Wow these race days seem to be coming quicker and quicker!
This week we had the second – and last – flat race of this league, with three laps of Watopia’s Volcano Reverse circuit. It’s like the popular Volcano Flat route but…ya know, in reverse. Somehow this reversal makes one of Zwift’s flattest routes (rivaled probably only by Richmond Flat) even flatter feeling. The reverse route swaps the sharp two-tier punch on the volcano for a pair of gentle switchbacks up through the Italian Villas. Much like the forward route, the reverse still features a drag up out of the aquarium, though this time it comes a little over 1km from the finish line.
With that briefing in mind, we came into this race expecting it to be flat-out hard from the gun and to not let up until the finish line. Unfortunately, we came in short one rider. Fortunately, it was our climber, Dean. He opted for the rapid weight-loss strategy this week (being violently sick).
A Resolution to Conegate!
The incident back in Week 2 on the Richmond UCI course that resulted in the top 26 riders being DQd has finally been resolved! While it did take a while to get this sorted, I applaud KISS for taking the time to figure out a solution that maximized fairness for all the racers. The resolution is as follows:
- A ninth race is being added to the end of the series to give those DQd riders (and others) a chance for more points. The best 6/9 races will still be taking for ranking.
- The points for everyone else in that race are being reduced by the equivalent amount for the top 26 ranks. This basically assumes that that front group wouldn’t have stuck together until the end of the race, with no-one else catching back on. Not a perfect assumption, but good enough.
As expected, once this got sorted out our rank did go back to a more realistic place than 4th. We were sitting solidly in 10th coming into this race.
Onto the race!
-30:00: Enter the pens immediately and start getting setup for this race. Being a bit time-crunched, I decide to just do my warm-up there.
-13:00: Expecting a sweet-spot/threshold effort with no respite, I decide to warm-up a bit harder this time. 5min at 300W, which is right near the top-end of sweet-spot for me
0:05: With only three power-up checkpoints on this course, each one is critical. I scoop up a drafting power-up the first time
5:00: The pace has settled in squarely at 5w/kg for me. The warm-up was a great idea; the effort definitely isn’t easy, but I feel surprisingly comfortable.
6:15: It’s time for the first “climb” of this race. The little rise out of the Italian Villas then up past the waterfall is like a mini-interval session with 30sec on, 30sec off, then 30sec on. At this point the pack is ~110 riders and I’ve been sitting around 40-70th, so I pop my draft power up over the top of this climb to let myself ease-up, slip back, and recover a bit.
14:50: Fast forwarding to the end of the first lap since this really isn’t that exciting of a course or race…I’ve average 325W since the start, this is right around threshold for me, but the surges up rises are starting to take their toll. I snag another draft power-up.
22:15: Up an over the “climb” a second time. I’m right near the back of the pack this time and I try the same strategy as the first time, popping my power-up. I’m a little too-far back this time though, around 100th wheel
22:30: There’s a split at the back of the pack. After all the talk of mental commitment last week, I will myself to HTFU and sprint back on. I was the last wheel to make it back on, unfortunately dropping our TT specialist, Hal in the process. With the Zwift mechanics favouring power-to-weight, it’s still a threshold effort for him, despite that threshold being 40W higher than mine.
23:00: The gap grows incredibly quickly. The front pack is 100 riders strong and it’s a war of attrition out here.
30:00: Through the start/finish banner one more time. One more draft power-up. 318W averaged until now. My legs start to do that cadence death-spiral where you just can’t stay on top of the power. I’m playing all the cadence tricks I know to trick them to sticking with this effort. I’m not going down easily this week.
40:00: The pack is reduced to 90. Mike, Oliver, and I are all still in the front group, though I’m consistently in the last 10 riders of the group. We try talking sprint tactics and decide that it’s going to be every man for himself.
43:30: Up out of the aquarium one last time, 1.5km to go. I’m too far back here and don’t see all the orange numbers up front. I match pace with the group around me, but that’s only 6.5w/kg when the front is all at 8w/kg+
44:00: The front group is completely strung out. I tuck myself into a small group around 80th.
44:50: The “sprint” among our group is on… at a measly 500W. This is the longest 50m from the distance counter reading 0.3km to reading 300m.
45:05: At 200m out I’m third wheel and give it everything I’ve got left: a hefty 10w/kg peak, averaging 8.4w/kg for 15 sec. But this time, it’s enough. I win the reduced bunch sprint by a bike length!!…for 79th
Oliver and Mike positioned themselves much better coming out of the aquarium, landing themselves much higher up in the bunch. Hal finished in the second group on the road, a few minutes down.
Mike – 28th
Oliver – 33rd
Evan – 76th
Hal – 120th
And the team standings updated after Conegate (though they still only have three races):
The team cool-down was back this week!
Lessons Learned and Takeaways
- The willpower to dig deep is still there. There were plenty of points where I was nearly off the back and could have sat up and really wanted to sit up, but I didn’t. I knew I belonged in that front group and I proved it. That is the biggest win I could ask for.
- Positioning, positioning, positioning. Sit in the middle, not the back.
- A harder warm-up was a great idea. It made the first 10min a whole lot more bearable
Maybe I’m foolishly optimistic that I’ll perform well, but I’m looking forward to tackling the Epic KOM next Thursday!
Cheers and Ride On!