Hexagone p/b Saris are playing in the Zwift Racing League this year. It is the only French national team at this level. Counting in his ranks Pierre Almeida, Sebastian Havut, Tony Lemmler, Corentin Navarro, Callum O’Connor, Julian Sutton, Cedric Stempel or even Pierre Veil, a Zift specialist.
The usual format for a season is to categorize over six to eight events. There are three a year. Over the past season, Hexagone p/b Saris has risen to an all-time high. Zwift has changed the format for a test contest. In the knockout matches the French team in the semi-finals!
The five selected riders – Pierre Almeida, Tony Lemmler, Corentin Navarro, Callum O’Connor and Julian Sutton – face Movistar in the semi-finals on Wednesday at 9:13 pm. Before this big meeting, director Romain Malbriel evaluates DirectVelo.
DirectVelo: How was this project born?
Roman Malbriel: I’ve been using the Zwift app since the beginning, circa 2016-2017. Initially, there was not necessarily an aspect of competition in Zwift, but rather more communities by country. For a year or two, they launched an official competition, the Zwift Racing League. From there, with a group of friends, we quickly got into the game. We built a team, progressed and the Hexagone project was set up at the beginning of 2022. We participated in the first season of 2022 (January-February), finished in the top three teams in the community division and are currently participating in the global event “Zwift Knockouts”. This is the main event on the Zwift app today. I would like to thank our partner Saris who has been supporting us since 2022 in this innovative discipline. It is a pleasure to cooperate with them.
How was the team assembled?
I’m an elite runner at Corbas Lyon Métropole, in N2. Most of the team members are friends, who are also France’s elite runners. To that we add an alien or two Zwift specialists. They bring us their abilities on the podium.
Is this combination important?
This is very important because Zwift, of course, needs physical abilities. A very good Elite runner would be comfortable in Zwift. You also need to know the game, it is not the best French runner who will come to Zwift and he will be the best in Zwift. There are game concepts for you to learn, you have to understand the strategies and know how the antenna works which is the ambition in a group on Zwift. It is good to have experienced Zwift runners accompany your elite runners with very high physical abilities. Once the elite racers understand the game and become more comfortable, they become the ultimate Zwift racers. That’s why today we come to the “Professionals” section of Zwift.
“Every little surprise”
They are ultimately among the best runners in the world. Did they expect that?
We are all a little surprised. We are elite riders so we know we have very good capabilities because we cycle at a high level. But we did not expect to reach the highest level so quickly. We went up, and we thought we’d get out of the group stage and find ourselves in the semi-finals against Movistar tonight. We are happy and amazed that we are at such a high level in our first season.
What is the way to qualify for the semi-finals?
This is a one month test. The first week there was the group stage where we were divided into three groups of four or five teams depending on the lottery. The best two from each group qualified for the quarter-finals. It was a points race. In the quarter-finals, it was a disqualification. On each lap there was a rider to be eliminated and the last in the race gave the win to his team. We beat a Belgian team, which allowed us to advance to the semi-finals.
What would this semi-final look like?
It’s a points race, against the Movistar team that is part of the WorldTour group. We feel more comfortable in the face-to-face format because we are so used to doing it on a regular basis. Point racing is what happens most often on Zwift. We master this format. Anyway it’s going to be tough but we won’t find out the format tonight. It will be the physique of the knights that will speak.
“Going to the final is possible”
Is final victory possible?
Our goals have changed a bit. At first we hoped to pass the group stages. This was our goal and we are happy to achieve it. We managed to eliminate the second team in the world last week. It gave us confidence, we tell ourselves that now it’s a bonus and that if we can beat the second team in the world, we should succeed in eliminating the other teams. The goal of going to the final is achievable. We will do everything we can to win on Wednesday evening.
I beat the second team in the world: who is currently number one?
It’s an American team, and it’s called Next. She was in the other part of the arc and was left out. Today, there are still top level teams but they are not the “best” teams. For us, it is more affordable. Of the remaining four teams, there are two that we were able to beat in the playoff during the points race. There is only the Movistar team that we have never encountered. Other teams recruited many runners, and they became stronger and more competitive. I think it’s very consistent across the remaining four teams. There is no one that stands out. We are all capable of reaching the final.