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eSports Ep1
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Join us on a thrilling ride through the world of cycling eSports and the evolution of Castelli's engagement on Zwift.

Learn how to get started on Zwift, hear about Castelli’s indoor and virtual cycling gear plus how to balance virtual and real-world cycling through winter.

We wrap up with how to get involved in the Castelli community and join our rides on Zwift.

ABOUT TODAY'S HOST AND GUEST

– CO-HOST, Rich Lovelock –
Greetings from just north of London, UK! Former mountain biker turned roadie with a healthy dose of gravel. Enjoy mixing it up with some indoor racing and structured workouts. Used to love the thrill of real-world racing though stick mostly with GranFondo events these days. Involved with planning and organising Castelli's eSports activities along with fostering the online community and clubs.

CONNECT
Zwift name: Rich (Castelli)
Instagram⁠⁠: https://www.instagram.com/rich.lovelock
⁠⁠Strava⁠⁠: https://www.strava.com/athletes/richlovelock ⁠⁠
LinkedIn⁠⁠: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richard-lovelock

– GUEST, Lars Blesvik –
Coming to you from a pain-cave just west of Oslo, Norway! Started off riding Offroad in the nineties, turned to road and gravel. Tested most, if not all cycling e-sports platforms, but have ended up being mostly devoted to Zwift. Still ride all year round, but more focus on adventures and views outside, and do the structure indoors.

CONNECT
Zwift name: Lars Bl
Instagram⁠⁠: https://www.instagram.com/larsvagen/ ⁠⁠
Strava⁠⁠: https://www.strava.com/athletes/601719 ⁠⁠
LinkedIn⁠⁠: https://no.linkedin.com/in/corto

TOPICS COVERED & TRANSCRIPT

(00:00) Introduction
(3:44) What are eSports
(10:47) Zwift Overview
(21:55) Castelli on Zwift
(33:58) eSports Chit-Chat
(37:45) Castelli Insider Gear
(40:19) Community, Squadra Castelli
(41:42) Strava Challenges
(45:04) How to join


SOREN JENSEN
Join us on a thrilling ride through the world of eSports, its various platforms, and delving into Castelli's presence within the virtual cycling community. In this episode, Castelli’s eSports division manager, Rich Lovelock, and our longtime leader, Lars Blesvik, will discuss the evolution of Castelli's engagement on Zwift, its growth, and the impact it has had on the virtual cycling community. They will cover gear talk, unlocking exclusive kits such as the Pink Wave and the iconic Giro d'Italia maglia rosa, as well as Castelli's Insider collection designed for optimal performance and comfort during intense indoor sessions. You will hear about the Squadra Castelli community, Zwift Power race teams, the balance between real-life and virtual cycling during the cold winter months, and how to get involved in the Castelli ride series on Zwift. Without further delay, let's welcome Rich and Lars.

RICH LOVELOCK
Hi mate, how's it going?

LARS BLESVIK
Going good, how are you?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, all great here, thank you. So, should we kick off with a bit about who we are?

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, yeah, I'm Lars Blesvik, I'm from Norway, I've been a Castelli ambassador for quite a few years, and I'm currently in a ZWIFT Community Ride Leader position with Castelli. How about you?

RICH LOVELOCK
Rich Lovelock, I'm based here in the UK, just north of London. Originally involved with Castelli, similar to yourself, ambassador role, and now moved towards managing the e-sports activities for Castelli.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah. Both have been riding for quite a while now. It's kind of weird. I never see you like face to face, but we meet virtually almost every week now.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, that's right. It's amazing how these virtual friendships can feel pretty real. And we have met, what is it, twice now in real life.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, we've had two trips to the Maratona in the Dolomites with Castelli, which reminds me, we need to do a call back to the Maratona episode in our podcast library as well. That's a really good one.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yes, indeed. Yeah, for sure. And what about your cycling history, Lars?

LARS BLESVIK
Well, I was like this ratty mountain bike kid back in the 90s, never really stopped riding, and turned to road when I started working full-time as an engineer and been writing different masters level events since 2010 now. I've done the World Championship and I've done quite a few Grand Fondos all over the world. Yourself?

RICH LOVELOCK
Very nice. Season pro.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah. Compared to the other guys on this podcast, I feel quite amateurish. Got to play what you have.

RICH LOVELOCK
Exactly. So yeah, myself, well, BMX as a kid, like many of us, progressed into a bit of mountain biking in my teens and 20s. Then came to road pretty late in my mid-30s after a few injuries from football. And yeah, now pretty much all road with a healthy mix of gravel thrown in, a bit of Zwift during the winter. I've done a bit of racing here and there, decided to call it a day with the racing for now. Stay safe.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, touching upon Zwift as we've already done, maybe we should start off by talking a little bit about what really are eSports? What are we going to talk about today?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, that sounds good. Well, the official definition of eSports is a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators. So the indoor cycling world goes well beyond just that definition. So perhaps it would be good if we dive into that world a bit more and try and split it apart. What do you think?

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, because like indoor cycling, although multifaceted, it's a spectre, you know. We go from the pure training applications like TrainerRoad where you have workout plans, you have adaptive training setups that pander to your needs specifically for a goal, but which are pure for yourself, not for mass participation or has any social application to it?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, exactly. And then we have platforms which kind of build on that concept such as the Wahoo X platform which also incorporates the old Sufferfest platform which some old school trainers might remember.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, with a little bit more videos and you know more the visual application as well, yeah?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, exactly. And Wahoo X actually incorporates some other aspects of the cycling fitness world. So you'll have cycling specific yoga plans, mental strength and mobility exercises to perform.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, and which also leads us over to the more remote fitness solutions like Peloton, for instance, is really big in the US where you actually attend classes, you attend group trainings, but on an online platform, which takes us more over into the social aspect of online training and eSports for cycling?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, so I guess moving on from that world, we come to the more virtual kind of simulation worlds with some gamification aspects built in. So we have platforms such as Zwift, Ruvi, Be Cool and one of the newer players is MyWush. And these are kind of virtual worlds where you can do a variety of different things. You can just kind of cycle around and explore. You can badge hunt in this gamification aspect. You have some racing.

LARS BLESVIK
I love the races as well. Going head to head with other riders all over the world, the possibility of just logging on at any time and have a whole host of different races available to sample and test your strength against people all over the world. I find that really nice. But also, in our world, we also have the structured workouts. And with Castelli, we do run social structured workouts as well.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, and it's a great combination, combining this kind of workout session with intervals and the social aspect and the kind of suffering together. It really does help you get through some of the toughest spots in those sessions.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, it motivates you, you know, everybody, everybody feeling the same level of stress because it's ranked on your, on your, not on your strength as such, but it's ranked on the stress you're, you all go into the session with different setups and different power figures to and thresholds and targets to meet, but in the end, we end up with the same level of exertion. I really like that actually. Yeah. Yeah. But we also have the last thing that we have done, what we've been really bread and butter for Castelli in the eSports game has been the social rights, where we only meet up to go exploring together, maybe have a laugh together basically, being social.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, exactly. And these have proved very popular and it's amazing the connections you can form during these events, especially when regulars keep returning and you build up some kind of virtual rapport with people. What do you think?

LARS BLESVIK
No, the building of the community has been a huge thing in eSports for us, you know, being able to connect to other fans of the brand, but also spread positivity and be influences for good, basically, in the community. That's what we want to do.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, exactly. It's one of our objectives for sure. So just moving on finally in these kind of simulation software worlds, we also have this nice aspect where the creators of these games can have some artistic licensing, kind of go a bit crazy creating fictional virtual worlds, but also they have the option to recreate real world roads and famous climbs. So you get this nice blend of kind of fiction and real world stuff.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, many of the platforms are inch-perfect replicas of different routes around the world. You can log on to, for instance, Ruvie and have the possibility to climb Alpe d'Huez or any major alpine climb at any time, basically. And you get stunning visuals, really, really nice filming. So you can go from that or you can go to the more fully virtualized world with, yeah, like we do in Zwift where we ride amongst dinosaurs, you know. So everything's on a scale all the time.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, something for everybody there.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah. And we have to mention the big, kind of the big elephant in the room, we did have a huge uptick during lockdowns. And the way the world changed over the last three or four years have been major play, has been a major play in how we actually meet the virtual eSports game now versus what we did only before 2020.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, exactly. And it probably introduced many people to that world that maybe they never would have been introduced to if that hadn't happened.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, it was a deed of necessity at times. But I think it has really turned into proper riding now. I remember previously we didn't talk about eSports kilometers as proper kilometers. They were like, oh, they're online, they're virtual, those aren't real kilometers. But these days, we have no problems actually counting the same amount of exertion, the same amount of training and kilometers indoors as we do outdoors. They're really comparable.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely. And I think every kilometer on Zwift feels every bit as hard as a kilometer outdoors, especially if you're indoors sweating on a workout or a race. Absolutely. So, with Zwift being the main home for Castelli's eSports activities, should we talk a bit about what it is?

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah. Zwift is a multiplayer virtual cycling platform. It has 11 worlds. Some of them are totally fictional, like recreations of typical Japanese setting. Others are real inch perfect replications of a certain area. We have world championship venues from Richmond, from the UK. We also have the time trial in Bologna, in Italy. And we have some worlds that are a mix of real world inch perfect hills features and total fantasy as well. So there's something for all tastes. It's a combination of cycling simulation and gamification. We have physics engines that replicate how wind, how rolling resistance affect you, how you are affected by being in draft in a peloton, and how much you have to work to get up any hill, but you also feed back to your real life equipment, basically replicating what's happening on your screen. So if it looks like it's a hill, it will feel like it's a hill. And that makes it possible for you to just ride around, explore, find a hill that you like, do hill repeats, or you can log on to Zwift's huge suite of workouts, find a workout that suits you for the day and do structured elements. Or you can compete against other racers all over the world. So it should be something for all basically.

RICH LOVELOCK
Fantastic. Great summary.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah. And in our rides, you've been doing this for quite a few years now. Who do you see joining the rides on Zwift?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, well I guess as you've just said, it really is something for everybody on Zwift and all through the year, but especially when the weather is not so great outside, it really can be just somebody's home for all their cycling needs. So I would say it can be for people who are looking to increase their fitness, be it through races or structured workouts, or also somebody who just wants to find a home, an online home in terms of a community. When they're cycling indoors through the winter, you really can, for example, through a social series, become part of a tight-knit group. And that's a really rewarding aspect of being on the platform, actually. And then, as you said, somebody who wants to get involved in some racing to increase their fitness again or just for a bit of fun. It's really quite addictive once you get involved in the races, as I'm sure you know quite well.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, and we also see actually racers now go from being pure eSports racers on Zwift to appear in real life. The World Tour, our old friend Jason Osborne, for instance, he was riding with us in Castellu a lot and now he's a pro without us in Deceuninck.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely. So Zwift has this Zwift Academy each year which literally offers an opportunity for us amateurs to have a crack at a pro contract, be male or female. So yeah, that's been running a few years and as you said, we've got some real-world pros as a result.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, and actually two-thirds, they say that two-thirds of the Peloton in last year's Tour de France are Zwift users. So there's quite a few pros in Zwift as well and that's a huge, huge upside. You know, you can meet pros riding any day of the week basically.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, it is amazing. Which other sports can you do that and just rock up and take part in the activity you love with the people you admire? It's fantastic.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, like one of our friends, Ashley Moumont-Pasio in Girona, she managed to do the Queen of the Mountains on one of the hardest climbs in Girona on the first day after lockdown ended, only after training on Zwift. So you can see real gains, real-life gains by training virtual as well.

RICH LOVELOCK
Absolutely. And I guess many people will know the story of Matty Heyman who broke his arm, wasn't it? And he was training on Zwift, resting it on a step ladder next to the bike, and I think he went on to win Paris-Roubaix that year, right?

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, that was back in 2016. That's, man...

RICH LOVELOCK
Was it really? Wow.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, seven years ago today.

RICH LOVELOCK
Wow, how time passes.

LARS BLESVIK
But also just last week, I rocked up to the starting line and just a social, basically just a ride that I can not really race, not really easy ride. Suddenly in the starting pen, I see, oh, you have a rider that you're following is in the panel. Always interesting. Let's see who's there. And it was Mark Cavendish, just any Tuesday riding mass participation event in Zwift. So you never know what you meet.

RICH LOVELOCK
Amazing. Amazing. So, okay, moving on from the basic intro, what kind of equipment would somebody need who's just looking to get involved on a platform such as Zwift?

LARS BLESVIK
Well, you need a computer, a tablet, Apple TV, you need somewhere to run the platform. Zwift is really nice in the way that it doesn't really require much computing power, so you can get a really good experience with an Apple TV and your own computer, your own screen back home. But there are different levels to engagement and how much gaming experience you want to get out of it, which you can get at different levels of computing power. Otherwise, you need something to ride on, of course. So either your own bike or a dedicated bike for riding online with an indoor trainer. Those might be rollers. They might be something as simple as an old bike coupled to a modern indoor trainer. And you need some sensors. So you often need to have your heart rate, you should maybe have the cadence sensor, that shows how fast you're pedaling, that even relates to how your avatar in the game behaves. You can also like really good things to have in your setup is a fan. So you get some air circulation around you. You should have a stand close by so you can have your snacks, your computer, some controllers so you're able to interact with what's happening on screen. And there's also, you know, there's lots of levels to this. We can go into minute details, but I think it's really important to say that you can get online with almost any equipment that you have available. There is a certain barrier to entry, but it's really accessible to most. Okay, great.

RICH LOVELOCK
And would you say it's fair to say it's fairly simple to get going, but if you have deeper pockets and you're willing to invest a bit more, the experience becomes more immersive and enjoyable to an extent?

LARS BLESVIK
Realism and immersiveness comes with the investment, yeah. You have suites of hardware equipment that vibrates to simulate the different rolling terrain underneath you. You have the option of equipment that rises and lowers your front end to simulate climbs. And you have different options in how much road feel is related through the indoor trainer that you're using. So that depends on what level of equipment you're setting up to. But one thing I should mention these days is that Zwift itself has a really good online store where you can get on and you can look for Zwift's own equipment, which is actually reasonably priced, has good quality, and gives a lot of options and a lot of immersiveness for the money you invest.

RICH LOVELOCK
Okay, fantastic. Right, well, I know you love a stat or two Lars, so I'm betting you've got a few swift statistics up your sleeve for us all.

LARS BLESVIK
Oh yeah, oh yeah, yeah. Like there's 3 million accounts that have been created and this is some years ago actually, so we foresee even more accounts now. 75% of all the accounts are there doing their structured workouts online. 25% of all riders, as one in four, are regularly doing events. Every day, we see over 100,000 riders logging on at the same time. That was back during COVID lockdowns. The peak Zwift numbers, they are going a bit down over the last couple of years, but we still see huge, huge attendance at any given time of day. You can always log on and find riders to ride with.

RICH LOVELOCK
Absolutely. It's come on a long way since the days of the blue AI bots, right? You remember those?

LARS BLESVIK
Oh yeah, that was, yeah. I remember the first times I logged on to Zwift back in 2015, I had very little, I had very little passion. Like the avatar had no real reflection of me online has actually value to me. And that's strange because I didn't think I would get attached to that figure on Zwift.

RICH LOVELOCK
The pixels on the screen.

LARS BLESVIK
The pixels on the screen, yeah. But they really need to reflect me and they need to represent what I do as a rider. Yeah.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And from a personal perspective, where do you kind of sit on that preference between sort of pure cycling simulation and the gamification aspects that Zwift's added?

LARS BLESVIK
I've been going deep on gamification lately and I will say the day I can play Mario Kart your cart online on Zwift and start hitting you with blue tortoise shells, that's when it really peaks for me. But I used to do a lot of intervals where I kind of – I found a hill, just did hill repeats in Zwift as I would do outside. These days, I might do a little bit more structured workouts for my own sake. It takes a little less time. If you're in a crunch for time, doing structured workouts is fantastic. But doing social rides is really what sets Zwift apart from other platforms I've tried so far.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely.

LARS BLESVIK
Okay. I think we're stopping that one. So Rich, you have to tell me, how did Castelli actually develop its presence on Zwift?

RICH LOVELOCK
Sure, so well we've been running events on Zwift now since 2017 and prior to this I was actually running a community on Zwift, originally launched for a local in real life club and this gradually grew in popularity. Do you still see riders attending our rides today that were part of that original club ride? Actually I do, yeah. Every now and again I see some familiar faces pop up in the name list and they even mention some of the old rides. So yeah, it's really nice to see that. And then around this time, Zwift started to become more popular with various brands from the cycling world. So it seemed a great opportunity to combine this experience leading a Zwift community with the Castelli connection. So we launched a new weekly event series. At the time it was originally called the Rosso Corsa Ride.

LARS BLESVIK
From there, how did the community and rides evolve? Like, where were you trying to go hard, or were you aiming for a more inclusive ride?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely. At the time, it was all about inclusivity. The pace that we set for these rides, it was very inclusive. It was probably at the high end of inclusive, but yeah, the whole focus was just trying to get people on board and have a bit of fun and a chat, to be honest.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah. How big are we now?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, how big are we now? Well, since that time back in 2017, the community has grown substantially, as has the leadership team and the number of rides that we're offering. What's the numbers? Yeah, so at the moment, we're currently offering six rides each week, and we're now up to 15 ride leaders all around the world. Some being employees, some being ambassadors, and some actually now, they're enthusiastic, long-standing community members, which have gone on to become ride leaders.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, I've seen the numbers, like we're heading well beyond thousand riders every year, every week across all events.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, it's really encouraging to see and yeah a lot of those it's very rewarding to see a lot of regular riders returning to these rides but you know by the same token we're seeing lots of newcomers and trying to welcome people on board every time.

LARS BLESVIK
Do we have any particular goals we're working towards for our community and our rides?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, well, first and foremost, we're just trying to build and engage with our online community and actually Zwift is just such a fantastic way to directly engage with participants. You know, it is, we're doing the thing we love, albeit virtually, but we can communicate and suffer together, you know, at the same time. So that's quite unique from that perspective.

LARS BLESVIK
And we also have an aim at having fun while we're doing this. As you said, chat and keep people engaged. Really important.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely. I think if we can develop those emotional connections, that's what it's all about and it will keep people coming back. And then last but not least, I think we're trying really, given that there's a performance element associated with Castelli, we're continuously trying to find ways to help people towards their fitness goals, whether that be through our structured workout program or we've just launched a new race series which we'll come on to in a second. So that's a final objective.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, because that's the thing. How are really those objectives reflected in the event series that we're doing? What's the typical schedule these days?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, so we try and offer a bit of everything for different people during the week. So for example, we have a weekly workout series called Squadra Castelli and this is a six-month training plan between October and March, focused mostly around endurance-style events like Grand Fondos and Sportives and we have three workouts each week for those. Next up, we have the weekly social ride, which was originally the Rosso Corsa ride, now called Roll with Castelli. This is a kind of relaxed, chatty ride. Often, we have a kind of race effort just to top that off.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, the after-party rides, they are really popular. When we go slow for the first maybe three-fourths of the ride and then have a little race at the end. It has been really fun.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, it’s a nice combination. And, then, with the Roll with Castelli we have a monthly epic edition. And for this, it's usually a bit of a longer ride. And we give away a prize each month, usually some Castelli gear. And then quite often, we'll have an interesting cycling tale narrated by your fine self, Lars. And the feedback from those tales has been fantastic, to be fair.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, it's kind of, I'm not sure where that started, but I've always enjoyed the story side of cycling. So being able to tell a cool story often related to what's happening in the cycling world that week, it's really cool.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, and you do a lot of research for that and it shows through, you know, people really enjoy them. So, yeah, really appreciate that. So just moving on, we have a weekly women's social right now called Castelli Donna every Thursday and that's led by a fantastic team of four ladies doing a great job there. And then just finally we've launched a new race series called Castelli Competizione which runs every Friday and that's split down into five-week mini seasons so you can just kind of dip in and out if you fancy getting involved in some racing.

LARS BLESVIK
How are we set for time zones now? We used to have some differing times. We have people jumping on from all around the world. Have we any reflections to what times fit the different participants best?

RICH LOVELOCK
Well, judging by some of the Zwift statistics based on popularity, we've gone with a kind of EU evening zone for most of our riders that captures the largest. We can't get everybody at one particular time, so we've kind of tried to get the biggest catchment that we can and you'll get America early in the day and Europe during the evening. So that tends to be the best we can do for the moment.

LARS BLESVIK
Do we have any special events that we should talk about? We've had some quite epic rides that we should give a special mention, shouldn't we?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely. So, we've had a number of different style events. We've had the Giro di Castelli in the past, which has been a multi-stage event and participants can choose to do this as kind of virtual representation of a grand Fondo long distance ride. And then I'm sure you remember of particular note we had the Ride with Reggie event in 2021 with ex-NBA basketball legend Reggie Miller.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, that was an epic one. We did it to raise funds for diversity in sports, especially the traditional black colleges in the US. He had a fundraising event for them. I think there were more than 3,000 riders on that ride? Yeah, I can't remember the number, but it was into the several thousands, absolutely. Yeah, my computer at the time was only able to simulate the hundred riders closest to me, which basically meant I rode around in a small square, jam-packed with riders all day.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't know about you, but that was a real treat for me growing up watching the NBA in the 80s and 90s, just to be riding with Reggie on that event was just amazing, really.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, that was fantastic. Which also leads us to all of the fantastic guests that we have been so fortunate to be to join us. Some of them have been co-leaders. I for one really, really remember riding with Jason Osborne as he became world champion on Zwift. That was like for me as a racer, that felt like a peak Zwift moment at least. Do you have any favorites?

RICH LOVELOCK
Well, we've had so many amazing guests and we've had some just rock up and join the rides kind of unannounced. And obviously we've had a few that have come on that have connections with Castelli through pro teams or triathletes. Laura Phillips been amazing. We've had her on a few times and she's always a real hit with the participants. Really open, candid discussions we've had with Laura. How about yourself? Any other favorites?

LARS BLESVIK
Well, the fantastic Cameron Wurf being a cyclist and a triathlete, he had so much knowledge to share with our riders. That was really nice rapport and was able to answer so many questions. But I also remember all the riders who have kind of jumped on unannounced. I remember once leading when Dame Sarah Story entered the ride. I must say, she was just the kindest and so nice to all the riders. It was a small ride that day. It was a lunch break ride actually. She jumped on, super happy to engage and really, really gentle and a nice companion during the ride.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, and we've had so many others just jump on. To mention a few, we've had Sir David Browsford, Sir Chris Hoy. I think we've had other people from the bike world, Fausto Pinarello, right? Cristiano de Rosa's been on once or twice. It's just lovely to see these names pop up in the rider list as a pleasant surprise.

LARS BLESVIK
So how do we actually brand Castelli in game? Are we visible in game, you think? Can people enjoy being on a Castelli ride?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely. In terms of brand awareness, you mean.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah. What do we give back to the riders for joining us as well?

RICH LOVELOCK
Well, every event we do has something on offer. So we currently have six Castelli kits for use during our events. And if you happen to be just free riding around Zwift, you do actually see quite a few of these kits from time to time now. So we have four kits based on real world gear. We have the Aero Race and Climbers jerseys from the past. They've been around a few years now. Then we have a special edition kit which was designed specifically for the Ride with Reggie event, which also had a real life counterpart. That's a real distinctive one. And then finally, maybe your favorite, perhaps, is, I know you're a fan of pink, we have the latest pink wave kit, again designed specifically for Zwift. It didn't have a real world counterpart, but after some demand, it now does.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, and all the riders have to do to get these kits in the garage is just to complete the ride. So joining us and finishing the ride always give you the option of having new kit to wear as we go.

RICH LOVELOCK
Absolutely. Literally just come and join our events if you fancy a new kit and you don't have it in your locker.

LARS BLESVIK
And the Pinkwave kit, we do from time to time announce that as available for pre-order riders to join and buy in real life if they want to have it as a regular jersey as well. We also own the rights to the pink Giro d'Italia jersey, but we're not allowed to give that one out. That's only for keeps for the ones who deserve it. We can borrow it for a ride just to show off.

RICH LOVELOCK
Exactly.

LARS BLESVIK
So it's also worth mentioning that we are always considering other cycling platforms to enhance our community activities, right?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yes, absolutely. So we're always considering what else is out there to try and broaden the community. For example, we recently had a weekly social ride and race series actually on the Wahoo RGT platform. The social ride was hosted by former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Alex Stater over in Canada. Sadly though, as many users might know, the Wahoo RGT platform has recently ceased operations. provide support for the virtual Giro d'Italia on the B-Call platform. And then finally, we are also considering to try the MyWoosh platform. They're beginning to launch some community rides with some customization. And I think that's slowly picking up numbers. So yeah, that's definitely something we're, we're also considering. And it's worth mentioning there's a, there's no subscription necessary to ride on that platform currently.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, it's an up-and-coming platform. They have taken a lot of cues from other social platforms and they look to be gaining traction, definitely.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely. And well, on the subject of other platforms, do you have any thoughts about the UCI eSports Cycling World Championships move from Zwift onto the MyWish platform?

LARS BLESVIK
I think it might be, of course, it's a question about, it needs to be said that the pro ranks racing is another level than what we are doing in eSports. But as long as they're able to produce and give us a good show. That’s the most important thing about it that is actually able to entertain us. So I'll definitely be logging on and I hope that they're able to produce as good a race as Zwift has done over the last few years. That's the main point.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, that'll be interesting to see and see how it compares.

LARS BLESVIK
So for you during winter months as we're heading into now, how do you split between real life cycling and online cycling?

RICH LOVELOCK
Right, yeah. Well, I think for me, during the week, it just makes sense in terms of time efficiency to just be jumping on Zwift in the evenings. And also because of the ride schedule that we have, we're often, as you know yourself, we're often involved in leading the rides. So I would say mostly midweek it's on Zwift or one of the other platforms. And then I'll try and get out at the weekend for a decent cafe ride, coffee and a cake with friends at the weekend. How about yourself?

LARS BLESVIK
Well, I've done almost all my quality work this year on Zwift. It's been a time crunch thing. I've been able to just go down in the basement, knock out a good quality ride with intervals in an evening session, maybe even during a lunch session if I have a home office day. But I try to get out a couple of times a week, maybe once in the evening during a week just to clear my head basically. And then getting, as a snow sets, I love my long winter epic rides. But in this transition period here in Norway, everything is just wet, muddy, and way too dirty. So these days I'm doing a lot of indoor work.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah. Very similar here in the UK. So obviously Castelli is fairly well known for its outdoor foul weather gear. But is there anything on offer specifically for indoor cycling?

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, Castelli has a full insider series, which is specifically tailored for the needs of indoor riding. Well, we have jerseys, we have a standard insider jersey, which has really, really light fabric, really wicks the moisture fast of your skin. And the same fabric in a little looser fit in a sleeveless version, which is my favorite.

RICH LOVELOCK
Same.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah. In addition, we have an insider short, which has super light fabric again. It has what we call a skin care layer, which is basically padding without the cushioning layer inside. So it's super slick, super slim, and a little more like a triathlon version. But since you don't have the same vibrations from the bike, you don't need the same cushioning layer, is the thought. And of course we have a good collection of accessories. My own favorite, I love the sweatbands. So we have this set of one headband and two wristbands. I love using them together, just because I tend to have a lot of sweat running down my forehead. And in the end, a nice black towel.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, exactly. The accessories, the sweatbands and headband, they're fairly essential gear when you're doing the workouts and the races, I find. And just out of interest, how did you find the insider shorts with this, just the skincare layer?

LARS BLESVIK
I love the light feeling on my body. And I mean, when I'm racing, I find it perfect because those are shorter stints. I don't get the same impact on my seat. When I'm going for the longer rides, I prefer to bring out a good standard bib shorts, basically. Yourself?

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah. Yeah, similar experience. I was surprised actually how comfortable they feel. But I think for the intense shorter sessions, the workouts and races, that's my go-to short every time. Yeah, every little help you can get is appreciated in those sessions.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, and especially when you get out of the saddle, it kind of, it feels, it's like next to nothing on your skin. It just, it's so efficient.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, without a doubt. So, given all this talk about the Castelli community, how can our listeners get involved?

LARS BLESVIK
Well, we try to keep it quite simple these days. We have labeled everything with the Squadra Castelli. So, we have a Squadra Castelli Zwift Club, that is where we basically announce a lot of the community stuff. We have a Squadra Castelli Zwift Power race team, which is more if you want to get into racing and you want a team community to start off with, nice place to go. And last but basically the biggest channel is our community on Strava which we haven’t really touched the point in this chat but Strava is more of the social media platform for training, and there again, you'll find us as Squadra Castelli, and it's the hub. It's where we bring out all the news about our activities. It's where we also share special events and how... And some more information about Castelli merchandise for both indoor and outdoors riding. And we also have Strava challenges, but I'll leave that one to you.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, sure. So, yeah, the Strava challenges have been a fantastic addition to our community engagement. So, for those who aren't familiar, we run these challenges in partnership with Strava. And they're kind of a form of gamification where we're bringing our real world cycling onto a digital platform. And the concept is that participants are challenged to ride either a certain distance or duration over a certain period of time. So for example, 250 minutes in two weeks. And then everybody who completes this challenge or this goal then receives a reward, which can be a digital badge in your virtual Strava Challenge locker. Along with that, usually we'll have a discount code to use on the Castelli Cycling website. Then there are some bigger prizes on offer as well.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, we've had some really nice prizes and giveaways on those challenges. I think we even gave away a full package to Marathon at Les Dolomites this year, didn't we?

RICH LOVELOCK
We did, yeah, to some lucky winners for that one, yes. So, yeah, we've really given some nice prizes away, as you say there. And then over the last few years, we've had six of these challenges based around the cycling monuments theme coinciding with the real world races. We've now completed that. So we're just moving on to some other theme challenges. And we've just had our Castelli Keep It Up challenge last month, which was pretty successful. Just to give you an example of the engagement, we had around 300,000 people join the Keep It Up challenge in a direct engagement with us. So, it is a fantastic opportunity to get involved.

LARS BLESVIK
Fantastic. So, is there anything else we should mention before we sign off for the day?

RICH LOVELOCK
Well, we have a couple of other things of interest to the Castelli fans out there. So, if you're looking for some motivating tunes for your workouts or races, we now have a Squadra Castelli Spotify playlist. I think it originally started as a bit of a dance mix, but it's now quite an eclectic mix of music on there, as I'm sure you're aware.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, we've invited all our community to participate, and then we basically do some weeding in the playlist from time to time, keep it down to a decent length, which also reflects the taste and the input that we get from the people we ride with. So it's also been a fantastic way of getting to know each other even better. I know you are more into the dance, I'm more into the rock and roll while training. So from time to time, it has reflected our style, and other times it has reflected the styles of all our friends around the world.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely.

LARS BLESVIK
And of course, we're doing the Castelli podcast right now. Please keep listening. There's a lot of really good episodes and a lot of fantastic information if you want to get some deeper insights into your cycling heroes, I think.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, absolutely there. And then just finally, for anybody who's intrigued or wanting to become involved with our ride series on Zwift, after listening to this episode, then we'll leave a link to where you can join up for those events in the show notes.

LARS BLESVIK
Fantastic. Thanks for the chat, man.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, thanks very much. And I just want to say a huge thank you to our community out there and for everyone who joins the rides. It's just a real pleasure riding with everyone and sharing the stories and the suffering and the sweat. So yeah, we really appreciate it.

LARS BLESVIK
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. It is a fantastic support.

RICH LOVELOCK
Yeah, and as always, we welcome any feedback and we'd love to hear from you with any suggestions and ideas.

LINKS

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio - Post-Lockdown Rocacorba QOM: https://www.strava.com/activities/3384147898

Castelli Zwift Events:  https://www.zwift.com/events/tag/castelli

Castelli Zwift Club:  https://www.zwift.com/clubs/squadracastelli

Castelli Strava Club:  https://www.strava.com/clubs/SquadraCastelli

Castelli Spotify Playlist:  https://castelli-cycling.link/spotify
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