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Esports Racing Is Here: Why Coaches Should Take Note

BY Tim Ballintine

Consistency is critical in the world of endurance sports, so surely a technology that enables athletes to train all year in any condition is a useful tool.

Electronic sports (esports) racing has arrived and it’s here to stay! As coaches, you are part of the paradigm shift in the way athletes can prepare and compete on a world stage, and as athletes, the benefits are extraordinary.

When you think of esports, you might think of video games, where injuries and ailments are along the lines of carpal tunnel syndrome and vitamin D deficiencies. That landscape has shifted though, and now athletes can significantly benefit from various platforms in both cycling and running. Make no mistake, the great outdoors and fresh air will always take center stage, but this is about complimenting those pastimes.

Indoor training is nothing new—there are millions of subscribers for Peleton and SoulCycle—but we have never seen this level of connection, engagement, development, and competition in this space before. Cycling brands are scrambling to ensure they get their piece of the pie.

Zwift isthe clear front runner in this space (recently raised $120M in capital), andhas launched their professional league, the KISS Super League. Online racingaudiences remain modest at this early stage (15,000 to 20,000 people), howeveryou get the feeling when BBC Sport decided to live broadcast the BritishNational Championships, something is brewing. 

Whenthe one of the world’s leading cycling federations is embracing the technologyfor its members, high-performance athletes, and talent identification, theremust be something to it. Could cycling esports be an Olympic event in thefuture? Australia and Great Britain have already issued national championjerseys for esports racing.  

Consistency is critical in the world of endurance sports, so at the very least, a technology that enables athletes to train all year in any condition is a useful tool! Athletes used to dread staring at a painting on the wall for 90 minutes. But now you can wake up, suit up, and race people from all over the world in the comfort of your own living room.  

We’ve all heard the complaint, ‘I just want to race, I’m sick of training’—and it makes perfect sense, both physically and psychologically. Esports can be that bridge between the end of one season and the start of another. Or, if used at the right time, sharpen the senses during race preparations.  

For the time-crunched athlete, this emerging platform is a way to maximize precious minutes. Often athletes find an extra gear on race day (or go a little bit deeper into the abyss), so with various forms of racing now available any day of the year, it’s an incredible coaching tool.  

At KoaSports we offer our athletes the chance to connect and race via our Koa Sports League. We had athletesfrom seven different countries in one group workout riding a structured sessionbased off their FTP (built using the TrainingPeaks WorkoutBuilder and exported as a .zwo file), suffering alongside their coach. Itwas a perfect synergy, utilizing modern coaching tools and techniques.  

Muchlike the biological passport for WADA, we use TrainingPeaks as a performancepassport for our athletes during racing to ensure absolute integrity in theresults. Coaches should be aware of their athletes’ capabilities (and theTrainingPeaks platform adds an extra layer of reliability), so athletes havethe confidence they are all racing with true account settings.

Esports can’t replace that feeling of freedom on the open roads, brisk fresh air, or the shoulder-to-shoulder sprint for the criterium finish line, and it’s not trying to. But perhaps you’re a coach or an athlete who first opened a Facebook account in 2019? I’d be concerned for the coach or athlete who waited another 14 years to embrace esports.  

It’sonly a matter of time before TrainingPeaks gives coaches the option to checkthe ‘esports’ box for expertise, much like IRONMAN, XTERRA or ultrarunning, orsimply ‘Indoor Cycling’ as an event option on the calendar.

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About Tim Ballintine

Tim Ballintine is the founder of Koa Sports and a full-time endurance coach. Koa Sports are the 2022 Asia Pacific IRONMAN TriClub Champions, 2022 IRONMAN Busselton TriClub Champions and Top 10 Club overall 2022 Kona, Hawaii. Tim is a Level 2 TrainingPeaks Coach, accredited with Triathlon Australia, and an eight-time 70.3 and IRONMAN AG champion and course record holder, and three-time Hawaiian IRONMAN with an 8:51 PR.

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