There’s no arguing with the fact that 2020 has been a definitive turning point for Esports. A bourgeoning community that has been bubbling beneath the surface for years, Zwift aficionados are now front and centre as the cycling world looks for a way to overcome the challenges of physically distanced training and racing. When you’re dealing with a sport that is built on teamwork and camaraderie, it’s no surprise that Zwift has proven to be very fertile ground for teams to come together to share, motivate, and push each other. For those new to the platform though, joining a team or even trying to start one of your own can be a bit confusing, if not downright intimidating.
To shed some light on the process, We Love Cycling spoke to Zwift heavyweight Beth York. Having discovered Zwift while recovering from an injury, Beth now proudly spearheads Velocity Vixen/Fox team with four other powerhouse women. We talked about the exploding Esports scene, overcoming an injury with the help of cycling, and the power of riding together.
Well, first of all, congrats on the many successes the Velocity teams have had! How did you discover Zwift and how long have you been using it?
I started on Zwift in 2016. I had come to cycling a few years prior as a “broken runner.” Unfortunately, that part of myself didn’t know when to call it quits and I fractured my tibia completing a 70.3 (half-Iron distance). Depressed and stumbling around on crutches, I decided to buy a trainer. I logged in to Zwift and essentially pedalled one-legged. Zwift had just launched its inaugural Zwift Academy program for women, so I threw myself into that.
The rest is pretty much history. Not only did Zwift Academy help me keep my mind off my injury, it also connected me with a bunch of kick-ass women. In addition to learning more about cycling and finding new training partners, I made a lot of true friends from all over the world. Suddenly my world grew, and it was wonderful.
It’s such a great feeling when you find your people! How did you decide to start your own team?
I’m a pretty competitive person. Once I was healed up, I joined a team and started racing. I found it super motivating! In 2017, I qualified for the Esports CVR World Cup and had the opportunity to race in Paris, along with some of the friends I made through Zwift Academy and racing. Though we represented different teams in Paris, a handful of us recognized that Esports was really becoming a thing and emphatically agreed that being on a team was very rewarding. But now, we all wanted to be on the SAME team so we could share goals, work together, and cheer each other on.
We wanted a team led by women that would be accessible to everyone and help others overcome the barriers we all set for ourselves, “I’m not fast/strong enough” or “I can’t race enough”… whatever the barrier—we wanted to smash it. We wanted to carry on the sense of welcoming we felt on other teams and create a team that embodied a “good vibes” mindset. We also wanted a co-ed team. We are big on equality and parity.
That must have been a very exciting time. What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you spread the word and get people involved?
We were nervous that we might have issues with recruitment. Nevertheless, we had already decided it was worth doing, even if it would just be the five of us that made up the entire team. We started spreading the word through Facebook user groups and just told our story. By this time, most of us were pretty known in the Zwift racing community and through Zwift Academy. Since we had more relationships and connections with women, we started with the women’s squad (our Vixens), and then we built the men’s team (our Foxes). So, between the racing, the ride leading and ZA, we seemed to grow pretty organically through the community. Now we have just over 100 teammates from all over the world.
That’s awesome. What has been your proudest accomplishment as a team so far, and what are your goals going forward?
There are so many things I am proud of. First, the way our teammates stepped up to volunteer their time to lead and help others. In addition to being good representatives of the team, they are good stewards of sportsmanship and really go out of the way to foster camaraderie. We offer a year-round weekly ride called Dig the Bike Fantastic. In the winter months, we add Rise with Vixen, a chill social ride on Thursday mornings, and Vibe Tribe group workout on Sunday mornings. A lot of people joined these rides and had such a great time they decided to join our team. In 2019 Velocity Vixen launched the Wild Women Racing Series in collaboration with other Ladies Zwift Teams (BRT Hellcats, ZSun Ladies and AHDRL). It was the first women-created and managed racing series on Zwift. This really had a positive impact on women’s racing and was one of my favourites.
There’s definitely lots to feel good about. Finally, what advice would you have for someone who wants to start a team or get more involved with Zwift racing but is intimidated or doesn’t know where to start?
Try not to be intimidated! For anyone looking to join a team, I recommend asking on the message boards and Facebook groups. You can also go to Zwiftpower.com and see a list of teams and find the contacts there. There are so many great teams on Zwift and Team Velocity is always welcoming new racers. As we did from the beginning, we are intentional with our goal to be a team that welcomes all abilities, that is at the core of who we are. And as far as a commitment to the team, we only ask that teammates race one time a month to represent our team. And of course, we are always open to helping others looking for advice to start their own team.
A big thank you to Beth for sharing her insider knowledge and all the best to the VeloCity Vixens and Foxes!