Student gears up for virtual cycling opportunity

Thu, 15 Apr 2021 16:19:00 BST
Beth has been competing indoors but hopes to race competitively on the roads in summer
Beth has been competing indoors but hopes to race competitively on the roads in summer

A second year Physiotherapy student has been selected to take part in a virtual cycling competition alongside the world’s best and could win her share of up to £5,000. 

Beth Maciver only took up cycling two years ago and has been performing impressively during lockdown through her turbo trainer and indoor app Zwift. Her efforts caught the attention of Movistar, who are the most successful squad in professional cycling with an impressive seven Tour De France wins. They are now looking to mirror success onto the virtual stage and have selected eight riders to represent them online in the Zwift Racing League Premier Division.  

We caught up with Beth to hear about her incredible journey from starting out to the world stage.    

Tell me a bit about your background to cycling? 

“I’ve been 
cycling for a couple of years now but to be honest it was lockdown that spurred me on and gave me a lot more time to do it. I really enjoyed it before that but it was challenging to have that work-life balance. There’s obviously been a lot less to do in recent times, so it meant I had a lot more time to get out on my bike – or in this case, sit inside on my bike! 

Have you always been a sporty person? 

“Yeah, I was really into athletics when I was younger. I did it during secondary school but I sort of plateaued a little bit. I really enjoyed still being competitive but it wasn’t for me anymore. I’ve finally found the right sport with cycling.” 

You mentioned that you started cycling a couple of years ago – what was the inspiration there? 

“My boyfriend’s been cycling most of his life and initially I was just enjoying doing it with him. I couldn’t have imagined it would lead to an opportunity like this!” 

Tell me about the Turbo T

Basically, I take the back wheel off my road bike and then secure it onto the turbo machine indoors. When you’re pedaling it reads your power and it’s connected via Bluetooth to Zwift, which then makes the person on the screen move. Zwift makes it a lot more interactive and fun because beforehand you were just kind of staring at the information. 

I got the Turbo Trainer during first year to continue to keep up my fitness while staying away for University. I initially looked at it as a good thing to do during winter when the roads were icy. Lockdown then came around and I decided to take it back home – it does definitely make you a fair weather cyclist! 

Was it disappointing when you heard we were going into lockdown - specifically in terms of cycling? 

“I definitely viewed it more as an opportunity. It gave me the chance to train a lot more per week and I really enjoyed it. I feel it allowed me to get a lot better, quicker than I probably would have in normal circumstances out on the road. 

Everything being competitive online has definitely helped me as well. You can see the riders on your screen and it’s actually pretty similar to being on the road because a lot of tactics are involved.  

I just need to make sure my family members stay out the room when I’m on it and that everyone is off the wifi! 

What made you get involved in the competitive side? 

“I’d been working my way up different levels on Zwift and I’d got to the stage where I had to be more verified to compete at a certain level against riders. I got a power meter on my bike, which allows me to record my data. I connect that to my bike computer and it produces files that match – this avoids cheating and makes you a lot more transparent. You also have to do weigh-ins before races because it can affect how fast you go and your power output. 

I’ve also been competing in the Zwift racing league that the Movistar team are running. They’d put out invitations to people and it was open to anyone but because we’d been competing in the racing league they were keen for us to get involved. I just looked at it as another opportunity for racing and as another training session if it didn’t work out. 

Tell me about the races that led to you being selected? 

“I’d actually got two wins during the previous season of racing which I think showed I was capable because it was the top level of Zwift racing. That was a great achievement because there was a lot of big names involved, I was really chuffed. 

I then got involved with the points race and there was no hiding place for that. We were actually on a Zoom call with people from Movistar, so they were able to watch how much effort we were putting in. I didn’t get the most points overall - I actually came second but I think they could see my determination and that contributed to their final decision. 

You’re now set to compete in the Zwift Racing League Premier Division – when does it start? 

“It’s taking place this month and then into May. The races alternate between team time trials and scratch races. It’s an eight-week season, so there’s one race per week. Over the eight weeks you accumulate points during all the races and obviously we’re representing Movistar. The team that win overall get £5,000 down to £1,000 for fifth place.” 

Is it strange to say you’re an international cyclist? 

It’s pretty crazy. I know Movistar had actually wanted to get involved in this competition last year but that went downhill with the pandemic because they had to look after their road team. If it had happened then I wouldn’t have stood a chance, so the last 12 months have really allowed me to develop strengths to compete at that top end."

The BBC also reported on your journey. Obviously, it’s not quite GCU Student Life, but what was that whole experience like? 

“That was a bit crazy actually. I got sent questions to reply to for an article and then someone else got in contact with me and I actually ended up on The Nine on BBC Scotland and I also spoke to John Beattie on the radio. For The Nine, I had to be on my bike live for the interview which was all a bit mental but it was really cool! I couldn’t ever have imagined getting this much attention."

What do your family and friends think about it all? 

It’s obviously such a new thing, so I’m not sure they all fully understand it but everyone is very supportiveMy boyfriend’s really into it all. It’s amazing to have had him here on the journey alongside me because I wouldn’t be here without him. His dad is actually co-owner of a bike shop and he’s been great at helping me get my story out there and making it more known and respected 

I think e-sports can still get a bit of a hard time in cycling because it’s the new thing, however if the likes of Movistar are involved then it’s hard for anyone to make an argument against it! 

What does the future hold then? Do you fancy getting involved in outdoor racing? 

“I’m really looking forward to being able to cycle outside. It’s funny that I’ve not had the chance to race competitively outdoors yet and in all honesty, it does make me a bit nervous!  

I think I’ll be getting involved in every race possible this year, especially after my exams are all done. I can see that basically being plans for the whole of summer.” 

By Ross Clark
Got an SHLS or GSBS story? Email or connect with me here