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It’s only a few weeks away and it’s open to riders from 15 countries: a truly ‘open’ national championships. Enter, abide by the rules, race… and earn gloating rights (and a prize jersey). It’s the Zwift national championships of 2018 later this month.

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Average over 5w/kg and you’re out: you will “receive an automatic DQ”. So say the rules. But there is a proviso for anyone who can conjure that kind of power for races of 68.4km (men) or 45.6km (men). “They can be reinstated if real life matching performances can be provided and they are verified by ZADA.”

The ‘Zwift Anti-Doping Agency’ is the enforcer. And it doesn’t want anyone out there pushing power that’s indicative of cheating. That would, after all, spoil the whole concept. (It’d be like racing with a motor in your bike – yes, possible… but oh-so naff.)

Anyway, the point of this post is this: the nationals are back on again – for riders from 15 countries.

On 24 February (for the Euros) and 25 February (for Americans and Canadians), it’s time to log on and go for a virtual ride on Watopia. Set off for a few laps of the Volcano Climb circuit and test yourself against your compatriots.

Alas, Aussies aren’t going to be eligible in 2018: perhaps real-world riding conditions here are better than we thought and most cyclists are out there on the roads. Or maybe it’s just that the 15 nations that qualified are colder places in the midst of winter, prompting a greater number of registrations.

Either way, the organisers have deemed that the Zwift nationals are only to be hosted for nations in the “the top 15 countries with the most Zwifters”.

But wait… only the dates and times of 14 nations have been announced. (Could Australia be a late call-up? We wait to see.)

The 14 countries which have been given a time to race on Watopia are: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

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Find out more, visit Zwift.com

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Is this the future of bike racing? Cycling may be enormously popular in the countries that are competing in the Zwift nationals but let’s hazard a guess: there’ll be more candidates vying for a virtual dossard on Watopia than would line up for the real nationals.

How long will it be before national federations begin teaming up with Zwift or Virtu Go or another style of virtual riding environment to try and elicit a larger membership?

This is a relatively new community but its numbers are growing rapidly and the riding on Watopia is safe, welcoming, challenging, and engaging.

The Volcano circuit isn’t easy but at least it doesn’t have traffic lights to annoy you while training. It doesn’t have traffic either. And it doesn’t require road closures. There are three good reasons why the virtual nationals are certainly a lot easier to organise.

There are still rules and it’s a shame that “cheating is bad” needs to be spelled out but at least appropriate measures have been put in place to try and ensure that the best man or woman on the day is the best man or woman in the race.

Good luck to all those who registered to compete. May the best riders win. And everyone else have a good time in this innovative race format.



– By Rob Arnold