I will admit that I am not much of a social rider. Most of my time on the bicycle is alone time. When I really enjoy riding in a group it is when there is a bit of a competitive vibe going on. It was this kind of ride that got me hooked on cycling over a decade ago.
That lead me into organized racing. However, to race — and race well — is all about commitment. There comes a moment when you realize the time it will take to make yourself competitive exceeds the time you can devote to it. It is a sad day.
There were those moments early in the season when I ventured out with a number on my back and found myself at the mercy of the riders around me. It was possible to hang for a portion of the race, but at those moments during the end of the race when training shows itself… I had nothing.
It was disheartening. I just couldn’t find pleasure in being field fodder. I’ve known what it is like to be at the front. I’ve known what it is like to win. Finishing 20th or so week after week just doesn’t cut it.
So I found myself lost. If I wasn’t training for something and what training I was doing would never be enough, what was I riding for? Yes, there is the sheer pleasure of being outdoors, but when you have a competitive urge… it is frustrating.
Last night I experienced the fun of those early days. It happened on Watopia. Once again… Zwift to the rescue!
I logged on feeling pretty tired. However, I wanted to get in an hour so I could meet my exercise goals for the day. By the top of the first hill I was pushing along at about 4.0 wkg. For me that would be in the upper 300 and low 400 watts. Once I got the motor running I could keep it up.
As I noticed the time for the upcoming sprint, I realized that it was within reach. So, I went for it and barely missed it by a fraction of a second. However, before I finished the lap, I inherited it as the faster rider logged off.
Turning around, I headed the other direction. I went for both the KOM and the sprint on this one and barely missed both. This was where my tired legs got me. I could hold wattage, but I had no snap to put down the 1000+ watts to assure a good finish.
However, as I neared the finish, I realized that I was going to grab the orange jersey easily! It was a nice surprise after the earlier pain and failure. I was right proud of that orange jersey.
And then it was gone.
Hmmmm, who was this person who stole my jersey? Ah, it was the current holder of the green jersey. That would be my next marker along my circuit.
If he was going to take my orange jersey, then I’d just take his green one! I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because he had a pretty decent time. Still, tired legs or not, I wanted this one.
As I descended toward the wooden bridge that was the length of the sprint, I put my gearing in the 53×11. I knew I had to have the Kickr all wound up before I hit the start line or I’d have no chance. I stood and pushed forward not looking at the TV screen. I didn’t want to be tempted to let up as I neared the line.
Out of the periphery of my vision I saw the wooden slats of the road pass. Then I glimpsed the line. It was only then that I looked up at the time to find that just moments after loosing my orange jersey I had claimed the green.
That is the “fun of the county line.” Zwift gives you multiple opportunities for this impromptu competition. It is possible for me because it does not require long endurance. At my fastest these efforts last me anywhere from 11 seconds to just under 4 minutes. On a good day, I can keep the wheels turning to grab a 14 minute plus lap on Watopia.
Zwift helps scratch my competitive itch. When I feel up to it, I can do full length races. When I’m pressed for time and not on top of my game, I can still manage a little bicycle sparring on the shorter challenges.
Sprinting for that county line still brings the same feelings that it did years ago… even if now days the line is a virtual one.