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The Zwift Experience - Virtual Reality Cycling

The National Finals of the School Games is an annual four day multi-sport event hosted in late August and early September in the UK, and a key focus for many of our top Northern Irish riders. 

In 2017 the School Games welcomed a world first, as Zwift's cycling turbo trainer game was introduced into competitive time trials.

The Irish cyclists fared well too! 

GOLD: Clodagh Gallagher in the girl's 50m street sprints
SILVER: Virtual Boys Team Time Trial 
BRONZE: Shay Donley in the boy's 50m street sprints 

We heard from the riders themselves about their experiences:

Clodagh Gallagher

I really enjoyed the TTT it was different but it was cool! It was like a video game but instead you were actually in it! I definitely wanted to get zwift at home after the TTT ! I would definitely do it again because it was just so cool and different. There were four screens, one in front of each rider, and you could see all your stats and if the other riders were behind you or not. The setup was very smart if you were behind a rider you would feel less resistance on your turbo! It was just really cool! I would definitely love to see more of it in competitions!

Shay Donley

The virtual racing was lots of fun! More like playing an Xbox with extremely sore legs and heart rate sitting at a constant 180BPM... 

Personally I wouldn't mind using the system again for training, but for the likes of racing I'd rather keep it on the roads.

The racing on the virtual set up was a team time trial, where four of the Ulster boys and girls had to push to the absolute max to try beat the other teams, this event was based on time so fastest time wins! It was a slow 11 minutes 11 seconds pretty much 🙂

Cathir Doyle

Did I enjoy the virtual reality TTT? Well that depends, truly this is a yes and no answer because at the end of the day it was a TTTT and they are never things which should be enjoyed (if you enjoy it you're doing it wrong). But on the other hand I really enjoyed the fact that we came second and that this was a true test of our fitness and cut out any variables between teams such as the wind they were subjected to or even passes by vehicles, I think it left it a fairer test. I would rather not do it again, or at least until they fix the bugs/glitches because I found that some people's turbo trainers maybe weren't reading properly and in my case my avatar went the wrong direction at the start of the TT leaving me to have to expend energy to chase onto the back of my teammates.

Kevin McCambridge

I really enjoyed this weekend, i gained a lot of experience in all the events and learned a lot more. I thought the Team Time Trial on Zwift was really quite cool and felt the effect of drafting and hitting hills would slow down Cadence. The road race was also very fun with a steep hill every lap splitting up the group. I feel like i did alright this weekend, it was just unlucky i was held up behind a crash in the road race because i would of really liked to be in the break. I was happy with my room and food we got and the Loughbrough University. The School Games gave me a lot of motivation coming into my winter training.

Nathan Keown

I enjoyed the zwift virtual TTT because it was a new and different way to compete and because we were along side each other working together and also able to see our powers on the screen. 

I would use the software again as it was a more enjoyable way to suffer inside but not to compete at the moment because of all the technical issues

Katie Neill

With no previous experience of Zwift, I was looking forward to the experience, although I was a little unsure how to approach the event. To begin with, the pedalling sensation was unusual for me as I normally train on rollers, but I soon got used to the different feeling. I lost some distance early on, however when our team was reduced to 3 x riders I knew I had to dig deep to get back on the wheel of my teammates and the welcome encouragement (loud encouragement..... lol) from Nicola and Paul was enough motivation for me to close the gap and help the team achieve a respectable time.

I'm not sure if the system was working perfectly although do I think this was an interesting race and I would look forward to competing in this type of event again, especially as I now know what to expect.

Ellie Kelso

The thing I enjoyed most about this event was that it was different and new to me and it didn't matter whether it poured with rain! I would do it again because it was fun riding in a virtual reality.

Maia Simmons

I really enjoyed the zwift experience, I had heard great things about it and was dying to try it out as I have never tried virtual racing. I was really impressed by how realistic it was and it was great to try it out with the Ulster team.

It was a lot more fun and the coaches were able to give us guidance along the way, which wouldn't have happened in a normal TTT. I hope it appears more in the racing scene in the near future.


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