How to Create Virtual Cycling and Triathlon Races

At 4 STAR ENDURANCE, we spent 10+ years building Chicago’s first and only USA TRIATHLON (USAT) Certified Performance Center where we developed enhanced techniques for creating highly curated, accurate course replicas for our most demanding amateur and professional athletes alike. Creating the most realistic training and racing experience at our 16-rider indoor CompuTrainer cycling center allowed us to pioneer hosting some of the industry’s first-ever USAT-sanctioned indoor SPRINT and OLYMPIC distance races under one roof… and even support the development of a professional triathlete, world champion, and UCI eSports World Championship qualifier!

Now, with the rapid growth of indoor cycling platforms and eSports Cycling, we’ve now transferred those skills, tools and techniques over to the 3D and video cycling realms to further develop expertise in designing virtual eSports cycling events for both draft-legal road races, triathlon time trials, and charity fundraisers using various virtual cycling platforms including a few of our favorites, such as:

VidFitness for completion-focused video rides with “virtual challenges”:

VidFitness – Bike The Drive

RGT CYCLING for 3D real-world “magic roads” simulations for draft-legal races and time trials:

At 4 STAR ENDURANCE, we’ve also developed our own internal techniques for curating GPS data to design not only the most accurate, but also the best possible ride experiences across several virtual cycling platforms – delivering the best possible experience for our athletes, partners, and training programs.

See below for a few quick tips for RGT CYCLING specifically, and contact us anytime at coach@4starendurance.com to inquire about assistance and services in designing your next virtual course, or indoor cycling or triathlon race experience. Whether a private 1on1 Zoom meeting to learn how to create and custom-tailored a course for your own individual training, or a consulting engagement on hosting team rides, charity fundraisers, or help with coordination for a full professional production and marketing promotion with partner organizations – we’ve done it all!

See the ECHELON RACING LEAGUE for inspiring live-coverage examples of some of the world-class possibilities, or visit VidFitness for video cycling examples!


THE TECHNICAL STUFF

DESIGNING GPS ROUTES FOR VIRTUAL CYCLING

Below are some tips and resources for designing virtual courses on platforms like RGT CYCLING.

STEP 1 – EXPORT GPX FILES
Go to websites like GARMIN CONNECT, STRAVA, or RIDEWITHGPS to search for routes, or design your own course and export a “.GPX” file. Garmin Connect or Strava workouts would be the least ideal to use direct raw GPS data – we recommend converting to a course file leveraging map elevation data first before exporting, rather than exporting GPS workout data from a GPS device without conversion first.


STEP 2 – AUTOMATED GPS ELEVATION CURATION
If the GPX file was created from a GPS watch or bike computer workout, consider smoothing the data with more accurate GPS data from global databases like NASA or USGS. Use a tool like PERF PRO STUDIO or GPS VISUALIZER to convert, smooth, and adjust data automatically based on mapped elevation data from publicly available databases (e.g. with GPS Visualizer, simply select the “Add DEM elevation data” option when converting a file).

WHY? Tools like PerfPro and GPS Visualizer have access to NASA’s SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) elevation data set and/or the USGS’s NED (National Elevation Dataset). If your GPS coordinates do not contain elevation information, this can provide it – or if you have GPS data already, this can help improve your file with great accuracy. If you had elevation data from a handheld GPS watch or bike computer (not very reliable when it comes to accurate altitude data), your data could be “bumpy” with repeated ups and downs of a few feet at a time that shouldn’t really be there to mimic a real-world smooth, flat road.


STEP 3 – FLY THROUGH & MANUAL CURATION
Learn to use GPX file editing tools and follow a tutorial like this – or use a 3D analysis tool like GPXmagic to do a virtual “fly through” of the course and consider watching these videos to learn some best practices on how to make these types of adjustments:

  • FIRST PERSON “FLY THROUGH” – do a fly through to get a better perspective on the course smoothness, hills, corners, and views.
  • SMOOTH STEEP HILLS – consider smoothing hill segments above 8-10 percent grade for a better riding experience for a wider range of athletes and indoor bikes and smart trainers that often have limitations above 8 percent, causing “tire slip” issues. For time trials, consider smoothing grades to under 5 percent grades as the max. Also, to maximize the cycling drafting experience, consider keeping the bulk of the course segments to under 3-6 percent!
  • REMOVE OVERLAPS – “nudge” out and back sections to avoid overlapping (check both left/right “tracks” and up/down “elevation”)
  • SMOOTH TURNS – eliminate sharp turns (unless intended?) by selecting a start point, then clicking SMOOTH BEND, then DROP MARKER – and/or use “TRACKPOINTS” to leverage the “Add 2 track points in place of this one” feature.
  • SMOOTH ROADS – use FILTERS and CENTROID AVERAGING at 50 percent to smooth out larger sections of “bumpy” GPS data points to eliminate both vertical and side to side jitter in GPS data points.
  • REVIEW DISTANCE and ELEVATION GAIN – review the final course data for distance and total elevation accuracy. With RGT Cycling, review the “Detailed Interactive Report” in the confirmation email for any errors or areas of concern…

STEP 4 – LOAD DATA INTO CYCLING APP
Load your file into a cycling app like RGT CYCLING (premium version) by uploading or emailing the data file as per the app instructions for magic roads to make it ready for a test run in your library!

RGT Cycling Mobile App on the App Store

STEP 5 – TEST RACE
Use a tool like the RGT CYCLING phone app (with premium subscription) to schedule a GROUP RACE with 20+ BOTS that have a wide range of FTPs (100w to 300w) to see how fast various riders would complete the course – or schedule a meetup with real people (and bots!).

In RGT CYCLING you can use the new SPECTATE MODE so you don’t have to ride the course yourself – simply view on a PC and click Shift-F6 and use HOME/END and PAGE UP/PAGE DOWN to follow other riders and view the route in 3D from several different camera angles by clicking to drag & zoom in/out to identify any points that need tweaking, then go back to STEP 3 to make any edits and repeat as necessary until the course is perfected to your liking! Once the course is loaded, in the RGT CYCLING app you can use either of these methods to test ride/race a course:

  • MENU-> MAGIC ROADS -> LIBRARY (click on your map) ->”QUICK RIDE
  • MENU->ORGANIZE -> GROUP RIDE or RACE-> “MAGIC ROADS
    then update “LAPS” and add “BOTS” (with at least 50 riders for draft-legal events) with power ranging from 100-300w

That’s it – enjoy!

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