It must have been the winter of 2017 that I seriously started with winter indoor training sessions in the attic. For years I tried to go on the old rollers, but every time I got on it I went completely crazy after 20 minutes. I never lasted longer than 45 minutes. Until the moment came that I bought a smart trainer, this was a huge gamechanger. Thanks to the smart trainer, paired with the popular software Zwift, I have made nice progression in the last two winters, which made me stronger out of the winter. Zwift looks beautiful, but it’s not perfect, which is why we went looking for alternatives. One of the alternatives to Zwift is VirtuGo, in this article I tell you more about the possibilities of, and the experiences with VirtuGo.
The VirtuGO virtual training platform is part of Virtu Cycling Group from Denmark, founded by Bjarne Riis and the Australian Michael Rogers, triple World Time Trial Champion. Rogers is the CEO of the platform. VirtuGo positions itself between the more socially oriented Zwift and the pure training software such as TrainerRoad.
Registration for the open beta began in January 2018, now there are thousands of users who have installed and tested the software. For the time being it is still free, but it is expected that this software will have to be paid somewhere in 2019. In exchange for the free use of the software, you are expected to provide feedback. So you can occasionally get questions via e-mail about your experiences. It is also possible to share your experiences on the public forum where the developers of the software are also very active. All focused on improving the product. Because let’s be clear. The software is still in the beta phase and is not finished yet.
Difference between Zwift and Virtugo
Although VirtuGo is still in the testing phase, it is already a fairly complete product that can be compared to Zwift in a certain sense. There are ‘world-different and’ where you can cycle. You have a made up world (super small, comparable with Watopia), but they also digitally recreated real roads such as Willunga Hill, known from the Tour Down Under. The big difference is that with VirtuGo there is less emphasis on social character and competitions, but the focus is mainly on training. One of the co-owners has been responsible for the performance of Team BMC and Team Saxo Bank in the past and therefore has a lot of experience in setting up training programs for different types of riders.
Let’s get started: Power Profile
When you sign up for the first time you provide some personal information. Your age, weight and FTP are important factors for the software to know what kind of training suits you. You will then be actively encouraged to build a Power Profile. By loading historical data and combining it with a Power Profile Test, you get a nice overview of you as a rider, based on your wattages and measurements. Your first experience with VirtuGo will be a session in which your sprinting capacity, 5 minutes max capacity and your 20 minutes max capacity are measured. Immediately into the red with a blood taste in the mouth. But it, oddly enough, tastes like more.
Train on World Tour level
Although you can also cycle ‘freely’ in VirtuGo, we mainly do the training there. This is partly due to the fact that ‘free cycling’ is actually quite lonely. Few users are active at the same time and I have rarely met other riders who were also cycling. There is no real interaction yet, you don’t ride together, for example there are no group rides. As far as we are concerned, the training courses at VirtuGo are the spearhead of the software. The training courses are better and more structured than those in Zwift. You notice that the training courses have been put together by a professional. The structure is correct, the rest between the sets of intervals are good and the efforts are well tailored to your abilities as a rider. Certainly if you have done your power profile test.
In addition, you have the option of making the session a bit easier or heavier in advance, so that you some control when you are tired and need a little more rest during your training. The sessions are put together by trainers who train riders at WorldTour level and former world time trial champion Michael Rogers also looks at the sessions offered, so the quality is very high.
Virtual world in VirtuGo
The virtual world looks good. Everything is beautifully made in 3D. The laps that you can cycle are rather short (7 – 20 kilometers), which means that you can ride the same lap three times in one hour. That will get boring in the long run, but I assume that this will get better over time. Because I mainly use VirtuGo to do training sessions in ERG mode, I mainly look at the figures, but riding in a beautiful digital environment is also a lot of fun. You will feel alone on the virtual road, certainly in comparison with Zwift. You encounter few others, but like I said, group rides are not a thing on VirtuGo. We assume that this platform will become increasingly popular in the coming years and that you will encounter more and more other virtual riders so this will improve.
Is this a good alternative to Zwift? Hell yes. VirtuGo has a good balance between beautiful graphics, extensive training options and also the possibility of social cycling together. The program certainly has potential, but currently misses the large numbers of users that Zwift does have. Because of this you often cycle on your own in the digital world and that is something different than what we are used to at Zwift.