Tour de Zwift: Stage 7 – Long Distance

For this evening’s ride I took part in the Tour de Zwift: Stage 7 – Long Distance, my last group ride of the 2020 Tour de Zwift, but not my last ride of the tour.

This ride was two laps of Zwift’s Yorkshire / Harrogate circuit, the full front / forward loop. Each lap is about 14km with 250km of climb.

In total there was about 1200 riders taking part in the Long Distance ride.

I’ve arrived at the Tour rides in various shapes and fashions. By standards, today was both relaxed and calm.

I managed to get a small warm up on Watopia before hand, opting for a workout free ride, just to get my legs spinning up. I also remember to drop my weight from 71kg to 69kg before this ride, to more accurately reflect my weight (10st 12lb).

Even though this was a group ride, not a race, I found myself around 3/4’s of the way back in the pack coming out of the start pen. People certainly do go ridiculously hard at the start of any Zwift event.

That said, even though this was a group ride I wanted to achieve two things:

  1. Give myself a solid workout
  2. Give myself an understanding of the pace ahead of the last race of the Tour

Now, as I understand it, the last race is a single lap of this same circuit, so any recon would be useful ahead of that race.

The plan, therefore, was to try and hold 3w/kg for as long / consistently as possible, and see where that got me.

Fresh out of the pens I feel I went a bit too hard on the first climb. I was fairly steady, but also with 25km remaining I was questioning how well I’d be able to hang on to my position after that initial ~5 minute push.

At this point, try as I might, I could not seem to break past about 550th. Whenever I made progress (mainly on the hilly bits) I’d quickly fall back when we hit the flats.

Ahead of this ride I’d thought we would be doing the reverse route. Not that I had any real reason to think this. Only the very first time I did a ride on Yorkshire, I did the route in reverse. Therefore I tend to get muddled up when thinking about this circuit.

The reverse route has one hard climb, in particular. What I wasn’t quite so prepared for was that the forward route is fairly gradually up hill for most of the lap.

Typically my strengths play to the KOM / climbing portions of any lap.

I am far from the world’s best climber, but I definitely seem to do better on climbing sections than flats, or descents.

Therefore I was hoping to claw back a few places on the first KOM attack.

Alas, that just didn’t really happen today.

Any places I’d managed to find up the climb were promptly lost on the descent. Try as I might, I could not seem to break below 540th.

One of the interesting parts of the Yorkshire layout is that there’s a sort of figure of 8 / meeting point, whereby you can see above, that the front runners were already having completed this entire segment by the time I was just arriving at the start of it. The power / strength of those front runners is astonishing, and I’m guessing, they aren’t even pros.

Coming round to complete the first lap, I’d held on to ~540th but wasn’t seeing much progress. It was definitely better than where I’d started the lap, but for the amount of effort I’d exerted, I did feel I would struggle to find anything more on the second lap in order to improve my place.

At the start of the second lap there was the long, grinding climb to contend with. What I did here might sound a touch ludicrous, but it works… sometimes.

I found a fairly easy gear – in the big ring, but in an easier gear at the back, and then I put on Duolingo. Nothing quite like an impromptu Dutch lesson to take the mind of the climb. Can’t do that on the open road… well, I guess you could, might lead to death, or a visit into a nearby bush.

Weirdly, after taking my mind of the task at hand (or feet?) I resumed paying attention to Zwift and found I’d gained a bunch of places in my mental absence, and was approaching 500th. Maybe that’s the secret. Don’t be that arsed?

Much of the second lap was like this. Albeit with me not doing any more Duolingo exercises for the day.

I didn’t sweat my position (well, I did… you get what I mean) but slowly found myself gaining and gaining, even if my times on the second lap were not beating those of my first.

Along the way I leveled up.

Probably won’t be wearing the over sized glasses. I’ll put them in the virtual cabinet next to my Pizza Socks.

My best moment, on a purely personal performance point of view, was in the push to the finish line.

The path to the start / finish line is the very bottom of the long, grinding up hill slog. And it starts with a lovely little kicker to get you off and running.

With only about 700m left to go, I decided to spin hard and finish as fast as I could.

In doing so I managed to gain another 10 places or so, maintaining over 4w/kg in the process. It really felt good – and I know this wasn’t a race – but finishing strong gave me a good boost of confidence for the forthcoming and final race of the tour.

Given that I put down two roughly equal laps, I’m thinking anything below 23 minutes will be a good performance for me in the race… assuming it is a single lap of the same loop(?)

It’s pretty crazy that I tried at about an 8 or 9 intensity (out of 10) today and still finishing basically 10 minutes off the pace of the leader. Motorbikes really should be banned.

Congrats to all who took part. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the group rides in this Tour, and they have all been super well attended – even these ones at 5pm where you’d think many people would be on their way home from work.

Not quite sure what happened in Cat C today… that looks like a bug to me.

If I had to have a moan today it would be only hitting 589 calories. It certainly felt like more, I’ll tell you. A very sweaty affair, indeed.

OK, so just the final race of the Tour remaining. Hoping for a good run, and then as I believe the race is Saturday, if I’m feeling up to it I might aim to do the other 8.30am group ride on Sunday that I’ve been putting off whilst this Tour is in progress.

Maybe… but maybe not 🙂

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