Member of the Chef de File family, Team Foudre is a cycling team of friends, training in a jovial atmosphere and taking part in races. Quite classic so far, you may say. Its difference? It's an esports team on Zwift! To know more about this discipline and the team, we talked to Martial, the manager of Team Foudre.
November 2018, at the dawn of the explosion of virtual cycling platforms caused by lockdown, it was an ultra-distance enthusiast, Stéphane Ouaja, who had the very nice idea of wanting to revitalize the French scene by creating Team Foudre. We now find a collective of nearly 300 active members on Zwift in the peak period of ecycling, the winter.
A real community has been created around Team Foudre. There's an emulation on the team's Discord server (instant messaging application), where mutual aid reigns with experts in every field related to cycling. This way, even the novices don't go blind. For Martial, Team Foudre is above all a team with a heart for its members:
« In traditional cycling, an athlete chooses a local club to join. In virtual cycling, you have the choice and the freedom to join the club of your choice, no matter where you are. There is of course a competitive aspect, but we are first and foremost a family that advocates benevolence, surpassing oneself, while having a good atmosphere. »
Virtual cycling, a different sport?
Ecycling is also a different effort for the athlete. The rider has to smooth out his effort more like a time trial on the road. In fact, it was a German rower, Jason Osborne (currently a trainee with the professional team Deceuninck QuickStep), who won the first ecycling world championship in 2020. This shows that ecycling is a different endeavor and sport than "traditional" cycling. For Martial, the virtual competition allows to show the strength of a person: « There are no hazards of placement, wind, mechanical concerns, there are simply watts that speak. And then it has the advantage of training properly and playfully in winter ».
But ecycling has other advantages, including the ability to train whenever you want. It's especially convenient in winter with the weather and early sunset. For cyclists who want to get in a really productive hour of cycling, some favor virtual. It also allows you to compete against others through regular competitions without being a member of a club.
In any case, Zwift allows some strong and lucky riders to make the leap from virtual to real. Like Jay Vine, the rider of Alpecin Fenix who has turned professional in 2021 thanks to his performances on the application. Moreover, the rider has particularly shone on the roads of the last Vuelta.
An Olympic future?
Last June, the International Olympic Committee (together with the International Cycling Union and Zwift) organized the Olympic Virtual Series. The goal? To put forward some sports disciplines and to make the parallel with the Olympic disciplines. Among these disciplines, the IOC decided to put the spotlight on ecycling through Zwift. A nice spotlight on paper but not beneficial for the competitive sphere, as Martial says:
« It's been a bit soft. There were a few wrinkles with cycling personalities, but it was more focused on the general public and getting Zwift out to a wider audience. The teams that keep the competitive scene alive only participated a little bit, by the low interest in these workouts. »
The circle of competitors on the platform is growing year after year and the application can't ignore it. On the other hand, Zwift is not so much involved in the competitive aspect, and is more focused on a more lambda target. Platforms are still very popular thanks to a simple and fun process.
But to have a real competitive and fair future it is necessary that ecycling is structured to help the scene. In particular from a regulatory point of view, for the manager of Team Foudre, cheating is still too present: « It would be necessary that everyone is in the same room with the same equipment and a weighing. Currently, in the competitive environment, you can still cheat at the level of watts on the home trainer sensors or external sensors! ».
One thing is sure, the development of esport and the growing appetite of Team Foudre should propel them to the forefront. And of course, their beautiful Chef de File Custom jersey!
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