Tour de Zwift: Stage 4 Race (C)

For this afternoon’s ride I took part in the Tour de Zwift: Stage 4 Race (C), which was one and a half laps of Zwift’s Bologna time trial circuit. In summary, one lap to the top of the hill, back down to the start line, then back again to the top of the hill where the race finished.

I wasn’t sure how fresh I was feeling going into this one. But as the Long group ride was exactly the same route / distance as the Race, I decided what the heck, let’s race it.

My plan for this ride was fairly simple:

  • Ride slightly below FTP on the flats / small inclines
  • Ride at ~230 / 3.0w/kg on the climbs

The climbs themselves are not too bad on Bologna. I mean, they are… it hits 17% at its most brutal, but the climb itself lasts only for 2km or so, which comparatively speaking, isn’t that long. Also, for me, I prefer the fact that this is solidly up hill. No flat spots, or God forbid, descending sections mid climb.

I managed to get into this one earlier than usual for a Saturday afternoon. Typically I would ride at, or around, 3pm. Today I was on for the 13:10 start. That said, I didn’t get much of a warm up. Just a light pedal for 3km of Watopia’s flat route, and then dropped into the start pens. I do think there is value in having a proper warm up, but I also feel I have over done some of my warm ups during the Tour de Zwift 2020.

Expectations for this race were based on my previous time trial attempt on Bologna. Last time around I’d managed a 23:43, so I was hoping for a better result across two each of the two laps today.

Out of 131 riders and with a comparatively slow start, my idea today was always try to use my climbing weight to my advantage.

Whereas the flat portion of the lap had been taken as a sizable group, once upon the climb the large group irrevocably fractured. A few smaller groups clung together, but largely it was a case of gaps quickly forming and being difficult to bridge.

The one place my strategy kinda went out of the window was on the large 15% portion.

For this I got out of the saddle (on both laps) and did my best to motor through this section, only allowing myself to sit back down once the gradient started dipping back downwards.

I made a better attempt of this on the second lap, but managed to do fairly well on the first.

It was interesting to see at what point the race leaders passed me on their descent. I was farther up the climb than I’d expected to be. Reassuring.

By the time I reached the top of the first lap I was tired, but feeling like I’d likely be able to repeat the ordeal after a bit of respite from the out and back again loop.

Crossing the top of the KOM I had found myself isolated, but was able to pick up a small pack of about 4 riders heading downwards.

During the zippy descent I grabbed three short super tucks. Fortunately the other riders around me all seemed to take turns doing their own tucks, though I was cautious today and only rested for 5-10 seconds (max) before getting back on the gas – jumping back up to 200w or so.

No desire to get dropped, thank you very much.

Heading back out for my first ever return leg of Bologna, I was keen to keep as much pressure on my opponents as possible.

I’m never sure how much these other riders are pushing. Are they simply out for a jolly, or are they pushing as hard or even harder than me?

With this in mind, I’m not sure how effective my strategies are, but I do try to keep the intensity up in order to wear down their legs as much as possible. No rest for the wicked.

Along the way I was extremely happy to hit the January 10,000 calorie challenge marker. I might not have managed this without some of these longer, more intense Tour rides.

Glad to have this one in the bag. Finally.

When hitting the top of the KOM on the first out lap, I’d managed to pick up a feather power up.

I held on to this for the entirity of the “in” lap, aiming to use it on the 15%+ stuff of the next climb. A few other riders around also got, and used their feather waaay too early. That feather is worth a good 0.5w/kg extra on the climb. Not to be misused in a race.

By the time we came back around for the second climb, the little pack that had started as four of us on the descent from the first climb had merged into a sizable bunch. I’m not sure quite how many, but there was a good group of us.

This felt good. We’d worked hard together, and now it was a test of who still had the legs left to take on round 2.

I’d say I used my feather incorrectly today. I did hit in on the 15% slope, but the first one. Not the second one. The second one – above where out of the saddle – is longer, and harder, and later in the climb.

If I could have changed anything about today’s ride, it would have been this timing. But still, no major regrets, just a minor observation.

The one thing keeping me going during that second climb was 60th place.

Having started fairly slowly, and been back in 95th, to claw back 35 places would be a real result for me today. There were riders around me who were challenging, and my classic game plan of steady wattage, rather than bursts managed to pay good dividends today. Keep it at ~3w/kg and then I still had something left for the final push as the climb leveled out towards the finish line.

I think this has to be one of my best ever Zwift performances. Bologna is a great track and seems to suit my abilities fairly well.

Sure I finished 7 minutes 20 seconds behind the winner, but I’ll take 59th out of 146 in Category C any day of the week.

After this one I also managed to pick up a Zwift guesstimated FTP bump to 211w.

I’m not taking this. I’ll be reverting to 206w, but still, shows some promise.

Congrats to all the winners, and to all who took part. It was a great race, and a good workout.

I’ve decided not to bother with the Bologna group ride. It’s exactly the same course as what I’ve just done, only I’m guessing, at a slightly lower intensity. I have no immediate desire to repeat this one.

Instead I’m going to opt for a recovery session tomorrow.

Whilst my hour time today came close to my all time best, this has to be skewed by several minutes out of the saddle on both climbs.

There’s still a long way to go before I can ride at this intensity in the saddle for an hour, I feel.

In summary I really enjoyed this leg of the Tour.

I’ve booked on to the next stage – New York. I’ll be in the long group ride on Tuesday (Everythig Bagel) followed by a race on Thursday. Both are around 5pm GMT.

OK, bed time!

2 thoughts on “Tour de Zwift: Stage 4 Race (C)”

    • Thanks Tom, and apologies for my slow reply. For me, I have to be able to ride at an average of the given FTP figure for a full hour to believe it. And further, I need to do most if not all of that in the saddle.

      Why I don’t trust the Zwift guesstimated FTP is it’s based on racing where I was sprinting or doing harder out of the saddle climbing and what not. It skews the average.

      But still, it’s promising / good progress 🙂


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