Innsbruck KOM First Attempt

After a couple of rest days, this morning I took on Innsbruck’s Forward KOM for the first time. I have to say, I was really looking forward to this climb. So much so that I got up early to fit it in before work.

I hadn’t planned on taking two rest days this week. At least, not back to back, and mid-week. This was somewhat enforced after waking up with a start, and feeling a really weird, sharp pain in the back of my left leg. It might have just been cramp, but I took precautionary steps of not riding all the same.

It felt good to get back on the bike this morning. I had been really looking forward to riding Innsbruck, having made a mistake earlier thinking that the map of the day would be Innsbruck, when it turned out to be Richmond, so was more than ready to start my climb.

The scenery on Innsbruck is a nice mixture of town and country. It’s easily amongst my favourite maps to ride on Zwift. That said, up until today, I’d only ever ridden round the Innsbruckring.

When I’ve ridden the Innsbruckring before, I’ve noticed other rides on the left hand side of the dual carriageway. I have wondered what they were up too, but never really given it any investigation. Today I found out. If you’re on the other side, you’re off for a climb.

The red KOM start line marker

Innsbruck KOM Forward is a 7.4km long climb averaging 5%, and raising up 400m. I have a page showing all the climbs on Zwift, if you’re at all interested in riding these yourself.

This isn’t the longest, or the hardest climb I have taken on yet, but it was certainly no walk in the park.

I think, though, it was the busiest climb I have taken on as of yet. For ~7am on a Friday morning, there were certainly plenty of keen cyclists giving it a good shot.

I remember thinking around this point that I wasn’t doing so badly for time. I’d normally aim to have passed 5km within 10 minutes, and to hit 4.8km with just over 11 minutes gone and on a steep climb felt like good progress. I knew the next 5km would be significantly tougher going.

One thing I did poorly on this run was in pacing myself. Mostly my cadence was at a grinding 30-60rpm, and from everything I’ve read, watched, and learned as of late, higher cadence is vastly preferable.

What I haven’t determined is if higher cadence in a much easier gear is preferable to grinding but going a bit higher wattage is what’s best, or whether I should be aiming to keep a high cadence in a harder gear. I really have no idea. I do know it’s hard as hell to keep a high cadence in a hard gear on a climb. At least, it certainly is for me.

It’s always nice to get a Ride On, be it from other riders around you, or people you have connected with after previous rides. Thanks B.ooX!

In the back of my mind I had something of a plan for this ride. It was to ride hard / out of the saddle for 30 seconds, and then take 30 seconds in the saddle for a slightly easier time.

It didn’t really work out that way in the end. I definitely felt like I gave a better attempt in terms of power on this climb, but I still have a very long way to go before I can take a hill this size with any serious pace for any sort of distance.

I’ve definitely noticed that on a first attempt at climbing a new hill, I go cautiously. I’m unsure whether to expect a more challenging gradient, or a short section of flat, so end up going somewhat conservatively. Once I know the route, I am more comfortable going a bit harder, knowing when and where I can push and then get some recovery.

If everything goes to plan, within the next week or so I should have a new PC arriving which I’ve bought off eBay. I ended up winning an auction on a really badly listed item, and then finding out the potential bargain (£275 + £25 postage for a decent spec) might have come with a bit of a caveat: the guy who’s selling it doesn’t have a box to post it in. I mean, what in all the F’s.

Anyway, with the TV + PC + some larger cycling shoes all on the way, things are going to get a lot more graphically enjoyable (I hope) in the next few weeks. I don’t think it looks that bad on these screenies anyway. Just a touch of Minecraft.

For the first time … ever on Zwift, I got passed by a rider I know in real life. That was really cool. I tried my absolute best to keep up with Mr A. Gibbs here for as long as I could, but that lasted about 300m and then I got dropped.

If I had to criticise this climb in any way it’s that it is very straight, and the road side Zwift scenery wasn’t that inspiring in parts. Again, once ramped up to ultra graphics, this may be different. Maybe not though, but I’m really excited to see the difference.

Another thing I need to work on is my gearing. I’m still making various mistakes, such as being in too “easy” a gear, then standing up and finding no resistance, which ultimately just ends up messing up my legs and my rhythm.

I’d love to say I’m one of those riders that can see a rider, or a pack of riders up ahead, and then try to chase them down. I’m absolutely not at that stage yet. It’s definitely more the other way round.

Around this point I was in absolute grind mode. Zwift was predicting at least another 6 minutes of climbing ahead, and my goal of 30 seconds up, 30 seconds in the saddle was but a distant memory. I was happy to just keep the pedals turning.

One thing I’ve been fairly strict on myself about since starting with Zwift is in not stopping once I’ve started. I’d rather keep moving, even at a snails pace, than stop and recover. Maybe this is a personal failing. I guess my mindset will be truly tested in a few weeks time when the Tour of Watopia hits Alpe Du Zwift.

Inevitably, if you keep turning those pedals, sooner or later you reach the top of the climb. It might take me a good long while (33 minutes and 9 seconds) but I get there.

Can I do better? Yes, almost certainly. Am I happy with this time? Yes, absolutely.

What’s the alternative? No time on the board, still led in bed.

I wonder if that’s there in real life?

And then the reward. A long, enjoyably zippy descent.

This was one of the most fun descents I’ve had on Zwift, aside from perhaps zooming down from The Radio Tower.

Chris Vroooom.

I’m so determined to keep those pedals moving that I don’t take my foot off the gas (so to speak) even on the descent. I’d rather keep a gentle cadence than coast. I get concerned I might get build up of that lactic acid stuff that leads to stitches and cramps. Heck, I’m no sports scientist, I don’t know how it works. But I don’t like pain, and if keeping those pedals rotating keeps potential pain away, I’m all for it.

It’s not the autobahn, but if you do your best Kraftwerk impression, it’s a wonderfully close thing.

Fun fun fun on the autobahn.

Strava’s ride analysis gives the game away. The speed goes up, the heart rate comes down, the cadence becomes slightly less erratic: descent mode activated!

Being a gluton for punishment, I’d opted not only for the climb, but for a full lap of the Innsbruckring, aka the 2018 UCI Worlds Course Short Lap.

Now, amusingly, being that i was rather tired by this point, it’s worth noting that in the real 2018 UCI Worlds race, the pros covered this same circuit 7 times with a ~85km lead in before hand. So fair play, that’s why I am not, and never will be a professional cyclist.

After schleping it up a 5% average for 30+ minutes, suddenly a 2% gradient feels almost like a flat.

Another way of looking at this is perhaps I could have gone harder on the hill, if I still had gas left in the tank?

Shortly ahead is a short section of cobbles, followed by something of a leg snapper climb.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the climb. Why not? Well, I gave it the beans. If that wasn’t a new PB on the Kleiner Hugel (small hill) segment, I would have eated my segmented shorts.

I actually thought I’d do better than just 2 seconds faster than my previous PB. It certainly felt like I was going faster. Mind you, 2 seconds in F1 is a mega difference, so maybe I will think about it in that light.

If you haven’t been killed by the climb then another treat awaits: the Innsbruck forward sprint.

It’s really frustrating that only 30 days of sprint timings are kept.

Strava says this was my best yet, but also that I’ve only done two attempts at this sprint. I’m sure I’ve done more.

Anyway, 27 seconds over 300m after climbing? Happy with that.

A last little pleaser for the rider came in the form of meeting my weekly riding goal. Not bad, 3 rides, 3 hours done. I’m not going to up this goal just yet. This is my base line / bare minimum expected effort each week.

As I was coming round to finish up my lap I came across a massive bunch of riders all on a group workout. It looked like a lot of fun. I really need to get myself into some of these pack rides. Again, another thing to get into once I have the new setup, I think.

And almost perfectly timed, just on an hours ride, and felt like a really solid workout.

Overall a really fun course, Zwift are killing it.

I feel like I gave 8 out of 10 today. Not bad at all for a weekday. Still plenty of room for growth.

Thank you all for the ride ons. Much appreciated.

TSS Man thinks it was Nice! I’ll take it.

Probably hit up Watopia tomorrow. I’m still waiting on new shoes. Looking forward to trying them out.

It’s taken a fair dinkum investment of money to get this stuff set up. I’d say about £3000 in total now. But it’s totally been worth it. I haven’t felt this good in years.

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