The ZTR races on Tuesdays and Thursdays have been the “cornerstone” races of Zwift for some time. James Gill runs the ZTR “Early Bird” (EB) race on Tuesdays at 1:30PM EST, and works with ZTR leader Christian Wiedmann on overall ZTR policies and procedures. As you’ll read below he stays busy between running the ZTR EB, other group rides, and his medical training.
James is another good example of a race organizer who continues to do a great job as a volunteer because he is passionate about what he does. He hails from Warwick in the UK.
Tell me a little about yourself–how long you’ve been riding, what sort of riding you do, when you discovered Zwift, where you live, etc.
I’ve been riding since medical school, so 2006. I started off in the rowing team, and would just cycle between the hospitals. One day I was riding and a friend passed me on his bikeg. I thought I’d stopped he was so fast, and for a chap who would hold 13-15kmph for an hour’s run, I didn’t like being beaten like that.
Next weekend, I found out why he was such much faster. He was on a race bike and I was on a third hand hybrid weighing at least twice as much. I went home with a Scott Sportster S60 and haven’t looked back since.
Although that said, if I ever find the person that stole that S60 from the hospital…
How would you describe your philosophy as a race organizer? What is most important to you when organizing Zwift races?
For race organising, my approach is about inclusivity. I’ve always resisted requests and calls for disqualification and other things when people shoot off or don’t stick to the race/ride guides.
From a ZTR point of view I like to see pack A groups, packed B groups even down to the D’s and E’s. Essentially the race is what you make of it. If you can hold 400watts and keep up with JT and F.Coppex great, but if you can’t, it’s about coming back every week, trying again, and hopefully beating the chap that pipped you to the line last time.
I’m VERY pro competition, and consider 2nd the first of the losers 😉, but part of that is about giving it your all. The WWR (which I lead with other member of Team X) is a group ride, so that’s about keeping together and training. ZTR is about giving every last drop and collapsing in a heap on the floor after!
What race(s) are you currently organizing on Zwift, and how long have you been doing them? What makes these races different than other Zwift races?
I’ve been doing the ZTR since about March 2015 as part of my recovery from a bike crash.
I also get involved leading WWR, and the ARR, and later RSR, but I’ve got my medicine exit exam next month, so I’ve currently really trimmed back my involvement until after March 18th!
Those other rides are more group focused and look more to the training than flat out performance. When I lead those, I try to be very vocal, keeping the group together, and the riders on the ball. I’ve never known for certain if I give too much chat on the system, but never had any complaints.
What suggestions would you give to someone interested in joining your races for the first time?
Come back next week – simple as that. When I started Zwifting, I was the living dead at the end of a ZTR, but over weeks and months it gets better. Half of the time the challenge is with yourself: just because everyone gave you a kicking shouldn’t stop you. Work out what you need and try again, even if that means using a gel halfway through the race. You do improve, but only if you come back, and that day you hold onto a rival or even better beat them, then it all makes sense.
If the folks at Zwift HQ could add one feature to Zwift to make your job easier, what would it be and why?
- Timed starts, as in a big count down clock, and then the riders are off. No need for a neutral, which some people loathe, no issues with bikes moving around at the start. Lock down all the riders, everyone gets released at the same time, and off. Thankfully this is coming in the events module in a fashion.
- Leader identification – this is more important for neutrals or group rides with fixed/target paces. But again this is going to be addressed in the events module.
The Zwift community is an amazing bunch of people and I think it’s fair to say the beta release was pushed further than anyone had envisioned. The same thing WILL happen with the events module, from a personal side of things I’m darkly hoping it doesn’t get released until after my exam!!!!