Rally Cycling’s edge in the Virtual Tour de France

The team tapped the top-ranked Zwift racer Holden Comeau as a coach to gain an advantage over the WorldTour competition.

Photo: Rally Cycling

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Rally Cycling, racing on a wild card invite to the Virtual Tour de France, has an ace up its sleeve: U.S. Zwift national champion Holden Comeau.

Competing against WorldTour teams, Rally Cycling sought to gain strategic and tactical advantages in the Zwift races against the high watts pushed by WorldTour pros going full-gas, on their home trainers.

“To beat the best, you need to out-prepare as well as outperform. That in a nutshell is why we brought in Holden,” Patrick McCarty, the men’s team director said in a release.

Comeau put the Rally Cycling men’s and women’s programs through a crash-course in Zwift gaming, and how to win against riders who possess superior power.

Earlier this year Comeau was the No. 1 ranked rider in Zwift’s race rankings, and his ranking has been inside the top 10 for more than 18 months. The 41-year-old cites his ability to ‘work the system’ as a means for consistently outperforming riders who are arguably better on paper.

“As a team, we’ve been entering public races with Holden. We then use a private Discord channel to speak to one another. We’ll get on early to talk about some things and when we get in the race, we’ll practice them and try it out,” said McCarty.

Rally Cycling Zoom
Comeau chats with Rally Cycling team members in-game using a private Discord channel, as well as in Zoom. Photo: Rally Cycling

Comeau, who regularly races for the virtual racing specialists Saris + The Pro’s Closet, has been successful in Zwift events through trial-and-error, attention to detail, and just plain racing a lot. While he no longer races on the road, he’s developed a keen eye for virtual racing, and is excited to share his sights with the U.S.-based team.

“When Rally Cycling first approached me they wanted to know if it was possible to prepare a real-life road team for a virtual race in a short amount of time. I knew that it was,” wrote Comeau in a Rally Cycling release.

Holden Comeau US national champion kit
Comeau is easy to spot in the blob in his U.S. Zwift national champion kit. Photo: Rally Cycling

So far, Rally Cycling’s results bear out the decision to tap the top virtual racer for advice.

In working with Comeau and his Saris + The Pro’s Closet team, Rally Cycling’s Pier-André Coté nabbed a second-place finish on stage 1 of the Virtual Tour.

Coté unleashed a sprint in the final meters — likely using a technique that Comeau calls ‘lifting the car’ — to score the white jersey in the first stage, and help Rally Cycling into second place in the team classification.

“It has been fantastic having Holden on the team, he’s brought a bunch of great insight and I felt super confident with him joining our team Discord channel on race day,” said Coté. “I was delighted to get such a great result on stage 1, to grab the white jersey and put the team second in the yellow jersey classification, and I have to thank Holden for his advice as well as all the team for its support.”

Coté finished in second on stage 1 of the Virtual Tour de France.
Coté finished in second on stage 1 of the Virtual Tour de France. Photo: Rally Cycling

Comeau tells the team to play the game, using the game’s rules to their advantage.

“There’s a video game and tactics perspective. That’s an overlooked skill, maybe it’s comparable to bike handling skills for a road cyclist. But that skill, that gaming skill, is a really significant component to how you achieve success on Zwift,” he said.

Comeau also advises the Rally Cycling pros on how to control their avatars, and move in the blob. Learning to control one’s avatar not only sets up better opportunities for success in sprints and KOMs, but it also allows for some conservation of effort.

Holden Comeau mobile phone
Comeau advises Rally Cycling to use Zwift game rules to their advantage. Photo: Rally Cycling

“Where your avatar is positioned relative to others, how you manipulate your positioning through the drafts, how you handle momentum changes through the game,” Holden says, “all of that is well within your control. It’s a skill you develop over time and from what I’ve seen, you can expect the Rally Cycling riders to take full advantage of it throughout the Virtual Tour.”

This Zwift Virtual Tour de France spans weekends through July, on existing courses, and also on newly-announced Paris and France routes.

Stage 3: July 11 – A first look at the new ‘France’ World
Stage 4: July 12 – Another look at ‘France’
Stage 5: July 18 – Mountain stage atop Zwift’s own Mont Ventoux
Stage 6: July 19 – The iconic Champs Élysées for the final stage

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