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With no races or group rides for at least a couple of months, Project Echelon Racing organized an event emulating just that: the three-day Project Echelon Virtual Stage Race on Zwift attracted 42 riders from nine different teams across the United States. The competition was fierce, with many riders setting power personal records, and going deeper than they ever had before. Their numbers were more than impressive – some would even say world-class – with 5 watts per kilo the norm, and attacks over 900 watts.
In our first Zwift Power Analysis, we took a look at some of the numbers from the Project Echelon Virtual Stage Race, and the unique aspects of Zwift racing that make it unlike any other.
Riders lined up for stage 1 with 42 miles and 2,300 feet of climbing ahead of them. Peter Olejniczak (Project Echelon) attacked from the gun, producing his peak one and two-minute powers from kilometer 0.
Olejniczak’s flying start:
Peak one-minute power: 538 watts (7.65 w/kg)
Peak two-minute power: 442 watts (6.29 w/kg)
Olejniczak’s early efforts demonstrate just how hard the first few kilometers of a Zwift race can be. Despite his enthusiasm, the race was neutralized just a few miles in due to technical difficulties. Pleasantries resumed moments later, and the peloton attacked the first KOM of the day, won by Olejniczak.
Power: 425 watts (6.05 w/kg)
Zach Gregg (Project Echelon) countered his teammate’s move over the top of the KOM, and was soon chased by lone rider Scottie Weiss (Landis-Trek). Weiss was unable to make the bridge to Gregg who persisted solo and soon pulled out a formidable 13-second gap.
Gregg’s solo effort:
Power: 414 watts (5.9 w/kg)
Peak 90-second Power: 550 W (7.82 w/kg)
Led by riders from First Internet Bank and Landis-Trek, the peloton eventually closed the gap to Gregg. Several attacks and counters followed as the race hit gravel sections and short, steep climbs, but nothing would stick.
As the race approached Volcano Mountain, riders enjoyed their first real breather since the start before the racing kicked off again in earnest. Matt Zimmer (Project Echelon) attacked as soon as the road began to climb, but was quickly countered by Weiss (Landis-Trek). Zimmer hopped on Weiss’ wheel and the duo soon had a gap. The two would work well together, eventually being joined by Jadon Jaeger (Adapt Cycling), former Masters National Champion in the Time Trial and Criterium.
Zimmer’s surge on Volcano Mountain:
Power: 400 watts (5.89 w/kg)
A disgruntled chase group let the trio’s lead balloon, but eventual efforts from Rio Grande, and First Internet Bank neutralized the move after several miles of chasing. Tim Rugg (Landis-Trek) counter-attacked after the group was caught and was soon joined by his teammate, Weiss. But the pressure piled on from behind, and soon it was the Project Echelon duo of Zimmer and Gregg who went up the road.
Gregg’s final 7.5 km
Power: 384 watts (5.46 w/kg)
Despite incredible efforts from teammates and rivals alike, the race was all back together – albeit with less than 10 riders remaining at this point – with a few miles to go. Having gone quiet since the first KOM, Olejniczak shot out of the reduced peloton with a few hundred meters to go and held on for the stage win ahead of Jaeger and Zimmer.
Olejniczak’s long sprint
Avg Power: 627 watts (8.92 w/kg)
Max Power: 797 watts (11.3 w/kg)
Stage 1 results:
1st – Peter Olejniczak (Project Echelon Racing) – 1:31:25
2nd – Jadon Jaeger (Adapt Cycling) at s.t.
3rd – Matt Zimmer (Project Echelon Racing) at s.t.
Stage 1 Video Highlights
Five riders took a DNS on stage 2, a testament to the brutality of the previous day’s stage. On tap for stage 2 was 35 miles over two laps of the Road to Ruins Zwift course, featuring 2,700 feet of climbing and several cobbled and gravel sectors to honor the Spring Classics season.
Adam McClurg (Ambo Squad) launched the first attack at kilometer 0 and was soon joined by Eric Hill (Project Echelon). But the peloton was unwilling to give the duo an inch as they approached the first major climb of the day.
Jaeger (Adapt Cycling) began to pile on the pressure soon after the duo was caught. With less than an all-out attack, Jaeger was perhaps testing the waters.
Jaeger’s early effort
Power: 490 watts (6.05 w/kg)
Few punches were pulled as riders took on the first KOM of the day. But coming over the top, counter attacks flew and a breakaway of five soon formed at the front of the race. Despite their efforts, the breakaway never gained more than a 10-second advantage over the field, and was caught a few miles later. Zimmer (Project Echelon) immediately counterattacked, ripping the field to shreds with his solo effort. Zimmer gained nearly a minute’s advantage as the peloton attempted to reorganize itself behind.
Zimmer’s solo effort
Power: 373 watts (5.5 w/kg)
Peak 5-minute Power: 429 watts (6.3 w/kg)
Efforts by Landis-Trek and First Internet Bank slowly began to reel Zimmer back in from his massive solo effort. The next major climb whittled the group down to a select few, but that didn’t stop counter-attacks from coming over the top. Gregg (Project Echelon) stayed near the front of the group as the road tilted uphill and riders began spitting out the back.
Gregg’s Jungle KOM
Power 394 watts (5.63 w/kg)
Zimmer’s solo escapade eventually came to an end, and no time was wasted as Jaeger (Adapt Cycling) and Gregg (Project Echelon) immediately countered. Wouter Zwart (Landis-Trek) bridged across to the duo, and soon forged on alone, eventually gaining as much as 20 seconds on the field. Zwart’s solo effort ended just a few miles from the finish, but it would set up an exciting finale for Landis-Trek and what remained of the field.
Zwart’s solo effort:
Power: 454 watts (5.65 w/kg)
When Zwart was finally caught, his teammate Weiss (Landis-Trek) put in a counter-attack that would be decisive. Weiss maintained his advantage and crossed the line alone, a few seconds ahead of Alex Marr (Rio Grande) and Gregg (Project Echelon Racing) who finished the day completely spent, from over an hour above 5 w/kg.
Gregg – Full Stage 3 (excluding neutral start)
Average Power: 339 watts (4.84 w/kg)
Normalized Power: 355 (5.08 w/kg)
Max Power: 1,008 watts
Peak 2-minute (final 1.6 km): 455 watts (6.5 w/kg)
After finishing 5th on the stage, Jaeger (Adapt Cycling) took the overall lead on countback heading into stage 3.
Stage 2 results:
1st – Scottie Weiss (Landis-Trek) – 1:21:29
2nd – Alex Marr (Rio Grande) at 0:06
3rd – Zach Gregg (Project Echelon Racing) at 0:06
Stage 2 Video Highlights
Held on the Tick-Tock course of Watopia, a day for the sprinters was expected for the final stage of the Project Echelon Virtual Stage Race. Unfortunately for the fast men, it turned out to be anything but as a day of non-stop attacks and tactical battles ensued instead.
An early attack drew out the current general classification leader in Jaeger (Adapt Cycling), who launched an attack himself to remind everyone how he got here. A quick and chaotic series of attacks left the field fatigued – little did they know that the Landis-Trek team was preparing a coordinated, all-out attack that would put major pressure on the remaining teams and cause the field to splinter.
Zwart working to form Landis-Trek-led breakaway
Power: 461 watts (5.76 w/kg)
Peak 2-minute Power: 511 watts (6.4 w/kg)
In a matter of moments, an eight-rider breakaway formed which included four Landis-Trek riders: Weiss, Zwart, Ross Baldwin, and Allan Rego. This breakaway group created an interesting scenario in which Landis-Trek had the strongest representation in the break, but they also had their general classification-rider Tim Rugg, sitting 3rd overall, left in the field.
The break would eventually pull out over a 90-second advantage over the peloton containing Rugg, and it was clear the winner of today’s stage — and the overall — was going to come from the break.
Jaeger (Adapt Cycling) attempted to go solo for the stage win, but his move was caught and countered by Zwart (Landis-Trek). Zwart would hold 7 w/kg for the first minute of his attack in order to gain separation, and he would never look back. Over the next 12 kilometers, he ratcheted his lead up to almost 45 seconds, and won the stage with plenty of time to celebrate as his avatar crossed the line.
Zwart’s soloing to the win
Power: 452 watts (5.65 w/kg)
Zwart – Full Stage 3 (excluding neutral roll-out)
Power: 368 watts (4.6 w/kg)
Normalized Power: 393 watts (4.92 w/kg)
Peak 20-minute Power (final 15.9 km): 440 W (5.5 w/kg)
Back in the peloton, the atmosphere was tense as Jaeger (Adapt Cycling) attacked again in an attempt to break free. But once he was caught, Weiss (Landis-Trek) and Gregg (Project Echelon) went away themselves, and with that, the GC was slowly slipping up the road. Weiss would take the sprint for second, as Gregg (Project Echelon) finished third and gained enough time in the final moments to take the GC win from Jaeger (Adapt Cycling).
Gregg’s final kilometer
Power: 575 watts (8.2 w/kg)
Peak 1-minute Power: 620 watts (8.9 w/kg)
Gregg’s long final sprint
Power: 709 watts (10.1 w/kg)
Stage 3 results:
1st – Wouter Zwart (Landis-Trek) – 1:17:21
2nd – Scottie Weiss (Landis-Trek) at 0:39
3rd – Zach Gregg (Project Echelon Racing) at 0:42
Final General Classification:
1st – Zach Gregg (Project Echelon Racing) – 4:11:04
2nd – Jadon Jaeger (Adapt Cycling) at 0:02
3rd – Tim Rugg (Landis-Trek) at 0:49
Stage 3 Highlight Video:
To learn more about the Project Echelon organization, go to ProjectEchelon.org and consider donating to their mission – to educate, equip, and empower veterans through physical activity and self-discovery.
Project Echelon will be partnering with Zwift for future races and events. Follow the team on social media to see their upcoming race schedule as well as virtual group rides and meet-ups.