The Italian Mountain Biker surprised his rivals during at the virtual London International Zwift Classics Race. “I have never competed on the road in my career… can’t wait to be back off-road as soon as possible.”
“If I didn’t have Zwift, I’d go crazy during this mindblowing period”. The online platforms have become very important for professional and amateur cyclists during the Coronavirus emergency, venting energy and channeling frustrations of the athletes positively, idling for better times. Filippo Agostinacchio is just 17 years old and has already left his mark at the Internazionali d’Italia Series by winning multiple stages in the youth categories. But that’s not it. During the last week, he also competed on Zwift, surprising road cyclists at the London International Zwift Classics Race, a virtual competition located in London (UK) with 127 riders connected on the platform. Among the many virtual riders, also the Brit rising star Tom Pidcock was racing from home.
A remarkable success that the Mountain Bike and Cyclo-Cross rider conquered despite the lack of experience with road racing. After many good results in the 2019/20 cyclo-cross season, Agostinacchio was in Spain when the health emergency arose in Northern Italy.
“It’s an unpredictable situation, but I consider myself fortunate compared to my colleagues who have less experience with the virtual platforms – explains the winner of Andora, Nals and La Thuile competitions during the 2019 Internazionali d’Italia Series. – “Traditional training is fundamental for us, but during the winter season is not easy for me to ride my bike, in the Aoste Valley – where I live – days are shorter, and I’m still attending high school. For this reason, I have been practicing on Zwift for three years now: I can get regular training thanks to this platform“.
Zwift is a byword for functional and fun, but regular races are something else. “Zwift is very useful for training and an incentive for us to improve – Agostinacchio said – though the experience is fairly different from regular racing. The calibration of the cycling rollers has improved impressively since the previous versions, but making it perfect is hard, if you consider that 127 riders might have – potentially – taken in the race with 127 different trainer models. Furthermore, I took advantage of the ‘Power Up‘ to improve my performance: an option which reduces the wake impact, making the pursuits even more challenging compared to the real cycling“.
“Nevertheless, virtual platforms are growing and deserve our attention. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to face a virtual competition under the aegis of the UCI. The recent virtual Tour of Flanders is a strong signal leading to this direction“.
However, virtual competitions leave nothing to chance. “Zwift is equipped with a verification board that examines the performance of the riders, something like a virtual anti-doping, responsible for the performance control.”
“After the race, Zwift puts the athlete to a first verification, including the sending of the performance with the road bike, the card of the National Association, a video while measuring weight and height, in addition to the image of the cycling roller” – said the U17 MTB European Champion. – “If anything is unclear, the verification board analyses the performance again, leading to a final decision“.
In the meantime, Agostinacchio looks forward to starting the 2020 season. “I had three major goals for this MTB season: to win my first National title, achieve good results in the UCI JR Series events and to conquer the Azzurri jersey given the World and European Champs. Now the calendar is completely rescheduled. Thanks to Zwift, I’m training in view of a short season, laying the foundations for the cyclo-cross season and the 2021 MTB year“.
In the wake of the best riders in the World cycling, Agostinacchio aims at two disciplines, Mountain Bike and Cyclo-cross, but his priorities are clear. “Last year, I felt the benefits of practicing multiple disciplines, but it’s tough to race all year in the perfect conditions. For this reason, I’m mainly focused on off-road events. As a model, a champion such as Mathieu Van der Poel carefully chooses the races to compete, among three different disciplines“.
“Also, who knows whether virtual cycling will become a ‘real’ discipline. For now, I’m having fun and training hard, because the effort is nevertheless real“.