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Where the Auto Rickshaws Don’t Roam: Zwifting in India

on November 16, 2017

Massive, diesel-belching trucks. Erratic bicyclists impossibly balancing countless containers of milk. Anarchic auto rickshaws speeding through traffic. These are just a few of the obstacles cyclists have to deal with in India.

And you think riding conditions in your ‘hood are challenging?

“Even when we’re in the correct lane on group rides, the vehicles come at us,” explains Sarvesha Samaga, president of the WE R Cycling team in Mangalore, India.

WRC Team

If the traffic in the port city of almost 500,000 isn’t trying enough, there’s also the tropical monsoon climate. 149” of rain hammers Mangalore annually, with the vast majority (95%) falling between May to October.

This trifecta of rolling road hazards, precipitation, and humidity is enough to put a kink in the most committed cyclist’s training plan. Or send them searching for alternatives.

Samaga signed up for Zwift last winter, joined a virtual team, and soon launched the twice-weekly, 40-kilometer WE R Cycling group ride (Tuesdays and Fridays, 6 a.m. India Time Zone).

WRC team 3

The first group in India to host Zwift rides, according to Samaga, the Zwifter was fast to fall in love with the reach of his online community as well as its size. And the fact that riders could pedal safely while pushing one another was the hydration mix in his H20.

Almost 100 Zwifters from around the world joined his first group ride. Samaga was blown away by the massive turnout of the Zwift community: more than twice the size of his #IRL rides that maxed out at less than three dozen riders.

“On Fridays, I have 70 or 80 riders,” says Samaga, speaking about his Zwift ride. “I often limit my outdoor rides to the weekend,” says Samaga. “My trainer rides are now my regular rides.”

Zwifting is also helping Samaga train for the oldest cycling event run on a regular basis on the open road, France’s epic, 1,200-kilometer, Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) ride.

Held every four years, qualifying for PBP is grueling and time-intensive. Riders must complete the brevet series — a 200 km, 300 km, 400 km, and 600 km events: 1,500 km total — to be eligible.

Pedaling with our online community turned Samaga into a stronger cyclist. New to measuring power, Samaga’s initial FTP was 150 watts. With consistent indoor training, Samaga increased his power by more than 53% to more than 230 watts in just five months.

This improvement makes him more confident about his chances of qualifying for PBP and started paying real-world dividends immediately.

“Everybody noticed these differences in how I rode,” he says. “We had group discussions. I told them about Zwift.”

Next thing you know, 50 curious riders packed into Mangalore’s Taj Cycles bike shop for Zwift demos. Ten of Samaga’s teammates joined the Zwift community.

Not that the team president will ever turn his back on the extended neighborhood. Samaga has too much fun in the Western Ghats mountains and spinning past yaks up and over 4,000-meter peaks in Bhutan.

This November he’s slated to ride India’s Deccan Cliffhanger—643 kilometers from Pune to Goa. Samaga says he hopes to make short work of the 399.542-mile ride.
“For the Cliffhanger,” he says, “I want my FTP somewhere close to 280.”

If you see Samaga on Zwift, be sure to give him a Ride On. Follow him on Strava, his team on Facebook, or find out more about We R Cycling.

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