After a successful virtual Redlands Classic, Project Echelon Racing is following up with a virtual Tour of the Gila, creating a second opportunity for North American and international men and women's elite teams to compete and give their sponsors publicity amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The invitation-only race will be held from May 22-24 and have a unique feature - a virtual team time trial.
Project Echelon Racing director Eric Hill hopes to build off the success of the virtual Redlands Classic which drew 20 of the top North American teams and almost 100 riders to the virtual start line.
"Not only did the event draw in the nation's top talent, but it inspired cycling fans from across the globe to continue to pursue their passions no matter the circumstances and share their stories with us on social media," Hill said in a press release. The live stream, produced by Nathan Guerra and Dave Towle at Zwift Community Live, was watched by over 25,000 people.
The virtual Tour of the Gila is open to USA Cycling registered domestic elite, UCI Pro and USA Crit teams and will differ from other Zwift races in that it will require riders to complete every stage in order to start the next day and the race forbids the use of power-ups. Riders must weigh in before the stage by photographing themselves on a scale and be prepared to weigh in again as a further control after the stage.
The team time trial takes advantage of the third party Zwift Power. Riders use regular bikes in allow drafting in the virtual realm as Zwift's time trial bikes prevent the benefit of being behind another rider. Teams will be given specific start times and communicate verbally over voice chat. The app gives a 30-second countdown during which riders cannot pedal, then all start together. The time is, like in the real world, taken on the fourth rider across the finish line.
The team time trial will be the opening stage, being held on the Sand to Sequoias Watopia course. The women's teams kick off the racing at 6:45PM Central time with the men following at 8:00PM.
The second stage will be a 67.4km circuit of the Big Foot Hills in Watopia with an early intermediate sprint bonus after 2.6km to get the race rolling. Further bonuses come at two KOM points at 22.5km and 35.2km and a second sprint at kilometre 50. The course is reminiscent of the Tour of the Gila's Fort Bayard stage with a fast, flat finish.