanted and thought it would be better to wait for the group behind. At almost the same moment the defending champion Jason Osborne attacked from our group and flew straight past Jay, and we went immediately from a strong position onto the back foot. So after a brief rest (7 seconds at 6.1w/wg) I found myself on the front of the chase group with Freddy and Jay on my wheel and it was up to me to bring back Jason for the others. I picked it back up doing 8.6w/kg for the next 36 seconds (400m).
Jay and Freddy were able to pass Jason in the final 100m and take the first 2 places. I had nothing left in the legs and rolled in for 4th.
This is how the Australian Men’s team put together and executed a plan to win the 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships and place 3 in the top 4. These numbers go to show how much of a huge team effort this was.