Stage 3: The Climbs – Longer Ride

For this afternoon’s ride I took part in the Tour of Watopia 2020, this time tackling Stage 3: The Climbs on the longer ride. Which meant a midweek trip up the Alpe du Zwift.

There’s a variety of reasons why I prefer not to do a big climb like this on a weeknight. So, with that in mind, let’s get some excuse out of the way early, shall we?

Firstly, there’s tiredness.

I can either do the ride at 5am (errr, no), or 8am. Those are the only two morning slots on the Tour. If there was a 7am slot, I’d be more keen.

Given that I expected this ride to take about 1.5 hours, I decided I’d do this on Thursday morning (as in tomorrow), and be late into work.

However, in the end I woke up so early this morning that I decided to start early, and finish early, and get this out of the way.

On the tiredness front, there’s also the recent riding schedule to think about. Constant racing and long group rides has been thrashing me. And having only raced yesterday, the prospect of this one so soon after wasn’t thrilling me.

But, had I left this to tomorrow I would have had to do the early morning slot as I have a guest for tea tomorrow. Corona virus be damned.

Anyway, whatever, I did this one this afternoon.

But the second excuse point is that riding on a weekday inevitably means a bad diet for dinner. And today’s two cheese, ham, beetroot, and olives sandwiches wasn’t what I imagine you’d find on the plate of your average Geraint Thomas.

Still, I ain’t no G, and right now having a four ingredient sandwich is probably something of a luxury.

Anyway, typically I’d have a bowl of fruit and fibre along with some nuts and berries before a big climb. And genuinely I think that does help. Certainly more than sandwiches.

Right, so excuses done and dusted, let’s cover how I did.

My plan for this one was to not blow up on the early climbs. For whatever reason, I’d misread the map and thought we started much further back than what we did. As such the very first part of this ride was a long gradual descent down into the jungle circuit.

I’d managed to grab a very gentle warm up for ~10 minutes or so pre-climb, so used this time to spin up further, and get prepped for what lay ahead.

However, I can never really plan for an hour of climbing. I just grit my teeth and try my best.

Without the early climbs to have sapped my legs, I was feeling a bit better about the task ahead.

Essentially I was aiming for 3.1w/kg average, much like last time.

I wasn’t out to try to hit any new personal bests today, as frankly I’m far from fresh.

But being completely honest I was aiming for a top 100 finish.

However, that quickly (well, as quick as any part of climbing the Alpe du Zwift can be) fell into doubt.

I kept dropping places.

But, I managed to retain focus and keep to my game plan… kinda.

I really struggled between corners 9 and 8.

I’d been working hard to keep at least a 214w average – as in, my FTP.

But heading into corner 9 I’d slipped up. I then tried to put too much power down to make up the shortfall in the average, and really burned myself for the next switchback.

When I hit a low of 210 on corner 8 I was gutted. Basically, I thought I was going to seriously fall off a cliff at this point.

However, somehow I managed to find form again on corner 7. A second wind. Sandwiches to the rescue. Oh ham and cheese, how I thank you so.

Things didn’t remain above 214w all the way up, however.

And in truth, I was fairly convinced by the final corner that I’d definitely gone slower this time up than last time.

Still, I actually wasn’t bothered.

Mentally, I was expecting not to be setting any new PB’s today.

And physically, well, I was and still am shattered.

Passing the line and seeing a 61:26 was therefore, a big, but welcome shock.

That’s a really solid improvement on last time, and less than a month later, to boot.

Last time felt better, however. It felt more consistent, and more controlled.

Still, last time was also on much fresher legs.

After yesterday’s race Zwift autobumped me up to an FTP of 221w (as best I recall). I think that’s why today’s graph shows so little red. Believe me, I was at my limit. And I was dripping wet. It’s an uncomfortable, yet rewarding experience to climb that darned mountain.

I will take 218w as my new FTP, as frankly there is no better test of my hour power than this ride, and I was in the saddle the whole way up. A true FTP road test.

I also need to update my weight on Zwift, down to 68kg.

Perhaps I should have done that pre-ride ? 😀

Lastly, I decided to pedal down but give it the beans in six short (very short) sprints.

I managed to hit over 10w/kg in a few of them. I’ll never be a sprinter, but it’s nice to break into double digits, even if only momentarily.

I was also fairly happy with my cadence today. It was far from perfect, but given how knackered I am, I’ll take 82rpm average, and it felt fairly consistent, even if slow going.

I’m absolutely bushed at this point.

I’d say this is likely the hardest leg of the Tour done and dusted.

I’m rewarding myself with a rest day tomorrow, and if I do ride Friday – which is a bit of a long shot at this point – it will be a blue zone ride for sure.

Then Saturday we are in to the Jungle for Stage 4. Yay. (In case you can’t tell, that is sarcasm).

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