Long gone are the days of slogging away on a trainer with nothing but old racing videos or your music for company. Compared to the actual beauty of riding a bike outdoors with a group of friends, that kind of sensory deprivation is a sure-fire recipe for either burnout or an off-season literally off the bike.
With a climate famous for long and hard winters, Canada is a virtual hotbed for interactive indoor cycling systems. The newest system is Tour de Giro, coming courtesy of Trinerd Studios in Toronto. The goal is simple and ambitious at the same time – be the leading platform for interactive virtual riding with and against other riders no matter where they are in the world.
With Tour de Giro, you’re dropped right into a peloton of real-life and AI riders, each aiming to put the hurt to you.
The Tour de Giro Plan for World Domination
Some other virtual racing platforms require that all the participants be on the same trainer system. However, that’s not going to promote its use amongst all the riders out there with different power meters and trainers. What Tour de Giro aims for instead is to be usable across as many trainers and power monitoring systems as possible, now and into the future.
That means that you may be riding on a CompuTrainer, but your friend in Australia may have his bike with a PowerTap hub on a trainer in Australia, and you can both be racing against your British pal with his ANT+ compatible Wahoo Fitness Kickr bike trainer.
In my case, I raced Tour de Giro using both my CompuTrainer and also while riding my De Rosa with PowerTap G3 hub hooked up via a Garmin ANT+ USB stick.
Scheduling Your Virtual OK Corral
There are several ways to get into a race. The first one is to schedule your own race, which allows you to choose from a wide variety of courses ranging from local circuits around Canada and the world, a large selection of Ironman and 70.3 courses, through to all of the 2013 Tour stages in their entirety. You can choose the distance and portion of the course to race on.
One of the latest updates is the ability to upload your own courses via .gpx files. Your ride map becomes a fully-rendered Tour de Giro map just like the ones already in the game. This can be a great way to get advanced scouting for planning your training and racing strategy to specifically cater to particular races you plan to be doing.
When scheduling the race, you can also choose the quality of the AI riders making up the rest of the pack, specifically the range of functional threshold power wattages that they are based on. So you do have full control of your in home competition and can set difficulty of your competitors to suit your days goals.
You can have multiple riders hooked up to the same computer at the same time.
Once that’s done, you set the time for the race and basically dare the rest of the world to show up – sounds a bit like high noon at the OK Corral or a schoolyard challenge, except you have no idea who might show up to rumble.
Joining the Peloton
You can of course join any race scheduled by another rider, although you can’t control the wattage of the other real or AI riders.
And a third way to play is simply to drop into any of the preset TdG races whenever you want. Besides the convenience of racing anytime you want, the great thing with the drop-in races is that the peloton is geared to your ability. Specifically, the riders are based on wattages ranging from +/-20% of your best 5- and 20-min W/kg performance.
Unlike other racing simulations with simplistic AI riders, Tour de Giro stocks the AI with different types of riders, each of whom are racing at different base wattages. The 5 current AIs include:
• Dopey (riding a constant wattage regardless of terrain or pack)
• Surge (likes to hammer and drive up the pack’s pace)
• Hillman (hammers on hills, eases on downhills)
• Savey (wheelsucks then hammers final 20% of race)
• Helpy (likes being a loyal domestique and windbreak, especially for human riders).
The variety of AIs do a great job of altering pack dynamics away from a simple “single speed” type of mob mentality, changing things into a pretty complex race that typically breaks up into different packs and smaller groups.
You can choose the first person views or the third person view to get a better sense of pack positioning.
In one race we ran, my friends Rob (riding at my house on a CompuTrainer) and Patrick (riding at his house with a PowerTap) were in a lead three-rider break with a “Helpy” (I’ll claim I’ve dropped far behind to get a better view of the race…) when a Savey came out of nowhere in the first chasing pack and caught and dropped the three of them in the last 5 km for the solo win.
That leads to another nice feature of the Tour de Giro system. Your efforts are tracked and saved as .pwx for TrainingPeaks/WKO+, .tcx for Strava, or .csv for most analyses programs. Within the TdG website itself, you can see your basic performance metrics, including peak wattages over a range of durations from 5 s through to 120 min.
Riding with a CompuTrainer
So how does Tour de Giro ride when the rubber hits the virtual road?
The road feel is really smooth with a CompuTrainer. That’s because TdG connects in real-time with your CompuTrainer and adjusts the resistance you are experiencing based on both road gradient and drafting. It doesn’t completely “slave” your CompuTrainer and force you to ride at a set wattage, but rather alters the resistance and then calculates your actual power output. As a result, changes in gradient are really smooth and not clunky or abrupt.
The drafting is also smooth and pretty realistic with the CompuTrainer. It’s not a simple “on-off” drafting model, but rather a progressive one based on how closely you actually are riding behind an opponent. You actually get a horizontal bar graphing your power savings through drafting in real time.
ANTs Everywhere Unite!
It’s not easy developing a completely different ride model for ANT+ systems, so a huge kudos to the boys at Trinerd. You’re obviously riding along to a set resistance on your trainer and can pick what power output you feel like riding at. What Tour de Giro does is take that power output (picked up through a Garmin or Suunto ANT+ stick) and then calculates a speed based on the drafting and terrain.
This is the insanely hard but beautiful route out to Cape Spear, the easternmost point of N. America. Having done this actual ride in real life several times, I can attest that Tour de Giro does an amazingly realistic course and scenery mapping.
The effect is pretty smooth and realistic. There’s nothing really forcing you to alter your power output, but the gaming model is realistic to the point where you seem to subconsciously gear up and pedal harder when the gradient rises.
Winning a drop-in race is NOT easy! Remember, the AI is set up to 20% above your peak 20 min wattage. So even with drafting, staying with the leading pack is not a cakewalk by any means. To stay in the lead group chasing the top riders, I found myself averaging about 228 W for a 20 km race even with drafting included, when my FTP is about 240 W.
The horizontal green bar gives you an indication of how much drafting you’re receiving.
The other main tip is to get ready to ride hard right off the gun if you want to be in the front of the race, because Surge usually attacks right away and the winning break gets established quickly. If you’re napping, you’ll either end up with a slower-riding group – which is great for days where you don’t want to really hammer – or else you’ll end up having to do lots of solo bridging efforts hopping between groups.
The strength of the Tour de Giro system is that you can be racing against lots of real racers in a realistic race situation, and you don’t actually have to be together to do so. The potential for this system is huge for anyone looking to add some fun and great training to their indoor riding time.
Currently, the TdG system is primarily focused on PC computers, but an initial Mac version is being tested and rolled out.
You can ride with a CompuTrainer or any ANT+ based speed/cadence sensor or ANT+ based power meter (e.g. PowerTap, SRM, Quarq, Vector, Stages, etc.) with an ANT+ USB stick (Garmin and Sunnto have been tested and endorsed by TdG). You do not need to install a separate ANT+ Agent software, and indeed all such software should be turned off when running TdG.
As long as you have the above ANT+ compatible systems, any trainer or rollers will work.
$9.99 USD per month
$50 ($8.33 USD per month) for 6 months
$90 ($7.50 USD per month) for 12 months
Check them out at Tour de Giro