Stage 3: The Climbs – Race (C)

At dinner time I took part in the Tour of Watopia Stage 3 – The Climbs. This was a race on Zwift’s Volcano After Party circuit.

Up until quite recently I wondered what these After Party routes were all about. Now I know. Basically a flat bit and then a hill for fun at the end. Nice.

As usual on a weekday dinner time, I got very little time between my daily stand up meeting finishing, and the start of this race. Therefore my warm up was … pretty much none existent.

And of course, out of the gate it was a full gas affair as all Zwift races inevitably are.

Ridiculously, I found myself in 2nd place at one point. Sure, we were only 300m off the line but it was a solid wake up call that I needed to reign it in a little bit if I was to make it to the finish line.

Smothered back into the pack, I managed to settle down at times below 3.0w/kg, but mostly around 3.0w/kg whilst being carried by the pack, and small bursts of speed to keep me within reach of the front runners.

I knew, almost inevitably, that I would get dropped on the climb, but figured if I could stick with them until at least the bottom of the KOM, I would be in with a shot of a fairly decent finishing position.

Somewhat unusually, this ride had a 5km lead in!

I thought something had gone wrong, truth be told. Eventually, however, we hit the start line and the race was well and truly underway :/

Almost immediately after passing go (and might I add, not collecting £200), we were on the bottom of the KOM.

Now, I had misjudged this.

I thought the KOM would come at the very end, and we would finish at the top.

Not so.

As expected, I got dropped almost immediately.

My strategy was always to climb at or around 3.1w/kg. I know my limits. Also, I vastly prefer climbing at a spinny pace – 95rpm+ – which limits the wattage I can put down.

Anyway, my fitness is what it is, and technically I had met my goal of sticking with the pack to the bottom of the KOM. I just realised now that the race would not be finishing at the top of the KOM as initially thought.

Climbing went quite well on this ride. Not perfect, but better than many other similar climbs.

At two points in particular I remember wishing for the pain in the fronts of my legs to end. But I did manage to get in a couple of good gear shifts on the flat bits, getting into the big ring to keep the power on, whilst retaining that 3+ w/kg average.

No rest for the wicked on the way back down.

Well, I did a very quick super tuck, but almost immediately began to fall off the two riders I was with, so had to step back on it to keep with them. If I’d have been dropped here it would have been a disaster, considering the nearest rider behind was solo and 14 seconds away.

There were a couple of little not-so-fun rollers to endure on the way back to the flat, but I managed to find my way back down to the bottom of the Volcano still in check with the small group around me.

Along the way to the finish line we managed to catch two riders four seconds ahead of us, which gave us all collectively more opportunity to place better.

Unfortunately my final picture ends somewhat short of the line, simply because I was determined to go for it.

Yes, today I learned that the Tron bike avatar does have a sprint animation. However, I only saw it very briefly (and not at the finish line, confusingly to you as a reader).

I was happy with my finishing performance.

Rarely do I have enough left at the end to do some super hero ramp up to 800 or 900 watts. That’s not how I operate.

Instead I try to kick it up a notch and spin faster in the same gear, aiming to put down a bit of extra power that way. I’ve found I can ramp up this way, and did so today for the final ~250m or so.

Even though at the time I was really a bit disappointed to finish 24th, after the fact I’m happy enough with this result. I can make it look even better by saying I finished 4th according to Zwift Power:

The big wins for me were averaging 3.3w/kg again for over 20 minutes in a race.

Initially I’d thought this was a fluke, but I’ve been able to consistently replicate this performance, so am really pleased with my progression.

Also, after the thrashing my legs took in the first two Stages, I thought I would be struggling in this one. Indeed, I couldn’t be bothered to get up early and race in the 8am slot as I’d originally planned.

But maybe I was best to wait.

Congrats to all the winners, and to all who took part. I had a blast, I hope you did, too.

Whilst my cadence was a bit hit and miss today, and my heart rate was on the high side, I can’t say I could have had a better workout in 30 minutes.

According to Training Peaks I hit a TSS of 65, which compared to Emily’s Short Mix – also 30 minutes – would usually come out at ~50 TSS. So considerably harder today.

Also, who knows how much trust can be placed in Zwift’s Critical Power graph currently – mine jumps around to begin with like billy-o – but I seem to have equaled my current best 20 minute effort today.

After this one, Zwift bumped me to an FTP of 221w. I don’t accept it. I’ll be switching back to the 214w I have faith in and evidence for. But still, it’s nice to be showing signs of improvement.

Now… to the Alpe!

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