On 23 January 2019 Ian Bibby made history for Madison Genesis, winning the first ever virtual pro bike race on Zwift – but how did he do it?
We caught up with the man himself to talk tactics, race plans and how racing in the virtual world, compares to the real world.
Congratulations Ian – how has the reaction been to your win?
Thanks – the reaction has been amazing and it’s been a really good start. It’s been amazing how many messages I’ve had on social media, I’ve had more from this than when I became British crit champion!
Did you go into the race with a plan?
Yes, we had a team talk. Me and Mouldy have done quite a lot of racing on Zwift so we gave Connor and Tom some tips on our WhatsApp group before the start of the race.
What sort of things were you bringing to their attention?
There are a lot of little things to pick up on – and to a point we didn’t know ourselves.
I’ve done races on Zwift before against the All Stars team and they have been a bit stronger, but this was different because it was the first time everyone lining up in the race was a pro rider.
Did you feel nervous at the start?
I was a bit. I was surprised how much the race split up and in the end there were only about 20 of us left.
What approach did the team take to the race?
We said that you have to ride at the front of the group especially when approaching the climbs.
On Zwift, it’s so hard to close a gap if it opens, so we wanted to close down any moves very early. That’s maybe a difference to real-world racing, where you would let the gap go a bit more and then use the power of the peloton to close it down.
On Zwift you can’t let those gaps go and if you’re in the middle of the bunch and there is a gap, it’s very, very hard to get back across.
The pace was very hard at the start and riders were getting dropped, rather than the traditional breakaway forming?
You don’t have much control of staying on the wheel. If you go to the front the pace goes up each time there is a new rider coming through and it goes harder and harder.
Rather than getting away, those gaps open behind and a guy 10 back will struggle.
How did you communicate during the race?
We were all in our own homes, so either me or Mouldy would send a WhatsApp voice message around every five minutes to keep everyone updated. That was a big part of it. Also, we knew the finish was quite hard and we knew it was coming.
Were there any tactics on that final climb, where all four of you were at the front?
Go balls out!
You can’t really do leadouts on Zwift, so we said it was every man for himself, everyone was racing to win and that’s the way we did it.
One thing we did talk about was the importance of having a power-up at the end. If you didn’t have one, then you weren’t going to win so it was really important to pre-plan that.
Tom Moses made the first move and you came over the top – was that your payback for Tour of the Reservoir last year?!
Haha, no, I will be getting that payback at some point though!
Madison Genesis will race the KISS Super League on Zwift every Wednesday through 27 March at 1900GMT.
You can check out all the stats from Ian's race win over on Strava.