Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: zwift

2021 Zwift Classics – Crit City Slam Race Report – C5 – Americas East

How many ways can my competitors break and demoralize me? We’ll find out, because I plan to keep coming back until I make it through in one piece. This, however, was not the week for that.

I was really looking forward to this race, especially after having missed the Everything Bagel race the previous week. Although I’ve done this course quite a few times, I’ve never done it in this direction and never for this many laps. Even without Sherpa Dave’s excellent recon series. The keys to this course are the cobbled climb and the rollers at the end of each lap–both are good spots to attack.

Or, in my case, to be attacked.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a video of this category and time zone on Youtube. Come on people! Get with it! I’m relying on you to provide content for me! But I’m embedding an exciting race from my cat in another time zone provided by JLC so that my readers (me) have a reference. I really like how JLC’s video has a cam attached, so you can see the IRL suffering.

I usually like to include a link to my Strava analysis of my ride and include screenshots and such, but I can’t do that for this race because the ride details were corrupted by a bug in the Apple TV app which prevented the data being uploaded. Luckily, the data still made it into ZwiftPower, so my results stand.

This was only my 3rd ride using Apple TV after a PC crash. I have to say that the 4k graphics are amazing with Zwift, and the operation is super simple–except for that pesky remote…that is not good! Overall, I think the Apple TV device is the way to go with Zwift, and I wish I’d just started out with that. All the crashes and video card upgrades and stuff I did just weren’t cost effective.

And Zwift sent out a patch to fix the problem that affected me on this day. I just didn’t get it in time.

I really don’t understand why Zwift isn’t selling their own device that is marketed just for their software. I think they could sell a ton of these at the $100 price point, especially to new users. They could even sell a bundle with device/trainer/HRM all together and make a killing.

Anyway, back to the race.

This does give me a chance to document my lack of understanding of how the points are awarded for these races. My reading comprehension is generally pretty decent (at least that’s what I understand from what I’ve read–haha), and I’m pretty good at math, so I’m having trouble understanding how the results I’m seeing for the FTS and FAL results on ZwiftPower translate to only 2 FAL points for this race. The scoring system seems pretty clear, and the FAL results on ZwiftPower are too, so I’m not sure what I’m missing.

Just looking at the FAL points for the hot laps, I’m seeing 16 points for me. But I only received 2 points. I guess as long as the scoring is happening consistently, and I’m sure it is, there’s no problem. And it’s not like we’re playing for money. I’m more interested in this because I like the gamification.

My gut feeling was that I’d be able to stick with the race leaders for most of the race, but would eventually get dropped and finish in the top 3rd or so. Knowing this, my strategy was to try to get as many FAL points as I could while I was in the mix, get with the chase group as soon as possible once I was dropped, and then fight for the highest placement I could get. I executed this plan pretty well (I thought), although I did lose some steam once I joined the chase group and finished at the back of it. It was pretty disappointing that I wasn’t able to compete more in that group. But, when I looked at the results from other time zones, I realized that we were going at a pretty screaming pace compared to them.

My original guess based on the other time zones was that I’d finish in around 36:00, but I ended up finishing in 34:03. It was one of those efforts that had me lying in the floor in a pool of sweat when it was over, just trying to recover and get my heart rate down. There is no spot in this course where you can relax and recover, and 12 laps of that is brutal, even if the time to complete isn’t that long.

I stayed with the main group until the climb of the 10th lap, where I expected a little bit of a reprieve once we crested. Unfortunately for me, that’s when there was an unexpected attack. I was positioned at the back of the group and just didn’t see it coming. Once I was detached they were gone. Lesson learned here–I was trying to stay in the middle of the pack most of the race to prevent this exact situation, but I got caught napping, and ended up 24th out of 56 starters.

Next time.

I’m really loving these races and the format. I’m a little worried about this race upcoming in Richmond though. The climbs happen early and then it ends mostly flat. I’m not a strong climber, so it’s going to be tough on me to stay in the lead group to the flats. If this course was reversed it would suit me much better.

Yorkshire Grad Prix Race Report – 2021 C5 Americas East

I wrongly assume that anyone wants to read anything ever again. But I still like to read, so I’m writing this for myself. If you (or I) like watching videos instead I got lucky that Lee Brill edged me out at the line, and he recorded the entire race and posted it to his YouTube channel. We were pretty close for much of the race, so this video tells a lot of the tale of my experience.

Good–that gives me a chance to talk about my personal thoughts and realizations from this race.

This was not a good course for me, so I’m actually pretty happy with finishing 20th on time and 15th on points. I’m more of a steady effort guy–not exactly known for my punchiness. Actually, not known for anything on the bike other than wearing motley kit that’s embarrassing to actual cyclists.

Anyway, there ain’t a single flat spot on this course. You can see what happens at the end of Lee’s video when I go up against a real puncher. I attacked, and was able to split the group of 4 we were in up in half, but he delivered the knockout blow.

I did learn something in this race that is haunting me a little. I can’t explain why I have problems tapping into my grit/aggression on these virtual races. In live competition I’m pretty decent at digging deeper than I should be able to. But for some reason I envision all my competition in these races having an easy time with them–just coasting along dishing out punishment. That’s the best case scenario I imagine actually. Usually I imagine them poking at my avatar like a voodoo doll and laughing at my suffering. It’s really defeating.

I realized while showering after this race that they are hurting too. I can put a hurt on them. Well, some of them anyway. Not all of them, but that’s ok. My move at the end of this race cut the number of people I had to compete with from three to one–proof that I need to get more aggressive. When I’m going into a physical competition like rugby or jiu jitsu, I always go in with the mentality of, “That dude better watch out for me–he’s about to feel something he’s never felt.”

Now, of course, it usually doesn’t work out that way at all. Even when I win, it’s seldom dominant, and I’m always a breath away from snapping. But I need to figure out how to get myself there for virtual bike racing too.

It’s the right mentality when competing.

Overall, loving this format. I do wish there was league scoring, but I think that’s coming for future series. I think what they’re really trying to work out here is the autocat system. I’m up in the top third of C5, and the competition feels about right to me. I’m sure the bottom third would disagree though.

Zwift Autocat C5 TEST Race Review

So, yeah, I’m reviewing the race. I can’t help but do that because I’m happy with my results. But I really want to give some thoughts on the new categorization system Zwift is testing out. Basically, it places you in race categories of 1-6 instead of the traditional A-D they’ve been using. They’re using the WTRL Zwift Classics Series to try this new system out.

Spoiler alert: Scotty Likey.

The old A-D system is based solely on your watt/kg number. For me, that’s currently at 2.89, which is a solid C. Yeah…the denominator of that number is too large. I’m working on it. But this single measure doesn’t say a ton about you as a rider. Are you a good climber? A good sprinter? Are you punchy? Are you at time trial specialist?

The Cat1-6 system uses your registered numbers on ZwiftPower and considers many more factors from your past performances. When I went through the process of getting categorized, I was a little disappointed that I ended up a ‘5’. I was so sure I was a mid-range 4.

Well, after racing last night, I think the categorization system put me in the right place. Whatever it’s labeled, it put me in with folks I can race with, but can’t beat. At least not yet. I was hoping I’d be in the top third of finishers, and ended up 6th out of 21 in the race. I could just have easily been 7th, but I happened to get the perfect power up (aero boost) for a big guy to finish on a short flat right after a big downhill. I literally crossed a fraction of a second ahead of 7th.

So…yeah. Top third.

I did some recon before the ride, watching videos others posted from previous test races. After seeing Cat 4, I knew I would not be able to hang. The Cat 5 race I watched looked doable, but painful. One thing that stuck out in both races was that (as always) people come screaming out of the gate and push for the first 1k. Knowing this, I went way harder than I wanted to go in order to stay in the lead group out of the gate and just try to stay with the group for at least the first lap.

The lead group was made up of 10 riders, and I made it a point to attack on the first KOM, just to see how others would react. Everyone stayed with. One guy kept riding out solo, but no one chased–the group of nine could handle a single flyer an reel him back in.

We remained a group of 10 for the first two laps, and the second lap was much more calm and had a pretty steady rhythm. But I knew from my recon that a big attack was coming. I got a feather power up at the start line and opted to hold it for the climb. Man…EVERYBODY attacked. and the pretenders (I was one) were detached quickly from the top 5 riders. Three of us quickly separated ourselves, then settled down a bit.

Just before the KOM banner I attacked hard, knowing that the mostly downhill finish benefitted me as a big guy. What I didn’t know was that one of the other two guys was even bigger than me, and he cranked out some serious watts on the downhill to catch back up with me with about 1k to go. I jumped on his wheel and held on, hoping he didn’t get the aero power up at the KOM banner like I did.

Lucked out, and was happy to edge him out. Looking at his numbers later, we are really well matched. Hopefully I’ll be seeing him in the East Coast time slot on some of the Classics!

Zwift Group Rides – Y’all Just Chill On This

It’s been a long time since I read a blog post and then wrote a blog post responding to it. Like, it’s been years. But yesterday I read this post on ZwiftInsider around group rides, giving feedback to group leaders, ranking group rides, etc.

I joined one just last week, led by a pro rider. (This, by the way, is often the kiss of death on Zwift – pro riders are notoriously bad ride leaders.) The ride details stated a pace of 2-2.5 w/kg. He messaged before the ride began to say he would be holding a pace of 2 w/kg. Then promptly launched off the front, messaging 10 minutes into the ride that the pace would be closer to 3 w/kg.

It’s funny, because last week I did a couple of group rides that I normally don’t do, and both of them went poorly. Well, poorly for some of the people doing the rides. I didn’t have a problem with the rides or the leaders, even though they didn’t stick to the advertised pace. I just rode my own ride, found a couple of other people who were doing the same, and finished my workout. But I was amused with the whiny riders complaining about the leaders. Even while I was in the rides themselves I was thinking about this. I mean, it didn’t really irritate me, because the little text/message boxes popping up on my screen with people upset with the leaders didn’t affect my ride at all.

And that’s kind of the point.

Look, a virtual group ride shouldn’t put nearly the amount of expectation on ride leaders as in-person group rides. Safety is not a concern–nobody’s getting hit by a car on the trainer. Cues and steering are not a concern–nobody is getting lost out here. And really, speed shouldn’t be a concern–at least not one big enough to get upset about.

I get it. It’s fun to “go fast” on the screen because you are riding in a big blob while only putting out 2.5 w/kg of effort. But at the end of the day, what does it matter if the leader (and most of the peloton) want to bump it up to 3.0 w/kg and you can’t keep up? Why would you get upset about this? No one is stopping you from continuing on at 2.5 w/kg. That’s on you. That’s your inability to be disciplined with your pace. Take the opportunity to work on it.

Is it because you’re trying to get PRs on Strava segments or get more “miles”? Um….this isn’t real riding. What you’re really doing on a trainer is X watts for Y minutes. Spoiler alert–you aren’t actually going anywhere.

So if you don’t like the way the group ride is going, don’t complain. Just ride. Or just get off your bike. It’s not like the leader drug you out 25 miles away from your house. You’re already home. And guess what. There’s probably another virtual group ride starting up in 30 minutes or so.

Then you can get mad at whoever is leading that one. They are probably getting paid exactly the same thing ($0) as the person who was leading the last ride you whined about.

I get the point of the post is that there should be a way to provide feedback, but that’s so the leaders can get better and have more successful rides in the future. I’m all for that. What I experienced last week was anger and whininess during the ride. The feature I’d ask for is the ability to mute the Debbie Downers.

Zwift Crit Race 6 – Bell Lap Cat C

I’ve completed a few other races on this course, and I feel like I’ve not just improved in ability, but also in my knowledge of how these races are usually executed. Now I’m wishing I’d done race reports for all of them, but oh well. I’ve gotten better and better at honing in a strategy, and as a result, I was able to stay with the leaders for the entire 8 laps.

One thing that’s interesting here is that I placed third according to ZwiftPower in this race, but it was 8 seconds slower than my fastest time (23:11 vs 23:03), and I placed 18th in that race. I rode pretty even splits for both, so what’s the difference?

One, I think, is that I was in the lead group for this entire race. That means I was partly responsible for setting the pace. I’m not really an attacker, and now I’m thinking maybe I should be. I realized after the race that there are lots of Category B riders in these races. That’s actually a benefit for me because they help keep the pace a little higher and steady overall while at the same time trying not to get “coned” for going too fast. These are either tempo rides for them or they are lower leveled Bs who can’t compete in those races.

But back to me. I noticed that I tend to take my foot off the gas a little when I’m up front, mostly because my strategy is that I don’t want to burn myself up–I’d rather let someone else (those Bs) do the bulk of the work. The problem is that it keeps the good sprinters in the lead group and rested. I’m not really a sprinter…more of a lead out guy. Who do you think that benefits?

So taking a look at the lap splits for this race, I’m starting to formulate a plan on when/where to attack to try and break that lead group up.

Lap 12:45
Lap 22:51
Lap 32:49
Lap 42:55
Lap 52:51
Lap 62:57
Lap 72:57
Lap 82:44

It doesn’t have to be a sustained attack. I just need one or two other riders to go with me and drop the hangers-on. And I realize that may be me. I remember reading or seeing on a video that it’s typical that the 7th lap in these races is a “rest lap” for people to save up for the end.

I’m thinking about trying to flip that on its head. I’m considering attacking in the second half of the rollers at the beginning of the course and up the slight hill on the 7th lap. This may speed this lap up a little bit while still giving me plenty of time to recover for the 8th lap. Basically I want to shift the “rest” until later in the race and shorten it’s duration.

The perfect situation to do this will be to get a Ghost power up on the 7th lap and an Anvil on the 8th for the cobblestones.

Zwift TTT #107 Race Report

I’m not doing race reports on every race I do, but some of them make a big impact. Then again, I’m not reporting on all of those either. For example, last week I bailed about 20 minutes into a TTT because of stomach issues–a problem with the fact that I’m doing these late night.

I wanted to record some thoughts on this one for a few reasons. One, is that Rene streamed it on Twitch. Not enough reason to share usually, but I did really well in this race, and he documented it for me! 🙂

I also learned a lot in this race. It felt like it was paced perfectly for me. I started hitting the danger zone for heart rate with about 2k left–short enough that I could just keep digging for a few more minutes. I think the major contributor to this was that we had really strong B-ranked pullers for this race, so Derrick and I were in the draft giving a steady effort the whole time.

I sort of intuitively knew this, but I ride best when I’m able to give a steady effort instead of sprint/recover/sprint/recover. I’m getting better at the latter, but the steady effort is definitely what I’m built for.

It makes me wonder if the best way for us to improve our times as a team is for our strong B riders (they are really strong) to just pull the whole time. I know that the times people have to sweep back and pick me up are usually when I pulled one time too many and then I’m just hanging on until the end. Our B riders pushing me to ride at my FTP in the draft could still ride at a very doable pace for them.

As a result (like in this race) it leaves me matches available to start leading out a finishing push in the final few hundred meters. If you watch this race, that’s exactly what happened naturally–I started leading out and then other guys pass me to the line, but they got the benefit of me doing 4.5 W/kg from the beginning. Again–I’m not able to put out big spikes of power, but I can get up into the 400W range and hold it for a decent period of time that the folks behind me can use.

Some things to think about.

Alternative race report here, for those with access.

Zwift Team Time Trial #104 Race Report

I’m really happy to be on a team with guys who write up race reports and post them to the ol’ Facebook for the broader team to read. That means I don’t have to write the whole thing myself–I can just take what he wrote and comment on it. Honestly, I can barely remember parts of this race as I was hanging on by a thread.

I did not want to do this race, but I’m really glad I did.

We were only five, but rode as one.

Just want to jump in and comment on Tom‘s race report right at the beginning. You can have up to 8 riders on a team, and the time of the fourth rider across the line is the one that counts. We only had 5. That means 3 fewer people taking turns pulling. Even if they were only doing 15 second pulls, that’s an extra 45 seconds of rest per rotation, which is a lot.

This course was well suited for us, being mainly flat and with hills of moderate grade. As this group has accumulated TTT experience everyone is focusing on some of the finer points of the experience—bike and wheel selection, various tactical approaches, watching earlier races (an advantage of being in Z14), studying the course profile, etc. If nothing else this gives us plenty to chat about in our warmup meetup.

I really benefit a lot by being a part of Team Skofnung, and the larger Valhalla team in general. Someone else takes responsibility for putting us on teams and registering us with the league. And once we get to the race, our team captain takes responsibility for deciding on the order and length of our pulls based on the abilities of each of us. Basically, all I have to do is show up on time, follow directions, and suffer. Watching races earlier in the day is super helpful as well. It gives me an idea of where other teams have issues and a general idea of how long I’m going to be on the bike.

Once everyone was warmed up and in the pen we took to the pairing screen to stay loose pending our 12 minute delay. Derrick had a glitch where the pairing function released him for a second and he drifted right to the banner, but stayed in the pen. Then in slow motion his avatar drifted sideways into Tom Neuman and pushed him over and even piled into Sylvan. Everyone stayed upright and on the right side of the line, and then we were off .We quickly got into our rotation, having agreed that we would use the rider panel except for the hills, when we would blob as is our custom.

Great lesson we learned in last week’s race, which had lots of rollers, is that we were pretty strong at sticking together as a blob instead of a line when we needed to do it. It’s a good tactic for us because we have a wide range of weights on our team–if we tried to ride w/kg on the rollers it would split us up pretty easily.

For this race we agreed to target a speed (40kph) rather than a w/kg as the pacing metric, and it worked really well. Tom N was assigned 60 second pulls in exchange for his request to be 4th in the rotation, with Sylvan and me each at 30 secs and Scott and Derrick at 15 secs. Sylvan made the call to increase his efforts to 45 secs to help him remain calm and nobody objected. He later raised it to 60 seconds, again without objection especially from me since I was behind him.

Lap 1 went exactly to plan, rotating thru the flats, and then maintaining a seamless blob up out of the desert and over the KOM. Either Sylvan or I would be at the front keeping tempo, Tom N staying in the middle to help close any gaps that might open, Derrick and Scott riding spot-on and maintaining position. We anticipated the possibility of the post-KOM rollers breaking things up, and simply did not allow that to happen. We worked hard that first lap but very deliberately within ourselves, understanding that a big challenge of this course was the distance and wanting to conserve energy to be strong for lap 2.

That last bit was huge. I’m a big fan of going out conservatively. If you have extra oomph at the end, you can always find spots to use it. But if you burn all your matches early, there’s no coming back from it. I learned from my very first attempt at a TTT that once my heart rate isn’t recovering I’m cooked. And not just for a minute or two. I’m really happy to be riding on a team that feels the same way. My splits for the two laps in this race ended up being 2 seconds apart. That’s pretty good for a race that lasts over an hour.

By the second lap we were still going well. Tom N and Sylvan were dieseling through their pulls, Scott and Derrick were tightly in the group, occasionally rolling through the front, and I covered some extra rotation time on top of my pulls to keep things going. We had noted early on that we were putting time into the team behind us, and that on lap one the team ahead of us put time into us, but on lap 2 we slowly cut into the advantage of the team ahead, and passed individual riders dropped by their squads. This was all further incentive to keep the engine room stoked.

The second time up out of the desert and over the KOM was definitely grippy, as everyone was feeling the effects of the distance and the effort. There were occasional 1-3 second gaps but always closed, with once again Tom N doing mini-sweep work with Derrick and Scott as Sylvan and I maintained tempo up front.

So appreciative of the sweep!

Down through the rollers really started to hurt, and at one point Scott encouraged us to press on without him. He must have been hypoxic to suggest that, as it is clearly against Skofnung Company Policy, especially with only 5.5 to go.

Huge advantage of riding on a team–they forced me through a tough minute or so, and I came out find on the other side.

So we gave the slightest easing of effort, he went inside-out to close back on, and we were again 5 as we hit the true flats to the finish with 4km to go. Those last 4km were awesome. We kept it tight like a for-real TTT, cranking the watts up front well north of 4w/kg and ramping up to over 5w/kg as the line approached, Tom N and Sylvan clearly giving it the stick and me contributing what I could, Scott and Derrick blowing up heartrate monitors to stay hitched on. We were putting even more time into the team behind and wiping out the early advantage of the team ahead. That last 1 km was absolutely brilliant, full gas and maximum effort by everyone to finish fast and together, knowing there was not a single watt left out on the desert flats.

No lie here. Upper 160s HR is the “danger zone” for me on the bike, and once I cross 170 I really don’t have any hope of coming back. I was 170+ for the last mile. If my front wheel had been rotating I probably would have tangled my tongue up in it.

Fabulous ride, and a real pleasure. Very much looking forward to next week already, and to having some of our regulars back with us (looking at you in particular, Laurence!).Have great weekends everyone, until next time.TP

I’m really excited about riding again next week, especially if we’re able to field an 8 person team. We are improving every week, and I feel like we’re starting to know each other better as riders. Last week we were 136th overall in the Latte League. This week, 106. We made big gains in our Zone as well. It feels like we’ve just begun to gel!

Zwift Crit Race 3 – Bell Lap Cat C

If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. At least I didn’t crash this time. Actually, the issues with this race probably worked out in my favor. For some reason, my trainer was not being controlled by the terrain of the map. If you’ve ever ridden this course and had to deal with the rollers at the beginning of each lap, you’ll know why this worked in my favor. I was able to ride a pretty steady power profile for this race, but it would have been “cheating” a little if I’d been able to place highly.

I was able to ride the way I wanted for a big part of this race–didn’t even try to stay in the lead group. Unfortunately I got dropped by the group I was in at the beginning of the 6th lap. I noticed that the next group was 38 seconds behind me, and decided to ride hard enough for them to have to chase (and catch) me, but easy enough that I could recover some and do well at the end.

I think I was in 23rd place at the time I got dropped.

The plan worked out pretty well, but now I’m not sure it was the right plan. The other group caught me at the beginning of the 8th lap. I rode with them until the sprint finish. I ended up 24th (on the Zwift screen, not in Zwift Power), which means I basically only lost one spot.

I wonder now what would have happened if I’d ridden harder. Since I was able to hold them off for that long; would I have put them out of reach by riding harder? Would I have caught up with the next few people who got dropped from the group I’d been in previously? Hard to tell, but my average heart rate ended up being my all time high, which makes me think I was legitimately dropped and that I wouldn’t have been able to continue that effort level that whole time.

Then again, maybe I would’ve had 45-50 seconds less total time riding. As it is, I was about 10 seconds slower on this race than the other one I completed without crash. I think I rode better though–my splits were pretty even up until the time I got dropped.

Then again, not hard to ride even splits when you can’t feel the terrain. Meh.

Zwift Crit Race 2 – Bell Lap Cat C

Well. Dang.

I pushed my old ‘puter to its limits, and Zwift crashed on me during the 6th lap of this race. Really disappointing, but since then I’ve replaced my old disc drive with an SSD drive. Basically a brand new computer for ~$60, and this thing screams now. I’ve done a couple of rides longer than an hour on high resolution graphics (I always used “low” before) and haven’t had any problems.

Unfortunately, I was doing pretty well in this race. I mean, I wasn’t close to being in the front group or anything. I think I was like 68th out of 133 when all ones and zeros broke loose. But I was riding pretty steady splits on the laps, didn’t go out too fast, had one other person I was working with the maintain position, etc.

Big changes from the first race were a lower cadence, not trying to get in the lead group and stay there, and riding the bumps much better. I also have a better feel of when to coast on the downhill section and when to use the powerups.

Anyway…that’s about it. Second try out was a dud, but will try again next week.

Zwift Crash, FitFileTool, Missing in Strava Fix

Zwift crashed on me during the 6th lap of an 8 lap ride today. Frustrating, but more frustrating because I want to at least look at the stats of the part of the race that were recorded. I did some research and found a great solution — FitFileTool.com –that will repair partial Zwift rides using their “Corrupt Time Fixer”. It’ll even upload the workout to Strava for you.

Great, right?

Not so fast. Everything seemed to work well. I could see the individual activity on Strava without any problems. But when I went to my feed and profile the activity wasn’t there. What the?!?!

I checked one more place…my activities. Not showing up there either.

But what happens if I search for it. There it is! It’s just showing up as happening on January 6, 2015 instead of March 5, 2021.

Sure enough, when I go look at the activity, it has the wrong date and time associated with it.

The Fix–Not Exactly

My first inclination was to download the file with the wrong date from Strava, do a search and replace for all the dates in the file, then upload it again. That mostly worked, but I think the local timestamp of the virtual location the race took place threw things off.

There’s a better way

Go back to the original file that was repaired for you by FitFileTools and run it through one of their other utilities–the “Time Adjuster”. This lets you set the start date/time of the activity and makes that fix for you.

Download THAT file and upload it to Strava, and you should be all good.

Zwift Crit Race 1 – Bell Lap Cat C

After my rough experience doing the TTT a few weeks ago, I thought it would be a good idea to get some Zwift racing experience that didn’t negatively affect others. Basically, learn how to race I guess.

I considered doing individual time trials and crits, and I chose crits because:

  1. There are more of them
  2. They included drafting (just like TTT)
  3. They are usually pretty short efforts (8 laps), so they don’t disrupt my FTP program much. I can just do these on an off day.

There are a bunch of Bell Lap races, so I thought I’d give this a go. I’ll be able to race on the same course over and over, try different tactics and strategies, document them, see what works best, etc.

Added bonus–I think there may actually be a correlation between how fast I can do these races and how fast I can run a 5k. Remember, I’m cycling in lieu of running so much, but still hope to get faster on race day. We’ll find out if this works..

I’m a boring nerd. I’m not going to even mention the spreadsheet I’ll be using to track all this…yet.

I picked the Friday 11:45 am EST race to be my “standard”. I’ll be able to make that one most weeks, so hopefully I’ll be racing against the same people over and over as well, which gives me another control point in the experiment.

Race Prep

Before racing, I did do a little recon. I watched a couple of races on this course live, and watched a couple of videos on how to race the course. Quick recap of what I learned and observed:

  • Like all Zwift races, start fast! Shoot for 4.5 w/kg
  • Flyers get caught in the first minute
  • Leaders ride the first lap in the high 3’s w/kg
  • After a couple of laps, the chasers are ~ 7s back, and some riding solo
  • After the halfway point, leaders are riding in the low 3’s, high 2’s w/kg
  • People get strung out on the bumps–that’s where attacks happen
  • Don’t fall for attacks on the 7th lap

Strategy and Reality

The winners of the races I watched were finishing in just over 21 minutes and around 3.3 w/kg. My 20 minute best effort is around 2.7 w/kg.

So…I’m not going to win in Cat C, and if I can put in a solid effort, a finish under 25:00 would be pretty good for me. The game is going to be trying different approaches in multiple races to see what works best for me.

The strategy for this first race was simple–stay with the lead group as long as possible and see what happens. I knew I’d get dropped, but the question was “when?” and “what happens after that?”

Execution

The good news is that I think I found something that doesn’t work. I was able to go out with the first group and stay with them for the first lap and a little beyond. But just like going out too fast in a running race, it caught up with me. Positive splits on every lap except for the last one (by two seconds…just barely).

I was able to finish in 24:22, and I think I could do a lot better than this by evening out my splits (negative splits?), but what makes cycling way different than running is that I need to find a group to ride with to make it happen. I rode the last laps by myself in this race, and I think that really shows in the results. I was putting out wattage that were around the same or higher than previous laps, but not getting any benefit of the draft until the last lap.

My question and challenge for the next race is how to find that second group, and can I stay with them. I think the key for me to do my best in these races is to find the right group that can support me for as long as I can stay with them, or find a group I can ride easy with and attack from on the last lap.

One thing is clear–I’m not worried about winning any time soon.

FTP Test – For Real

After my humbling performance in the Team Time Trial #95, I knew it was time to get on to the real business I have to take care of on Zwift. Not riding tours or group rides. The focus has to be on getting better.

Like, real results.

Still, I did want to do the makeup stage of the 2021 Tour de Zwift. It happened to be the climbing stage, and since I was only going to do one ride in this stage, I chose the most advanced one. Gulp. This took about 20 minutes longer than I was hoping it would. It was brutal. Another confirmation that I’m not where I need to be.

I did take a day off, but wanted to stick to the schedule. Legs were pretty heavy, but I went ahead with the FTP test. I’d done these before, back in the Trainerroad days, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Luckily, Zwift has a different type of FTP test that doesn’t take nearly as long and isn’t as grueling. I did a ten minute easy rise to get my trainer warmed up and did a quick calibration, then on to the test.

Unlike the 45 minute efforts I’ve done before, this one went pretty fast, and it only hurt for a little while. It’s a 5 minute warmup, followed by 1 minute intervals at increasing wattage. It didn’t even take me 18 minutes to complete and for my HR to get to critical.

I ended up at 243 for and FTP–for real this time, not virtual power. That makes sense. I was hoping for somewhere around 250. It’s funny to read back through old posts from before and see that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes. I’m at 2.6 w/kg, and my goal (once again) is to get to 3.0 w/kg. Roughly, that means increasing my FTP to 270 watts and getting my weight down to 198 pounds.

Totally doable. In fact, I’ll have a hard time keeping those 7 pounds on if I’m doing all the workouts. My raw wattage may not jump all the way to 270, but if I weigh in at 195 pounds and hit a raw score of 265, the result is the same.

First Experience in Zwift TTT Racing

Alternate title: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good: I have an image that proves I was actually with this group at some point of the race

The Bad: It was evident early on that I couldn’t hang

The Ugly: My heart rate and recovery

Some background…

I’ve been doing a weekly Zwift recovery ride on Wednesdays with the Vikings – Valhalla team. This ride is super-fun, super-inclusive, and they seemed like a great group of people to ride with and represent. It didn’t take long to realize that this was the team for me. I’m doing this for fun and health, not for champeenships or money. Is there any money in Zwift racing? A different topic to explore.

After doing a race where I was not up to snuff, I can confirm that these are some cool people. No one dogged me out for not being able to keep up. In fact, they did everything they could to keep me in the group and only dropped me after the 2nd or 3rd time I told them that they should drop me.

As a member of a team I definitely feel like I let them down. But the best thing I could do was to let them go on without me. These guys were way stronger than me, and as I watched them finish as I continued to putter along the course I was amazed at the effort they put in. I have a lot of work to do before I try one of these again.

Race Report – Or at least the part I participated in

Zwift TTT is made up of up to 8 riders, and the time of the top 4 riders to cross the finish line is what counts. In the league we were in, there can be 3 “B” class riders and the rest “C” class. I’m a C rider, which means the responsibility to pull the group and ride at the front didn’t fall on me as much as others. We had a team of 6 in the start pen, but one of our riders had a technical issue, which had us start with 5 riders.

The call was to ride on raw watts over w/kg because we were riding a flat course. We were shooting for 300 watts at the front.

That’s 3.2 w/kg for me.

*Gulp* That’s hot. I was already a little worried. In the start pen I noticed my HR was over 100, and I wasn’t even pedaling–just nervousness and adrenaline, and that didn’t serve me well at all. Then again, they were only asking for 15 seconds of effort from me for my turns. I was determined to stay on for as long as I could, and I knew it was going to be about recovering for the 1:45 seconds my teammates would be pulling.

Since I’ve started riding again, the highest HR I’ve touched so far is 173. And I mean that I TOUCHED it. I can’t stay there for any amount of time. So I was really mindful of where my HR was and paying close attention to it. Two minutes into this ride I hit 158 on a pull, then I recovered. I hit 160 at ~4:00, and I recovered.

At ~5:00 I hit 161, and I climbed up to 169 in the next three minutes, and it just wasn’t recovering.

Somewhere between 10 to 13 minutes I fell off the back, and teammate Sylvan pulled me back to the group. I stayed in the 4th position for the rest of the time I was with the group, until the 20:00 mark or so. But I was stuck in the mid 160s and still struggling, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this for another 25 minutes. I fell off again, and Sylvan slowed down to try and help me catch back up, but I was cooked. I was having some trouble with Discord to tell the guys to go without me–wasn’t sure they could hear.

When they made the call to drop me (great call!) I was tasked with “just finish”. That way if someone else had an issue we would at least get credit for the race…just a horrible time. It’s clear from the power graph above that I immediately started soft pedaling and trying to recover. I knew my best chance for a better time was to get my HR under control and then ride the best I could.

It took me 12:00 to get my HR under 150! Once I recovered, I tried to keep my HR at a reasonable rate and get the best time I could. Pretty boring work, so I decided to watch the rest of the team finish. Wow–the effort those guys put in was inspiring to watch. And it was great to hear how happy they were at the finish line!

They finished at ~44:00. There’s no way I could have stuck with them. No way. It’s crazy to look at the graph of Sylvan’s ride to see how much he was recovering when trying to pull me back to the group. And the work he put in after I dropped is just crazy.

I still had 2.6 KM to go after the team finished, but now there was zero pressure to get any kind of time. Just riding for pride at this point, and I’d already had that taken from me LOL. I pedaled into the finish and did the sprint at the end. Woopity Doo!

Ok, so how do I fix this?

I learned a lot on this ride, and it’s pretty evident what I need to work on:

  1. Increased FTP–I have a lot of room to grow in the C class
  2. Weight loss (to give me better w/kg)
  3. Intervals, intervals, intervals

So Friday was a light swim day–just short and easy to get the heaviness out of my legs. Today I’m doing the last Tour de Zwift ride that I missed to get every stage completed and a short easy run. After that (and a rest day on Sunday) the work begins.

Monday: FTP test. I need to baseline exactly where I am. I think my rating on ZwiftPower is a little inflated at this point because I’ve only had a smart trainer for a week. It’s evident that the power readings (estimated) from my dumb trainer were super inaccurate as the power increased. So I need a better baseline

Tuesday I’m going to take a rest day. Well, a rest from cycling. I’m actually going to get to roll on Tuesday! Woot!

Wednesday is going to be the start of a 6 week FTP builder. That takes care of increasing FTP, and if it’s like other plans I’ve done before there are lots of intervals on the menu.

And for the elephant in the room…almost literally…weight. When I was at BJJ peak fighting shape, I was walking around at ~190 pounds for most of the day. I was never under 200 when I was doing triathlons back in the day, and I think that extra 10 pounds made a big difference. I just hadn’t been small in so long I thought 200 WAS small. Now I’m aware of how much more athletic I feel at 190, and I’m motivated to get there from my current 205. Picking up some BJJ training is going to help with that for sure, but it’s going to be a tough row to hoe.

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