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Deploying her feather Power Up within the final, uphill 200 meters, Loes Adegeest of the Netherlands sprinted ahead of Cecilia Hansen (Sweden) and Zoe Langham (Great Britain) to win the second-ever UCI esports cycling world title on Zwift.
Defending champion Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa animated the front of the group on the decisive final climb, attacking at the base, 1.8km from the finish. Moolman Pasio also used a feather Power Up — which reduces body weight by 10 percent for 15 seconds — but she deployed it before the final kick to the line, and it wasn’t enough to drop Adegeest, Hansen, or Langham.
Moolman Pasio finished fourth, ahead of American Liz Van Houweling in fifth.
While other riders, particularly the Americans, attacked earlier in the race, Adegeest sat in until the final moments of the race.
“I dreamed about this race, and I dreamed that I got beaten on the line,” Adegeest said after her win. “So it is better than a dream come true.”I knew I had to save the feather for the last part if I was to win the sprint.”
Americans run the numbers
There were nine American women in the field, and they attacked and counterattacked in the second half of the race.
Early on, recently crowned U.S. esports champion Jacquie Godbe was at the front of seemingly every roller, riding at 5 and 6 watts per kilo.
The Zwift broadcast on YouTube, GCN+ and Eurosport would display the top 10 riders’ power output in w/kg, and time gaps if any. Occasionally, the broadcast would inset live video of a rider at home on their trainer, with their real-time stats on-screen showing actual power, heart rate, and cadence.
The 55km virtual course on the New York Zwift world featured 944m/3,097ft of climbing, much of that on three laps of the finishing climb, with pitches hitting 16 and 17 percent.
The first and second time over the main climb spit riders out the back. Without full visibility of all the riders, it was difficult to gauge how many riders were dropped. But the U.S. had seven riders in the front group with 24km to go.
American Kristen Kulchinsky attacked over a kicker at 7.5w/kg, using a feather Power Up. Moolman Pasio marked her immediately, stretching out the group.
With 18k to go, the front group of 24 riders was caught by a chase of about 12 riders. Kulchinsky used the moment to attack again, this time bringing three riders with her.
When that move was brought to heel, American Katheryn Curi attacked and got a gap, as no one initially chased. She rode at 4 to 5 w/kg, while the group rode at 2.5 to 3.
When the group reeled her in at 14.2 to go, Godbe attacked but couldn’t get clear. So then American Stefanie Sydlik went, riding at 7w/kg, and she quickly got a 5-second split quickly.
Switzerland’s Melanie Maurer, the only rider from her nation, did some chasing, as did Sweden and Germany, which had multiple riders in the front group.
When Godbe was caught at 10km to go, Curi countered, riding at 4 to 5w/kg, and punching at 6 over kickers. Behind, Cecilia Hansen, Marlene Bjärehead, and Anna Svärdström of Sweden rode at 3, with Swiss Maurer also taking some turns on the front, and Godbe’s lead ballooned up to 16 seconds at 8km to go.
Finally, Godbe was caught at 2.2km, and Belgian Amelia Van Hove attacked just before the base of the climb at 2km.
As soon as the group was on the climb proper at 1.8km to go, Moolman Pasio went straight the front. And again at 15 percent pitch, Moolman Pasio punched at 10w/kg for a small gap. Then she settled in at about 30o watts (6w/kg).
Initilaly, only Hansen of Sweden and Adegeest could get on Moolman Pasio’s wheel. Langham was able to claw onto terms inside the final kilometer. At 700m to go, Moolman Pasio used her feather Power Up, but it was too far out.
“It was hard to hang on,” Adegeest said of the last kilometer. “I saw Moolman Pasio use [her feather Power Up], and I knew my chances were getting better.”
At 400 meters to go, the road nearly flattened out for a stretch before kicking up again at 200 meters to go. It was there that Adegeest hit her feather Power Up button, and sprinted with everything she had left.