Fun times inside and out

It was a great day for riding right up until the time when I was free to ride. Rain started falling and I just don’t ride in the rain anymore if I can help it. It was time to visit Watopia.

Actually, I planned all along to ride on the island. The rain just sealed the deal. It had been sometime since I had visited my friends there. Rain or no rain, I wanted to see if any of my Zwifter pals were out.

I was also curious to see the impact open beta was having on Watopia. Would there be more or fewer people? Would there be more issues with “fliers” — people with misconfigured equipment?

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When I logged on there were around 50 people riding the course. I went through and looked at each one to get an idea of what types of people were utilizing the service. Most of the sampling were 40 – 50-year old males using power meters or smart trainers. Next largest group were 30 – 40-year old males. There was about the same number of female riders and male riders between 20 – 30-years old. Finally, I came upon a young rider aged 11.

There were only a few riders using ZPower. This is how Zwift calculates power for people who do not have a power meter or smart trainer. You input into the software the type of trainer you are using. Zwift then calculates your power based on how fast you are turning the trainer barrel against the known resistance of that device.

I guess I expected to see more of these riders on the island after open beta was announced. Of course, with only 50 people inhabiting the space it probably was not a good sampling of all the people who are now taking advantage of the program. You too can be one of them by going to Zwift.com and learning how to make your travel arrangements to Watopia.

Before my ride was over, the number of riders had dropped to around 30. Of course, with it being spring here in the northern hemisphere, I’m sure many of my Zwifter friends were out riding in the real world. I did see one Aussie, but for most of those guys the time zone would have put them at work.

As for the ride itself. It was a simple three lap affair. I took the first lap easy while sending “Ride On!” kudos to those riding with me. I checked out the various people and took stock of the times for the various jerseys.

Seeing those times, I decided to give it a go on the second lap. I eased into a 300 watt pace to start and then upped it to 500 watts on the climb. Boom! The KOM jersey was mine. It wasn’t even close to a PR, but I had the longer term goal in mind.

I settled the wattage back down to the upper 200 – lower 300 watts range and tried to recover for the sprint. Thankfully, I had noticed the time was 28s. I could do that easy. However, as I was headed toward the sprint zone, the jersey was stolen with a 25 second time. Still doable, but I was a little tired.

Going into the sprint, I couldn’t seem to get any power up. I don’t think I ever made it over 1000 watts. I watched the time tick down and knew it was going to be close! I instinctively did a bike throw (yes, I realize you can’t do that on a trainer) and thought I had missed it. However, the sprint jersey was mine by a fraction of a second.

Now I just had to suffer through the rollers and down to the finish. The time to beat was around 14:25. Again, that was a time I figured I could best if I could average in the lower 300 watts. Problem is, Zwift does not give you a way to see what you are averaging and when on Zwift, I don’t use a cycling computer. I was just riding in time trial mode — ride as fast as you can without blowing up.

Going all out on Watopia!

Going all out on Watopia!

I entered the final zone and was shocked to see that I was on pace for a sub-14 minute lap. Typically, a good lap for me is around 14:14. In races with people pushing me and being able to draft, I have made it down in the low 13 minute range (13:04 is my assisted PR). This news had me making a final push to see if I could nail down an unassisted sub-14 minute lap.

The clock stopped at 13:46 and the Orange jersey popped on my back. This meant I had a Triple Jersey lap. Granted, with fewer people it didn’t take as much for me to get it, but I was happy all the same — especially the Orange jersey.

I was feeling pretty smug about that time compared to all the others listed. I figured I would hold onto it until I finished my hour long ride. So, I easily pedaled along.

Take a drink. You deserve it. Triple Jersey. Woot!

Take a drink. You deserve it. Triple Jersey. Woot!

Finally, I saw the name of someone I “knew”. It was Nathan Guerra. Uh oh. My Orange jersey was now in danger! I could only hope Nathan would take some time to warm up before unleashing a hurting on all the rest of us.

What!?! Suddenly the smug feeling was wiped away. My Orange jersey was gone — and it wasn’t Mr. Guerra. The time was in the low 13 minute range. No. Not tonight. He could have it. I’d leave him for Nathan.

Once more Zwift made an hour on the trainer fly by. Once again I was sucked into the virtual world, not just because of the graphics and challenges, but because of the people there with me. I’m definitely going to make regular visits to Watopia no matter what the weather might be outside.

An invitation: If you live in the Greenville area, I’d like to invite you to ride with me on Saturday morning, May 30, 2015. I’ll be rolling out 8 AM sharp from Sunshine Cycle Shop. The ride will be a fun ride and any sprinting will always have a regroup. We’ll be out for about 2 hours and then anyone who wants to go longer can have at it!

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About Jonathan Pait

Jonathan started riding mountain bikes in the early 1990s. After discovering the ride can start at the end of his driveway, he moved to the road in 2006. Little did he know that first pedal stroke would lead him on an adventure that has become much larger than the bicycle.