Tour de Zwift: Stage 3 Group Ride – Long Distance

For tonight’s ride I took part in the Tour de Zwift: Stage 3 Group Ride – Long Distance. This is my sixth Tour de Zwift 2020 event now, and after the disappointing finish to the race on Tuesday, I was hoping for a little closure on the Watopia stage.

As a side note, I contacted Zwift support regarding the race finish yesterday, but haven’t heard back. Bit disappointing.

I was almost late to tonight’s ride – hence the lack of starting gate screenshots. For reasons related to the race start times (typically ten past the hour) I thought I had way more time than I had, and only realised at 16:53 that I needed to quickly get changed, get all my kit ready, get my PC up with Zwift running… and much more. So by the time I finally got in game we had 7 seconds to spare.

Then we were off, and I was completely “cold” so spent the first kilometer or so lightly spinning the legs, and generally getting something of a hasty ramp up. This left me way back in the mid 500s, so I had a lot of early work to do to get through the already splitting groups.

It’s easy to push a little too hard when bridging, and I was conscious of the forthcoming climb up the Epic KOM.

My plan was fairly simple for this one:

  • Firstly, I wasn’t racing. Riding to the finish would be good enough, and I was hoping for 700+ calories of exercise by the end of it.
  • Secondly, try and maintain a 3.0w/kg average, if at all possible, during the climb.

On the second front I was aiming to get a sense of what Sweet Spot Training may be like at a slightly higher intensity than I have done previously. It’s over a month since I last did an SST session, but I can’t say I’ve been slacking in the mean time.

Hitting the little island to before the bridge to the KOM, I was feeling fairly fresh.

I think having not done any prior warm up actually helped me today. Also having a rest day yesterday was definitely paying for itself. I felt decent at 3w/kg at this point.

Typically with Zwift I’ve found holding a steady / consistent pace works far better for me than bursting.

Using this strategy of (comparatively) slow and steady, I was able to gain a good number of places up the Epic KOM.

My previous weekend rides of hard climbs have definitely come back to pay dividends on what to me, now feel like smaller / easier climbs. Those Sunday climbs were no joke.

Somewhat unusually today I even found the flat bits of the Epic KOM to be more easily handled than usual. When I hit flatter portions of the course (anything below 4%) I was able to get back into the big ring without much fuss, and so was making decent time.

Of course, double draft helped immensely, too.

Probably the most challenging part of the climb today came just prior to the final sharp push to the top of the KOM.

Typically I find the steady climbs easier than the little rolling up / down sections that seem to separate a bunch of Zwift’s climbs.

The hard part for me was sticking with the small pack who’d been keeping me pushing harder than I otherwise might. And then when they zipped down one of the many little descents, collectively they left me for dust as they carried way more speed than I was seemingly able too.

This was disappointing, particularly after my disastrous descending moment on Tuesday. I had flashbacks, but resolved to try to catch them back up on the final climb to the KOM.

With the benefit of double draft I feel like this was one of my best attempts up the Epic KOM.

I’ve tried to find the full stats on Strava but can’t find a corresponding 29:12 segment on there, so who knows how it fared to previous attempts. If I wasn’t so tired, maybe I’d go through my past ride archives and try to find out.

Not wanting to suffer the same fate as Tuesday, I made sure to be considerably less silly with my descent from the top of the Epic KOM. I did use the super tuck, but only twice, and only briefly, when I saw other riders around me do similar.

To be fair, I wasn’t exactly relishing the thought of the Jungle circuit, but I knew I needed to keep my legs turning over, as it’s all too apparent at how easy it is to slip into a bad place when taking my foot off the gas for too long.

Again, heading into the Jungle circuit I found myself falling behind these riders. Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to keep up. It’s so demotivating watching a bunch of riders drop you when you’re doing everything you can to keep up.

I’m not sure I’ll ever handle that particularly well.

And equally I’m not sure I’ll ever be strong enough to keep up over these longer distances. I can but try.

Careful not to expand too much energy, I eased off a little on my descent into the jungle and got swallowed up by the pack behind. They were keeping a fairly brisk pace, and amongst the soupy jungle mud and dust, I need all the help I can get.

Frankly at this point I dislike the Jungle.

I think the recent changes have made it even less enjoyable than it previously was. And it was previously pretty much deserted most of the time.

Climbing out of the grit, and then up and out back towards the bottom / reverse Epic KOM feels like such a chore. I don’t mind climbing, in fact I quite enjoy it… but that route sucks.

After the Jungle climb out I’d found myself isolated, but again, a strong pack behind me caught me up (though I was trying to stay ahead), and they swallowed me up.

In fairness after this happened I was grateful. I got to ease off a touch and recover whilst they collectively carried me.

Even though this wasn’t a race, it was obvious that with this many riders around, at least one of them was going to go for it at the line.

I think I timed my effort fairly well today. I went with about 400m to go, maintaining around 4.5w/kg which put me in the front four.

Unfortunately, those other three riders had similar ideas and they were much stronger than me when push came to shove.

I really, really tried… but I think I came 3rd of the 4 that went for the sprint. No regrets.

Overall I’m really happy with my performance today.

I went in expecting not a lot, just turn up and do as much as I could.

I started completely unprepared (though I knew the route, for once), and ended up clawing back over 250 places.

But more importantly I felt good doing it. It wasn’t a slog, though equally it wasn’t easy. It was a good solid workout, albeit it felt more like a Sunday morning ride than one for a Thursday night!

Nice one to all who took part, and congrats the winners.

The big win for me today is 970 calories in one ride, on a Thursday.

That should, as best I am aware, put me somewhere between 9300 and 9500 calories towards the January 10,000 calorie Zwift goal. I can’t wait to get that one done and dusted.

Another less apparent, but still important metric from tonight’s ride was my hour performance.

I hit 206w as an FTP just before Christmas and am very conscious that holding 206w average for an hour is currently beyond my ability. Therefore it is a big goal of mine to actually hit – and ideally exceed – this figure sometime soon.

Whilst tonight’s ride fell 7w shy of this figure, and wasn’t my overall best hour time either, every ride that pushes me hard for an hour helps get me closer to meeting / exceeding that goal.

Somewhat absurdly I am signed up for the Bologna stage tomorrow at 11am.

I don’t know what I was thinking. The way my legs feel right now there is frankly no way that’s happening. Also… ya know… work?!

Anyway, as Bologna has two laps of the circuit, and that’s the same for both the race and group ride, I’m not sure whether I’m going to do that one twice. Seems a little repetitive? See how I feel. Right now, once seems like it will be enough.

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