Helen Jenkins on the Super League Triathlon eSports Cycling series and life in lockdown

Helen Jenkins in action earlier this year at the Dubai Ironman. Source: Sway Communications
Despite much the sporting world trying to navigate a way to adapt to the new regulations implemented by COVID-19, other sports series, such as the Super League Triathlon, have shifted to online based competitions.

By Ella Fenwick

Despite much the sporting world trying to navigate a way to adapt to the new regulations implemented by COVID-19, other sports series, such as the Super League Triathlon, have shifted to online based competitions.

Sports Editor Ella Fenwick had the opportunity to talk to the two-time triathlon World Champion, Helen Jenkins, about her recent involvement in the Super League Triathlon eSports cycling series, that began last week.

The eSports cycling series has been using Zwift courses for professional triathletes to go head to head in a range of courses. After competing on the replicated cycling world championship course in Yorkshire on June 16th, Jenkins described her experience of her first race; “I came eighth overall, so I wasn’t up there with the top girls which I was not really expecting I would be at this stage in my training. I think for me it was not really about winning, I mean it would have been lovely to win but it was just having something to aim for and to get that kind of competitiveness going.”

Even though the series was completed electronically, this still did not stop the nerves for Jenkins before her first race; “I was so nervous before the start that I was warming up on my bike and I looked at the screen asking myself what am I doing, and the fact that I was actually doing this. Once the race gets going though I absolutely love it, it was very painful but I did really enjoy doing something competitive. Nerve wracking but very exciting.”

Jenkins talked about her preparation towards competing in the next race of this series on June 23rd; “Knowing the course is really handy, so being able to go around the course beforehand means I know when the hills are coming up and where I can ease back”

The transition to an eSports format has had its challenges Jenkins explained; “I have done a few (races) using Zwift but it is just so different to racing in real life. I mean it is great for training sessions and as a tool, it is just something to keep you motivated which is a positive at the moment.”

“I have actually been quite surprised about how good it is to use as a training tool, so I think we might see more of it in the future but I don’t think it’s going to replace real-life cycling and nothing really replicates that feeling.”

Training for many athletes has been difficult in these times and Jenkins has praised the adaptation of eSports; “Not having a goal or an event to train for can be really demotivating for a lot of people so these eRaces, even though they are not the same, it is still providing them with motivation.”

The development of training online has been useful, but some sports cannot be replicated virtually and the community spirit founded in sport has been missing during these times. For Jenkins, this has been apparent in not being able to train at her local swimming club that was founded by her husband. “I really miss the group and training with friends, everyone working hard together. I didn’t really realise how much I would miss that. Although the eSports are a substitute at the moment, nothing can replicate that commodity and spirit, that you get when training with your friends.”

Jenkins has admittedly struggled with motivation for training since the outbreak of the coronavirus. “It has been really up and down for me” she explained, “I started off pretty well, I was doing a lot of training and things were going really well and then I just kind of hit a wall.”

“As there are no events, training can get quite monotonous, so I think having the cycling series in there to break it up, gave me something to aim for which has been really nice.”

Over the course of lockdown, Jenkins has started working towards finding a balance between a stricter training routine in preparation for the cycling series, whilst also caring for her two young children. “I have had a few weeks taking it really easy to try and focus my attention on my two children, and at the moment I feel like I have finally got a good balance.”

Although the future of racing for Jenkins is uncertain, she continues to keep a positive attitude about the future ahead. “I think they will be running another pro-series with a couple of races a week, where I will always be able to dip in and out. Hopefully we can see where it develops from there and what there is going to be available for me to do.”


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