Planning the Tour La France

It is Thursday again, so I have to put up a Throw Back Thursday blog post. I don’t want to end it there because it is almost that time for the Tour De France. This year I have my designs on my own ride… Tour La France.

First the TBT post…

cf-lgI’m Back was published in early July 2007. It tells the story of my first ever century ride. Like many of my rides, it was solo. That week was also a time for me to post a review on my first ever Garmin in Riding with the Edge. It was the Garmin Edge 305.

That’s where I’ve been. Now for where I’m going…

Each month Strava presents challenges for users to aim for. There are typically challenges for climbing, distance, and sometimes time. Then there are those “Adventures” they throw in now and again… like the one below.

The next time you set out for a long ride, check out the country road you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t made time for, have a friend show you a whole new area, or just ride until you get yourself lost.

Whatever you do, go on an adventure and try something new. Record your ride – which must be at least three hours long – and snap a few photos along the way. If you love to write, send us the story of your adventure . We’ll feature our favorite adventure tales on the Strava Blog and send the lucky author a pack full of Strava gear.

With July underway, I figured I’d better get busy on my challenges! It would be nice to knock a couple of them out at the same time. I’d need to ride 80 miles to get the Gran Fondo 130 badge. The Adventure Challenge needs to be over three hours. Those two I could combine, but the Alpe d’hues Climbing Challenge doesn’t start until later in the month.

Adventure-cycling-2-v1Actually, the biggest challenge would be finding “the country road you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t made time for.” Knocking off an 80 mile route wouldn’t be that hard. I could ride up to East Flat Rock and back and be done with it. The problem is I’ve done that plenty of times.

So I turned to another Strava feature. I’d try out their Route Builder. It is a beta feature that I had tried before and did not like. The route tracing tool was clunky and it kept trying to take me ways I didn’t want.

However, that was sometime ago. I figured I would give it another try and aim down toward Anderson. While I have ridden that direction before, I could probably count them on one hand. This is more uncharted territory for me.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 8.33.47 AMAs I looked at the map, I noticed a tiny “town” called La France. I chuckled. That would be a good route to ride during July. I’d call it my Tour La France.

The initial problem was that a direct shot there and back would not equal 80 miles. I started playing with the mapping tool by grabbing waypoints and moving them to other sections of road I found interesting. This time the tool was working.

By playing around and expanding the “loop” from Greenville to La France, I was able to equal 80 miles. While I doubt it will take me the 5.5 hours that the software says I’ll need, I’m certain I’ll get in the 3 hours required for the Adventure Challenge.

Yes, I’ll be taking some photos and video. I’ll obviously write about it as well. I’m not expecting to  win “a pack full of Strava gear.”

Anyone interested in coming along? It would be a self-supported ride and I’d probably average 16 – 18 mph. I can be flexible on the actual day — except for Sunday.


Strava Strangeness

Monday night I arrived home after creating a new Strava segment. It had been awhile since I created one. I also wanted to see the data from the KOM attempt. What I didn’t expect was to go back in time!

I received a text from a friend asking if I had uploaded a ride from 2013. What? I wondered if it had something to do with me creating that segment and then Strava going back and looking through my history to build the new leaderboard. That would be kind of weird though.

The conversation ended and I put it out of my mind. Perhaps it was just an anomaly that just affected that one ride. It was time to write Tuesday’s blog post.

As usual, I sent the link out on social media. The link on Facebook generated some comments. The first comment from Matt Jaeggli confused me.

fbthreadI couldn’t understand why Matt would say that. I didn’t think I had given the indication that I had done the segment for the first time Monday evening. Just two days earlier I had written about my attempts on the segment as I tried to learn the best technique to get a good time.

When Edward commented, I suddenly realized what happened. It appears that quite a few of people who were one place behind me got notifications. My guess is that Matt also got a notification, and, like Edward, assumed that was the segment I referenced.

Then David Curran chimed in and mentioned that he got a notice as well. However, it wasn’t from me. So, I gather this was something that affected a number of accounts.

Did any of you also receive a notice that you “lost a KOM” on Monday evening June 29, 2015? Anyone have any information on what causes these Strava burps? I can’t recall this happening before.

I’d rather be sending those messages to Strava users with future KOMs, not ones from years past.


Bicycle Therapy

Monday morning was a busy one. In addition to the typical desk work, I was out looking for new office space for Worthwhile. Lunch was spent with our Worthwhile accountant and then it was back to the desk to continue the morning flow. I had lots of numbers and decisions floating around in my head.

Around 3:30 PM I got a call from Sunshine Cycle Shop. Neal was letting me know that the Felt AR was ready. I dropped it off earlier to have my TT bars mounted on it. Since I got the Felt F1, I had not touched the AR. I thought maybe if I switched it up, I might be drawn to ride it a bit more.

I decided to take a break and headed home in the bimmer to get the Honda Pilot. I’d need it to haul the bike. Bikes have found their ways into the back seat of the BMW when I have the top down, but not today.

I pulled into the driveway to find the Pilot in front of me. The brake lights were on. “Hmmmm,” I thought to myself, “The Beautiful Redhead must have just gotten back from somewhere… or maybe she is getting ready to go somewhere” I waited to get an idea of her intentions.

The reverse lights came on and I got my answer. I leaned out the window to get her attention. We often do switches between the cars as we only have a single narrow drive. As the Pilot began to reverse, that is what I thought she was wanting to do. I stuck my head out the window to get her attention to let her know I didn’t want to switch, I wanted to trade.


Well, about that time, the truck accelerated and before I could get my hand down to the shifter, the truck plowed into the front grill of the little red car. My first response was disbelief. “What is she doing!?!” I exclaimed. “What was she thinking!?!”

Turns out it wasn’t the Beautiful Redhead, but Thing One. She hopped out of the truck saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Later I learned that she wasn’t using the back up camera and that the bimmer was not showing in the rearview mirror. She also was looking right and left to see if there were cars coming down the road. Of course, she obviously wasn’t checking her side mirrors nor did she pay attention the proximity alert.

I won’t belabor that experience. The point is, I did manage to take the (miraculously) undamaged Pilot to pick up the bike and then head to finish my day at work. Sometime after 5 PM, I headed home and had dinner with the family. I finished up and headed to change. I needed some bicycle therapy.

It was one of those rides where I was pushing out of the gate. Leaving home and heading down East North Street to Pete Hollis, I was averaging 20 mph by the time I reached Old Buncombe Road. As I neared Furman, I started to ease up a little bit. I was going to try a segment there and didn’t want to be too winded.

I let myself loose on the attempt. The frustrations and questions of the day channeled from my mind into the legs. I let the pent up energy fuel my effort. It was good to let it go until I hit the point of exhaustion.

That done, I headed out to Little Texas. I was going to do a preliminary run on a different segment to get an idea of what I would need to do to make a run at the KOM. It was there on Little Texas I saw the sun breaking around some clouds on the horizon. I stopped the bicycle and just watched it unfold.

By this time and in this moment, thoughts of what had happened during the day disappeared. There was actually joy in my heart. I am truly blessed with a wonderful family, health, and the ability to enjoy what God has created.


The effort on the new segment didn’t go that well. My legs were definitely used up on that earlier attempt. I rode easily back toward home still noticing the changing sky.

Wow, what a difference a ride makes! Even this morning I have the scene of that sun creating silver and gold linings behind a dark cloud. I know that this is much like life. I have my dark clouds with which to deal, but I know that the Son is always shining for me.

By the way, I got that KOM on the first effort.

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Strava Segment: Pait Is Almost Home!

I freely admit that I enjoy Strava. I do try not to let it go to my head. However, not only does Strava give me a way to scratch my competitive itch, it also gives me fodder for If you tried to write something in a blog nearly everyday, you would be looking for subject matter as well!

Having said that, my favorite Strava segment KOMs are not necessarily the ones I’m aiming to get. Today’s installment in the Strava Segment series is a perfect example of that. It is a KOM I am glad I’ve managed to grab because it has my name on it!

I created the segment some time ago. It is a nice little climb up East North Street from Stone Avenue. I didn’t pay much attention to the stretch because it was just a way to get to and from Cleveland Park which is where I spent many an hour when I first began riding on the road.

I don’t even recall what prompted me to create it. However, I do remember the day I got the first KOM. It was a day I took my fixed gear to the park. Perhaps I rode it around to some other spots as well. The thing I do remember was coming home with a huge storm brewing.

The clouds were rolling and the wind was starting to pick up. I’m assuming I had a tailwind. Rain was imminent and I didn’t want to get caught in it. Thunder was sounding very close!

I turned off of Stone Avenue onto East North Street and started to sprint up the road with the fixie. About time I was halfway through the segment, there was one of those lightning/thunder claps where there was little time between the two. If I needed any motivation to keep going, that was it!

I had that track gear humming along and the momentum of the crank being pulled around by the turning of the rear wheel allowed me to keep pace going. Of course, I wasn’t thinking about trying to get a KOM. I was just trying to get home!

Yet, there it was. When I uploaded the data, I found that I had the KOM by 1:39. However, that wasn’t the end of the story.

Because I landed the KOM on a fixed gear, I figured that surely I would be able to get a faster time on my lighter road bike. Nope. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t because I wasn’t trying!

My Strava history has a long list of attempts and a few of them came close. None of them were able to break the barrier. That is until this one.

I wasn’t trying for the KOM. This ride was for capturing video I needed for the Pilot Road Golf Course Climb segment. I then thought I would spin down Main Street Greenville and capture some video of that route. This led me down Park Avenue which crosses Stove Avenue and then becomes East North Street.

As I approached the intersection, I saw that the light was going to be green. “Hmmmm,” I thought to myself, “I might as well use this opportunity to capture some video for a Pait Is Almost Home Strava segment.” Even then, I did not expect to land a KOM. I just wanted to have a good representative effort.

It would appear that the big difference was the speed I was able to carry through the intersection. Rather than turning right off of Stone Ave and scrubbing speed, I was able to come barreling over Stone Avenue and carry that momentum up the lower portion of the segment.

Still, that wasn’t all. I remember having a moment of realization that I was maintaining my power. Yeah, it was hurting a little, but it was one of those instances when you could feel the power overwhelming any pain you might feel. I knew it was going to be a good time.

Arriving home, I was most interested in seeing what would happen with the Pilot Road Golf Course Climb. When I first saw the crown, I thought I had landed it. Then I was surprised to see that the KOM was actually for Pait Is Almost Home… not just that, but I had finished the segment in 1:33. That was 6 seconds faster that my previous one that I thought I would never beat!

Hopefully, that one will hold for a little bit. Other than those instances where people forget to turn off their Strava apps when they are driving home along East North, I think the combination of effort and perfect timing with the light at the start will allow it to last for some time. The closest currently is Chris Uberti at 1:41.

It might fall at some point, but I will have plenty more opportunities in the future and more importantly, many memories of nearing home along that stretch after completing some incredible rides. Whether fast or slow, it is a segment I always enjoy because I am almost home.


Friday Training Race on Zwift’s Watopia Island

Not much to the written blog today. All last night I was uploading a 10 GB file to YouTube. It is a video of the Friday Training Race on Zwift’s Watopia Island. This one is different from others because I did not do a voice over after the face. I did live in-race, real-time commentary. Not sure how well it worked, but you can be the judge.

The Friday races are going to be moving to Thursday which means I will not be able to participate in as many of them. However, I do hope to join the guys on occasion. Also, there are a growing number of other races springing up on Zwift’s virtual world. You can find a time to race — or create your own race. A good place to start is on the Zwift Riders Facebook group.

Ride On!


Beat by the heat

I’ve not once in my life been drunk, but this morning I woke up with a hangover. My morning motivated wife’s alarm went off and sounded like it’s volume was turned up to 11. It felt like strands of muscles starting at my shoulders and stretching over to my forehead were in a state of cramping. The light coming on was the final straw. I put the pillow over my head.

So, for this teetotaler, how did I end up feeling this way? It had to be last evenings ride. It was a painful experience and I’m still feeling it this morning.

I went out after work to check out a Strava segment that had been pointed out to me. It was one along a route I infrequently ride, and I not once have attempted it at speed. I figured I would try it a couple of times before to get a feel for how to approach it when capturing my video for the YouTube Strava Segment series.

On the way out it was nearly 95 degrees even though the sun was getting lower on the horizon. By the time I reached the location of the segment thirty minutes into the ride, I had emptied one of my water bottles. A slight wind helped as long as I kept moving, but stopping at a traffic light would leave me feeling like I was melting from the inside out.

Looking back, I can see I went pretty hard on my effort — though I didn’t think it was any harder than many others (max wattage 1400 with 899 watts average for 29 seconds). Still, my heart rate went from 150 to 183 bpm in less than 30 seconds. As I turned off the segment to recover, I was feeling okay.

I decided to give it another try with a different tactic. Turns out the tactic did not help me bring the time down any and as I neared the end of the segment, I was feeling pretty weird. My head felt very hot inside my helmet and my legs — especially the top of my calves running up the back of my knees — were… I wouldn’t say cramping… it almost felt like they were paralyzed. They were stiff like rigor mortis was setting in.

There wasn’t a moment of blacking out, but I did feel disoriented. It was a burden to lift my head. I wasn’t nauseous, but I was just uncomfortable all over.

I headed for the shade. Thankfully, because I was on the edge of the Furman campus I was able to duck onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail where there would be shade for a good number of miles. For a good majority of the time along the slight downward grade I didn’t pedal at all. There just wasn’t much strength to do it.

It really wasn’t until about 20 minutes after my last effort that I began to stop questioning whether I should just stop and ask someone to come get me. The last time I could remember feeling like this was back during my Memphis to Raleigh ride. However, that was seven days of centuries… this was just two measly 30 seconds efforts!

Turns out the heat index here last evening was 108 degrees. I can only assume it was the heat. This morning my legs feel fine. However, my shoulders and neck up into the base of my head are still stiff and sore.

Word is that next week is supposed to bring a break in the heat. We should be back in the 80s for a bit. I think I’ll save any segment hunting until then!

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Past video and last video

Let’s start with the last video uploaded to YouTube. It is commentary on the June 23, 2015 Tuesday Night Worlds on Zwift’s Watopia Island. It gives you an opportunity to see yesterday’s blog post.

Continuing our “Throwback Thursday” theme, I decided to go back and resurrect a video from the past. This is one of the earliest videos I ever made riding a bicycle. The first was a video of the Sunshine Cycle Shop crew climbing Paris Mountain on April 27, 2008.

It is amazing to see how the action camera market has changed since that time! I was using on of the early Contour cameras. GoPro didn’t exist. The Internet has changed as well! The reason these videos are lower bandwidth is because back in that day the idea of HD quality video seemed out of reach.

Of course, this was less than 10 years ago. Much has changed in my life, on the bicycle, and with technology. Even the blog has changed. You’ll notice at the end of the older video that I point you’ll notice I point folks to (that is a time capsule for you). I’m still at it though. On the bicycle, I’ve done more than I thought I could do.

I kind of like Throwback Thursday…

A good group showed up for the race.

It’s Watopia, not Utopia

Last night was the Tuesday Night Worlds on Zwift. Sometimes we escape there to get away from heat, rain, or dangerous conditions. It certainly makes that possible, but Watopia isn’t Utopia. Our PM race proved it.

First, I’ll get my race report out of the way (see video from the race here).

I decided to pass on my Quarq power meter. The night before I rode on the trainer and my power meter kept dropping. I’m not sure if the battery is running down or something was interfering with the ANT+ connection.

My Giant TCR Advanced mounted to my Wahoo Kickr

My Giant TCR Advanced mounted to my Wahoo Kickr

The Wahoo Kickr was still kicking and sending a good signal to the computer. It would be my power meter for the evening. This did concern me because of my past issues trying to stay consistent with the group.

The bridge marking the start of the Tuesday Night Worlds.

The bridge marking the start of the Tuesday Night Worlds.

Thankfully, I was with the front of the group when we hit the bridge that marked the start. I figured with a climb coming up things should remain under control as the racers sorted out who was who. Or so I thought.

Frank Garcia goes on the attack at the base of the first climb.

Frank Garcia goes on the attack at the base of the first climb.

Almost immediately Frank “vEveresting” Garcia started to form a gap. M. Nahorniak (a rider with whom I had not yet ridden) followed. I contemplated what to do. It was definitely early for those guys to go off the front, but I wasn’t sure what type of concerted effort the group could put out because of the various categories represented.

I was comforted by the fact that Nathan Guerra was in the group. There was no doubt that he could nail them back. So, I began to mark him. As the riders ahead established a 6 second gap, Nathan and I moved to the front to pace the field.

I mark Nathan Gurrea in hopes he will help pull me back to the attacking riders

I mark Nathan Guerra in hopes he will help pull me back to the attacking riders

Nearing the top, the two riders ahead still had a 10 – 12 second gap on us. However, I was not pushing hard. I felt if I could just stay with Nathan and not go into the red, we could overtake them. It was important for me not to overdo it here early.

P. Merrick catches and comes over the top to form a 3 second gap at the KOM.

P. Merrick catches and comes over the top to form a 3 second gap at the KOM.

It was about that time that P. Merrick (another new rider to me) caught us and came around to chase after Garcia and Nahorniak. By the time we reached the KOM banner at the top of the climb, he had a 3 second gap on Guerra and me. He was about that far behind Garcia, but Nahorniak had stretched his lead.

Now is when I got concerned. There is just something about me and the Kickr when it comes to going downhill. It seems that other riders are able to leave me in the dust. I can be in 53×11 and over 100 rpm in cadence and I just can’t seem to get the wattage up.

Suffering on the descent!

Suffering on the descent!

Sure enough, not only did the riders ahead increase the gap on me, but several other riders that had been with me or behind me caught or moved around me. I was doing a standing sprint down the hill and still got left!

I had to hope that I could make it up on the upcoming flat section. By the time I reached the start/finish banner, I had won back the time lost to Nathan and the other riders. Still, Garcia, Merrick, and Nahorniak were hanging out there between 10 and 20 seconds. I tried to give Guerra an elbow flick to come around and chase, but my phone screen must have had sweat on it because it wouldn’t activate.

Closing in on the first pass through the start/finish banner.

Closing in on the first pass through the start/finish banner.

It was on the way to the first tunnel that I learned I had put my hope in the wrong scenario. I had noticed during the warmup and first portion of the race that Guerra did not have the TNW designation out to the right of his name. This isn’t that abnormal for someone to leave it off, but I should have questioned it.

Along this stretch I saw a message pop up on the screen from Nathan, “No recovery ride with this group!” Uh oh. The idea of riding his wheel into the front might be turning into fool’s gold. Another message popped up, “Sorry, not really racing. Shouldn’t mess with you.” Oh great!

Basically, this meant I needed to get up there with those three guys as soon as I could. If I was left here to ride alone, I wouldn’t be able to catch them. I could see from the messages they were sending that they were trying to work together at about a 4.0 wkg pace. If they did that, there was no way I would catch them without dying in the attempt!

Going alone to bridge the gap.

Going alone to bridge the gap.

So it was that I came around Nathan and set out to bring the group back. My strategy was to try to stay within reach until the start of the big climb. Once I reached that point, I would just have to hope that the guys would be resting on the gap they had established and I could close up to them with a burst.

They remained between 10  to 20 seconds ahead for most of the time I carried out my measured effort. At first I was a little discouraged, but then I started to notice that I was staying with them and even gaining a little. Perhaps I could make the junction!

My last ditch effort to catch the front group.

My last ditch effort to catch the front group.

Crossing the sprint zone bridge the gap had moved back up to over 20 seconds. Then between that and the bridge where we started the race the time fluctuated between 10 and 20 seconds. When I hit the start of the climb, the gap was over 20 seconds. This could be tough.

Then the gap dropped below 20 seconds and I could see the riders ahead were lowering their watts per kilogram. If I was going to try this, it would have to be now. I put my head down and brought my wattage up to around 400 watts and then over 500 watts. I wanted to catch them, but I also wanted to have something left when I did!

The catch!

The catch!

I caught them just before we reached the alien biker statues. For a moment I contemplated just keeping my wattage up and setting the pace. However, I thought better of it and hoped to back off and recover. My heart rate hit 185 bpm during the effort and that is near the very top of my red zone!

Nathan pointing out my mistake.

Nathan pointing out my mistake.

I made the break, but at what cost? As Nathan pointed out as we climbed the hill, I had burned a match. Actually, I felt like I had burned a torch! I also knew things were not going to get better because I was still having to work and my heart rate had only come down to around 180 bpm. To make matters worse, we were coming up to the downhill.

It was about this time I noticed a new rider ahead of us. It was E. Angeli. It showed that he was nearly a minute ahead of us and we were closing in fast. I wondered how he was able to get that large of a gap. I didn’t remember him coming around us.

The group grows to four.

The group grows to four.

Once he joined the dynamics began to change as he helped push the pace over the top of the KOM. Sure enough, by the time we reached the bottom of the hill and got within sight of the finishing banner, I was about 12 seconds arrears. At that point, I just didn’t see the point in continuing to chase.

I let the guys continue on unmolested by another attempt to bridge up to them. Using my keyboard, I switched over to view the race from the vantage point of those within the winning break. The thought was that I would create a TV-like recording of the remainder of the race.

The winner would come out of these three riders.

The winner would come out of these four riders.

It was then that I really noticed that Watopia was turning into Warptopia. Having time to sit back and watch instead of concentrating on my own effort, I was able to see how latency was causing all kinds of problems.  It made for some interesting views!

Garcia’s connection seemed pretty solid. However, Nahorniak, Angeli, and Merrick seemed to be having issues. As it turned out, the connection issues forced Nahorniak out of the race. It appeared to be weather related and he later reported that his home lost power about 30 minutes after he pulled out. It was a pity, because of the riders remaining, he seemed the strongest.

Merrick’s avatar was doing all kinds of stuff. At times he was doing circles. Other times he would disappear for a moment and then suddenly reappear ahead of the group. One time I watched Merrick ride into and disappear into the side of a mountain! Angeli took a major detour off of the road into a field of flowers.

As it turns out, I never was able to record the finish because all the riders dropped off the leaderboard and I was left with only my name listed there. Without access to the full leaderboard, I was unable to engage the “fan view” to see things from their perspectives.

According to Christian Wiedmann’s race report, P. Merrick ended up taking the win in the A group. Frank came in second. I had watched him get dropped and then fight valiantly to get back, but it was too big an order. I was happy to see that he persevered for the second spot. Turns out Angeli fell prey to the network issues that seemed to be plaguing the island.

Picking up the scraps after an otherwise disappointing ride.

Picking up the scraps after an otherwise disappointing ride.

It was kind of boring not being able to watch the guys as I rode along to finish out the required miles of the ride. To make matters worse, I misunderstood the distance.  I thought it was 31.5 miles which put me back at the bridge where I started. However, it was supposed to be 32.5 miles — the finish banner. Technically, I got a DNF.

I went for the KOM as a way to make myself feel better and was happy to snag it, but it definitely wasn’t the fastest KOM of the evening. Still, it always is fun to ride around a bit in the polka dots. My only regret really was that I was unable to capture the video I would have liked.

Not too shabby.

Not too shabby.

Then as I logged out, I saw the report that pops up at the end of each ride on Zwift. It was nothing to be ashamed of. I definitely got myself a workout!

Isn’t that really the ultimate advantage of these activities? It is helping me get stronger and keeping me healthy. I’m having fun to boot!

Even if Watopia isn’t Utopia, it is still a great place to spend a hot muggy evening.


Them there be fightin’ words

The video Zwift Friday Training Race May 8, 2015 on my YouTube channel seems to have been picked up somewhere because just over the weekend it was viewed over 1000 times. I still haven’t tracked down what has driven the interest, but I have noticed that it has also generated a couple of comments. I was surprised at how one of the comments got under my skin.

The first somewhat negative comment didn’t bother me so much. It made me chuckle. Even as I edited the video, I wondered how long it would be before someone made a jab at me.

Factory051 commented: “Britisher? Greece doesn’t have a flag? What on earth is wrong with you?”

Yes, I did say “Britisher” when I should have said “Brit.” However, in my defense I would ask you to do a voice over of a video without a script and see how many times you misspeak! When you are in the midst of a list of “ers” and suddenly have a pattern interrupt, it is hard to break the cycle. Anyway, I just claimed the ignorant American excuse on that one.

Now, as for Greece not having a flag. Of course, the country of Greece has a national flag. What it did not have at the time of the race was a flag for Zwift. As I was doing the voice over, it did cross my mind that someone might be confused. You will actually hear a pause after I said it as my mind was trying to decide whether to try to explain. Bottomline is that Zwifters understand that not every countries flag has always been represented on the software.

It wasn’t that comment that got to me. It was one by Thomas Nigl. He was calling me out and “questioning my manhood.” He commented: “The watts displayed are a joke! Way too high!”

I bristled and came back with an uncharacteristic (for me) challenge, “Come visit me in Greenville and let your legs decide if the wattage is wrong.” Of course, I added a ” ;-)” that I didn’t really mean. For some reason this comment ticked me off.


I think one reason is that in someways those of us on Zwift — and more so those of us who share these kinds of videos — are placing ourselves in a vulnerable situation. At any moment on Zwift, I can click over to another rider and see RPM, wattage, and heart rate. I can get an instant understanding of the rider’s ability by following his or her watts per kilogram.

Riding on the road allows you to hold your cards closer to your chest. You can telegraph weakness when you are strong and hide tired legs when you feel like you are about to get dropped. Your cycling computer is there for only you to see.

In Zwift, we lay ourselves bare. The numbers are there for everyone to see. Perhaps that is why when those numbers are questioned, it causes us to react more defensively. It is one thing for someone to take a swing at you when you have your gloves up. It is another thing for someone to give a punch when you have your arms open.

Of course, another reason is because of the prevalence of “flyers” who have in ignorance set their trainers up incorrectly or are intentionally gaming the system by false weight entries or manipulation of the trainer. The reaction against these riders by many Zwift is enough to cause anyone to bristle at someone intimating that you might be one of them.

It also annoyed me because I know what my abilities are. I have YEARS of data showing that these numbers are not abnormal for me. They are consistent with what I do on the road and here on Zwift. They can be attested to by my riding buddies and my one-time coach.

Finally, it annoyed me because even though this guy thought the wattage was too high. It still wasn’t high enough! I’ve never come close to winning one of these Zwift races. Just because you can put out average to above average wattage for a given period of time does not mean that you can do it long enough.

Weighing in on a skinny day at 170 and a normal day around 174, I HAVE to put out the wattages seen in the video in order to stay up with guys 20 and even 30 pounds lighter than I am. The good news is I can actually do it for about 20 minutes. The bad news is that I can’t pull it off for an entire race.

Here I was suffering to try for a good finish. I even manage to make the podium. Someone comes along and questions my result.

Okay. I know. The ultimate answer to my problem is pride. Does it really matter what Thomas thinks?

On the other hand, this shows another unique aspect of the Zwift community. We really are exposing ourselves when we honestly roll up to the line. We can have more insight into the abilities of the riders around us. There is something about that vulnerability that forms a bond.

And so, in Zwift, as in other aspects of life, honesty becomes a foundational component of good relationships. I’m proud to be a part of the community and the relationships I have formed there. It is important to me that my participation be honest.

So, the gloves are up to those who might question, but my arms are open to the great friends I’ve enjoyed riding with — both racing and recreationally — on Zwift.

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Strava Segment: Pilot Road Golf Course Climb

The Pilot Road Golf Course Climb Strava segment is one I have ridden many times, but one of which I have never paid much attention. It got my attention about a month ago when riding with my pals from Sunshine Cycle Shop on a Saturday morning shop ride. Then my attention was sealed when I saw John James give it a good effort. I knew I would have to go for the KOM.

The first time I noticed that a segment existed there was when Neal Herring attacked me that Saturday morning. Zac Webb had suddenly upped the pace and I jumped on his wheel. I was pretty tired having just raced on Zwift the day before. Then Neal came sprinting around me and I was left dragging myself behind them.

I made my plans to go back to the location and give the segment a try. Before I could do so, I noticed that John James tied for the KOM. I got to thinking that he might have been out to give Neal his comeuppance after attempting to attack on the shop ride. He bested Neal by over 10 seconds on his attempt. Now I was intrigued.

I wanted go into my first attempt turning the pedals with purpose. Needless to say, I took the KOM, but also opened a can of worms. My winning time was 10 seconds faster than John’s. You can read about it here: Strava App of Garmin. I knew immediately I was going to have to try it again to vindicate my effort.

So it was that I took off at lunch on Friday with plans to head up to Asheville with the Beautiful Redhead. Saturday was our 23 wedding anniversary and we figured a trip up to the mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway was in in order. The temperature was nearly 10 degrees cooler there.

However, I had a window of time to jump on the bike and go out to Pilot Road to give the segment a try. I was curious to see how it would go. It was hitting 90 degrees and the sun was bright. I had only ridden once this week… so I could be fresh or I could be sluggish.

There was only one way to find out. I followed the same route I did the previous week when the Strava phone app recorded a 46 second time. This time I was running both the Strava app and the Garmin.

My purpose was to 1) see if the Strava app was consistent — if wrong, and 2) compare the two options to see in which one I had the most confidence. Of course, that would only work if I could replicate my earlier effort. The ideal situation would be that I would ride an equivalent route and get a similar time on the Strava app while getting a time close to that on the Garmin.

My legs were feeling good and I was ready for the test. I let the terrain help me build momentum after turning onto Pilot Road. I kept looking for the break in the trees and then the tree line that indicated the start of the segment.

At that point it was time to just put my head down and push. Right off the start I knew I lost some time as an off camber right turn caused me to let up on the wattage. I got back into it up the graduate climb into the left turn that indicates the start of the steeper grade.

This time as soon as I started to feel the resistance building in my drivetrain, I hit the shifter to ease on my gears. It didn’t really seem to matter as the grade still made my cadence drop. I kept pushing until I thought I was nearing the segment end. With my heart rate hitting 180 bpm, I let off and coasted.

Looking back I realize that I let off sooner than the line. That — and the problematic left turn — probably caused me to land the 47 second time that showed up on my Strava app. However, that was only 1 second off the earlier Strava app time.

My first question was answered. It appears that on this segment the Strava app was at least consistent. It was yet to be seen if the Garmin would match.

I loaded the .fit file to Strava and awaited the result. There it was… 49 seconds. So, the Garmin recorded a time 2 seconds slower than the Strava app.

So, the bad news was that my 46 second time was taking advantage of wonky mobile phone GPS readings. The good news was that I still landed the KOM! It was nice to be vindicated by getting the top spot, even if it was slower.

48 seconds? I think I could do it. When I look at the video, I can see a couple of places where I left time on the road. I think I could do it faster…

It also means that someone else could probably do it faster.