Every year, when spring rolls around, Regina Cycling Club has hosted the TNR (Tuesday Night Race). For this race, club members would meet at a predetermined start locations on the outskirts of Regina, Saskatchewan and race – or just try to keep up – usually to the outskirts of Lumsden, SK and back.
With the arrival of COVID-19 and the recommendations of international, as well as national cycling authorities, the Saskatchewan Cycling Association (SCA) has cancelled many early season bike races and events. The SCA has further recommended that cyclists do not ride in groups at all. The TNR, along with other early season road and gravel events and rides had to be cancelled.
Following the success of the HPL Cycling Winter Time Trial Series, held in a number of bike shops across Saskatchewan, Team HPL Cycling partnered with the Regina Cycling Club (RCC) to host the TNR indoors, on the Zwift cycling platform. Zwift requires an indoor trainer, an internet-enabled device, a bike and sensors. The TNR requires the ability to get to the start line (albeit a virtual one), and to chew stem for up to an hour. To participate, up to 50 riders receive and invitation to the Zwift “Meet-up” event and toe the line from their own pain caves, attics and sheds.
The RCC/HPL TNR begins with a five-minute neutral roll-out, and then the hammer comes down. Cyclists sprint to form packs of riders pulling anywhere from 2 Watts/kilogram to more than 5W/KG. Other riders, just use the session for training, just for a spirited ride, or to practice team race tactics with other riders on the Zwift platform, whether they are racing in the TNR or not.
Spectator Sport, too!
Unlike the outdoor TNR, the RCC/HPL TNR allows spectators to watch the entire race. Spectators can use the Zwift platform to watch a particular rider’s avatar or a group of riders in a pack. In a time of very little leisure and athletic cycling or sports activities and television coverage, this real-life eSport gives participants and the virtual audience the chance to engage, participate and enjoy the racing and viewing experience.
On Tuesday night, April 14, 2020, 43 riders from across Saskatchewan, Alberta and even British Columbia, participated in the third RCC/HPL TNR. This was the biggest ever participation in the event and, unlike the traditional outdoor version of the TNR, this one gave both former Regina Cycling Club riders and guests living outside of the Queen City, the chance to race and to hurt.
Just like is the outdoor TNR, where riders have flats or mechanicals, several of the riders DNFd (Did Not Finish) because they experienced internet connectivity, computer, or Zwift interface issues. But the race continued! The April 14th TNR featured three laps of the Zwift Volcano Flat Course, a Strava-approved segment. Following the race, results were tabulated and shared with participants. True to any real-life event, racers who did not heed the five-minute neutral roll out rule, were disqualified.
Benefits of cycling in a time of isolation
The benefits of eSport cycling during a time of social and physical distancing cannot be contradicted. The benefits to the local cycling community, RCC and HPL Cycling members, as well as those who may wish to become members is undeniable. The April 14th race also demonstrates power of this platform to bring people together. Much like the HPL Cycling Winter Time Trial Series, where people from across the province participated, the RCC/HPL TNR featured participants from Canada’s three western provinces. In fact, the finishers included, the race “beacon” and organizer, Team HPL Cycling’s Kelly Chimilar, who was racing from Calgary; a former RCC president, now living in the Vancouver area; Team Saskatchewan Juniors, Regina Multisport Club Juniors, RCC members in Regina and guest riders hailing from across the province.
What comes next depends on how long the recommendations from cycling’s governing bodies to avoid group rides continue. The RCC/HPL TNR gives all cyclists the opportunity to train, to race and to, albeit virtually, spend some time with the bike loving friends.
Now is also a good time to consider signing up for Memberships to your local bike clubs and Provincial Associations your support and participation will help the clubs continue in the future. Saskatchewan Cycling Association - https://bit.ly/2V9f9my Written by Terry Lazarou, HPL Cycling