Tour de Zwift: Stage 5 Race (C)

For tonight’s ride I took part in Tour de Zwift: Stage 5 Race (C), the fifth race so far in my Tour De Zwift 2020 adventure.

This race took place on Zwift’s New York map, on the Gotham Grind circuit. At ~9.8km per lap, with approx 100m of climb per lap, I figured this one would take around 25-30 minutes to complete.

My original plan was to get on the bike immediately after work. I’d opted to work from home for the day, as frankly this week hasn’t been particularly enjoyable and the thought of being in the office just didn’t bring me joy.

However, we would be having a guest over tea (evening meal, if you aren’t from the North) and that meant I had to re-arrange my original race time of 17:12 GMT.

What I thought I’d do is simply race at 16:12 instead. Alas, no. There was no race at 16:12, so the only other time I could find that suited was 20:12. I’m not a huge fan of riding / racing late, but sometimes needs must.

Prior to starting I put in 15 fairly easy minutes on London’s Classique route doing a true workout free ride. I find this is a great pre-race ride, and I have to say that my legs felt like they’d seized up. I wasn’t feeling very confident, at all.

In the warm up I did 3 minutes of high intensity stuff, but the rest was all ~150w / 90-95rpm blue zone riding.

Heading into (and then out of) the pens, this race started in traditional Zwift fashion: full on throwing down the watts early doors to establish position.

I felt I went too hard early on, and this was on my mind that I was going to struggle to keep this pace up for 20-30 minutes. This could be akin to an FTP test by the end of it, I thought. Steady on, old bean.

Crucially I managed to find a pack that was riding at a fairly steady, energetic and “pushing” pace. I figured this would be a suitable place to sit, trying to get in bouts of recovery (at around 190-200w) before having to step back on it to 210-230w for a burst, rinse, repeat.

This worked fairly well, and together we seemed to be working well.

The riders in front of us seemed un-catchable at this point, so I was weighing up how I’d feel about finishing around 60th. Not too bad, I thought.

However, as with many rides in Zwift, things seemed to change when we got to the hilly stuff.

Suddenly the big bunch of riders in front of our pack that had eked out a near 10 second advantage suddenly found themselves within our sights.

When the chance came, I managed to bridge from the group I was with, to the pack in front that had begun to re-establish on the lead out after the climb to the start / finish line.

As the dust settled from the 8% or so gradient up to the line, I found myself out the front of the small but fractured pack I had been with, and with a possibility of getting my virtual self over to the pack in front. I knew if I could make it to them I could likely grab a bit of recovery, and then hang on as maybe the last wheel, but still, with the potentially faster pack.

It took a chunk out of me getting to the pack in front, but I managed it. And I clung on. There were a few moments where I thought I’d drop off, particularly early on after the bridge, but I dug in and clung on.

Aside from feeling very, very sore in the legs by this point, I also felt really pleased that I’d managed to make the gap and make it stick. A success, if I could maintain it. And this opened up a possibility of finishing not just 60th, but potentially in the top 50.

There were several moments in the final 5km or so where I thought things were going to go wrong for me.

As mentioned, during the warm up my legs had felt incredibly stiff. This didn’t really subside throughout, and considering I’d had a rest day yesterday, I wasn’t exactly feeling fully fresh. It was the knowledge of our nearest next wheel being 15+ seconds away from the pack that kept me going.

This made me wonder, mid race, how different a real race would be. No data on your opponents other than what your eyes / brain are telling you. It must be completely different than bike racing on Zwift.

Coming round to the sprint for the second time, I found it unusual that several of the guys in my pack went for it on the sprint.

This was great news for me. Firstly it gave me some “free” places as I passed them whilst they recovered. I figured they might be taking a breather than about to swallow me back up, as is sometimes the case.

Secondly it gave me the motivation needed to dig in and finish strong.

Oh, and thirdly it meant a shot at finishing in the top 50.

What the Fake?

Beware the troll finish line. What the.

Finish in sight!

Certain routes of New York start / finish on a lovely little hill. It’s short, and sharp. I can’t remember how sharp, but 8%+ for sure.

I’d saved my aero boost for the final push. Was it a good move? I don’t know. I’m sure it’s a sprint-based power up, and I downed a few gears and did push at the end, giving it everything I’d got.

Thankfully, no drop out today! (bonus)

Hoorah. 50th.

This has to be my all time best Zwift race position, and it feels like one of my strongest 20+ minute sessions on the bike.

Considering it’s late, and it’s been a hard week, I am really, truly happy with this outcome.

Congrats to all who took part. And in particular, thanks to all the riders I was with throughout.

The only mildly disappointing stat today is the calorie burn. I’ve probably been guilty of slightly over eating this week. All things considered, however, I’ll forgive myself. It’s been a hell of a week.

Pleased with this overall. A good race, a solid workout. Next up is Richmond, I believe. I think I’ve booked the long distance ride first, and then the race second. However, I may be wrong on this. I have a lot on my mind.

Until the next one. Ride on!

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