Category Archives: Racing

Here is my virtual passport

Okay, I started this idea way back when I was wanting to hold a race with a payout. Ultimately, I was encouraged by Zwift not to attempt such a race because it would be very hard to assure that the race was fair. Since those days we’ve seen all kinds of discussions going on about the way races and events are conducted. It makes me glad I never went through with my plan!

Before you read this… I’m definitely not saying that everyone should do what I propose. I am not advocating it as a standard for all races and events on Zwift. This was an idea for a particular race series in which people would choose to participate. Feel free to critique the idea, but, please, don’t go off on how you’re not going to let someone force you to do this or that. No one is!

I did mention in a previous blog that I would lay out what I thought would be an answer to making an attempt at fair racing. It would involve some sort of way to verify the abilities of those participating. So, this was my plan…

    1. Weight verification. Don’t diss me too much on this idea. It actually wasn’t mine. It was given to me by the folks at Zwift. The idea here is that you would go to your local bicycle shop — or maybe a notary public 😉 — and do a weigh in. You would then put that number on a paper with the signature of the “official” who witnessed your weigh in.
      Weigh in at the local bike shop

      Weigh in at the local bike shop

      Here is a problem I discovered. You can see that when I did this weigh in it shows me at 174 pounds. Well, with a little diet discipline and some exercise, I’ve gotten down to around 171 pounds. So, the consistency of this aspect of the “virtual passport” is a problem. What would be cool is a way to upload your weight from a scale just before the race, but then you would have the issue of verification.

    2. Visual verification

      Visual verification

      Visual verification. Okay, I admit this was the more harebrained of my ideas. My thought was that adding another component to the weigh in would be a photograph showing the physical makeup of the rider. I thought this would give more credence to the weight submitted, would give visual cues to the age, fitness, etc. of the rider.

      It would be a little like the way you do when you show up for a race. Everyone lines up at the start. Immediately, you recognize the usual suspects, but then you start evaluating the folks you don’t know. You can tell a lot about a racer by the way he dresses, holds himself on the bike, how lean he is, and his muscle tone. That was my thought…

      Well, it was pointed out that with no frame of reference, you couldn’t adequately verify weight, height, etc. from a photograph. Not only that, this was the aspect of my idea that got the most negative feedback! Frankly, the more I thought about it, the more creepy it did seem.

      But so you can see I’m practicing what I preach, I’ve included a photograph taken on the day I had my weigh in at the bicycle shop. The criticisms are valid. You can’t tell from the photograph whether 174 pounds was accurate or even confirm that my height is 6 feet.

    3. FTP report. Back when I originally had the idea there was no workout mode on Zwift. Now, it would be pretty easy to have a report for FTP because participants could conduct an FTP test right there in Zwift. My thought back when I was thinking of a race series was for people to go out and do their best 20 minute effort, take a screenshot of the ride data, and then post it with the other virtual passport data.
      The concept was to show the Zwift report of a solid 20 minute effort.

      The concept was to show the Zwift report of a solid 20 minute effort.

      Here is mine from the same period when I did the weigh in, etc. In this case, it put me at 295 watts.  I guess it is also of interest to see the other increments, though I don’t think the 5 seconds, 1 minute, and 5 minute records are my “best” efforts as I was doing a more sustained effort.

      Again, I believe that the FTP test in the workout mode would be a better standard, but I have not yet attempted one. I’ve been sick for the last week and am just now getting back on the bicycle. Actually, I don’t think I’m going to attempt the test until after Thanksgiving when I’ll start thinking of training again.

    4. Equipment. This primarily is the trainer used by the rider. For the particular series I was wanting to conduct, it would limit participants to those with smart trainers. Of course, you could also have different categories for zPower riders and smart trainers.For me, I would be racing with a Wahoo Kickr.
    5. Outside references. For this, I was thinking of some sort of record of performance outside of Zwift. Primarily I was thinking about riding in the “real world commander cialis discount.” This could be a link to a rider’s Strava profile and/or race results from a licensing body. Of course, that supposes that the participants track their information on Strava and hold a racing license with an organization such as USACycling.

So, there you go. I’ve exposed myself! You now know that I am a 47-year old bald dude at 6 feet (shrunk down from 6′ 1″), at between 171 — 174 pounds (with a little too much of that around the middle), who hasn’t raced competitively in the real world for several years, and struggles to get his FTP up near 300 watts. Keep that in mind when you are leaving me as we climb the Watopia KOM!

The UZI

Zwifters are cyclists, but there is no classification for them under the governance of the Union Cycliste Internationale. The landscape of team racing on Zwift looks more like the wild wild west than the sweeping paved turns of the Alps. This means that the Zwfit community needs to work through some things.

Now, I’m not proposing a Union Zwift Internationale. Fact is, the UCI — or rather the long established etiquette and rules of the road — has given us a framework for racing in our virtual, but oh so real, cycling world. However, while the rules of the road are pretty set, the organization of races and rides and the formulation and maintenance of clubs and teams are not.

Several weeks ago I started the Unofficial Zwift Team and Club Listing. I thought a couple of teams would form and we’d have fun racing against the few of us. I figured someone with more time and a better idea would come along and the List would fade away.

Well, the List is still here. There are multiple teams and clubs formed and some of them are getting larger. In some cases the teams have split into different levels of riders. So, A class riders going under one banner and B class riders under another. This was done in part to meet the 15 rider limit for the competitive teams.

I set this limit arbitrarily in order to match “real world” scenarios. Most local teams I’ve been associated with have a limit of team members. Obviously, professional races always have a limit on how many riders can be in a particular race.

However, another reason I set the limit was because a mass of riders from one team could definitely have a bearing on a race in Zwift simply due to their huge numbers. With the way drafting works in the game, numbers is power! That concerned me.

There are several counter arguments. Isn’t it true that several teams riding under different names, but representing the same banner still a single team? Even though a team may have a large number of riders, do you really think they will all show up at the same time? And, of course, “Hey, who do you think you are to say how many riders can be on a team!?!”

I guess that final argument is the one that bothers me the most. While setting up the List, I tried to involve the Zwift community in what shape it would take. I want it to be useful, and not a burden. I want it to be a structure that can help us move toward better racing on Zwift, but not a restriction that keeps our community from enjoying the fun and camaraderie that comes from racing on a team.

So, I’m coming to you all to get your feedback. I’ll be checking out any conversations this post might generate in the forums, here on the site, and with any direct messages to me. Then I’ll put out a poll and we’ll all vote on it.

If we are to organize into teams, how do you think we should handle it? Should there be a limit to the number of riders? If so, how many should that be? If we have no limit to how many can be on a team roster, do we limit the number of riders who can participate in a given event?

Granted, all of this is hardly enforceable. It would have to be carried out under an honor system. We don’t have the UZI after all.

Now, about that those flyers…

Teams have landed on Watopia

All the news is about hurricane Joaquin landing (or maybe not landing) on the east of coast of the U.S. While most people’s attention was turned to that landing, there was another landing taking place in the Pacific. Team racing has landed on Zwift’s Watopia.

I was excited to have an opportunity to participate in the historic event. Looking back it was really cool… even if I did make a fool of myself in the process. It was fun enough that I’ll be looking to get back to it whenever I can.

It was Frank “vEveresting” Garcia that put the idea out there. He suggested that we turn the Thursday Zwift Training Race Early Bird into a race featuring teams. Team dZi was already making itself noticed. Frank put out a call for other racers to counter dZi’s growing number of riders.

I figured I would jump in and give it a go. So, Frank connected with the team to give us our race instructions before the start. Here is what I was handed, “How do you feel about going hard at the gun and having them have to chase you?” I figured I could do that since that would mean I could be helpful early in the race when I was fresher.

Pre-race went something like this…

“JP is going to try and establish a bit of break at the start and try to hold to make dZi chase. When they come back one of us (I am willing can put in an attack and make them chase again) then standard tactics from there.”

“JP – make them work – We will enjoy the draft. :)”

Photos by James Gill

Photos by James Gill

And so we began. Frank Garcia, Casey Schumn, Neil Law, and Jamie Jj Alldridge were guys I recognized. James Gill was supposed to be on our team as well, but he was not able to make it because of work (not to mention he is riding injured.)

We were mixing it up with the dZi guys as well as Francois Coppex as a pirate. There were several other racers with no team affiliation and various categories of racers within each team. You could tell the difference between the teams by the kits they wore as well as the letters signifying their teams out to right of their names. dZi had… well… dZi. Our team was X1.

I was determined to do my part. So, I tried to stay near the front of the group as we did the warmup. However, Christian Wiedmann had some issues with we lost him as our marshall. He said for us to wait. So, I slowed down and somehow got gapped off the back. I guess Chris logged back in because suddenly he was in front of me in the lead group.

Once again I found myself sprinting to get back to the front group before the start line. I made it, but was already a bit winded from trying to get back on. As we hit the bridge to mark the start, I attacked down the left side of the group. Right away I started building a several second gap.

However, that is where things started going downhill… or I should say… uphill! The start of this race took us immediately into the 3 to 4 minute climb. In order to create a gap, I was having to lay down around 500 watts. Then I had to hold over 325 watts to maintain the distance.

I’m afraid that the plan didn’t work. Yes, I got a gap and riders had to work a bit to come up to me. However, in no way was I hurting any of them. It really was an exercise in futility and I ended up knocking up against 180 bpm within the first 5 minutes of the race!

Suddenly, I wasn’t the one creating a gap. I was trying to hang on for dear life! I did get across the KOM line and descend with the lead of the pack. Then a group of about 15 riders rode on as a group with no real attacks. Each team was using tactics to keep the other under control.

I continued with the group to the next lap. It was about halfway up the climb that I realized that I was not going to be able to keep it up. So, I eased up and decided to finish my ride and then go set up some sandbags to help control some of the expected 12 to 25 inches of rain this weekend.

It gave me an opportunity to see how I compared with some of the other riders. The guys who always kick my butt on these rides are weighing in between 120 and 155 pounds. At 174 pounds, I have to work even harder on the climbs. So when I’m killing myself at 600 watts, they are heading up the incline without having to put out nearly the same effort.

Then when it comes to the end of the race and they are throwing down 500 watts, I’m having to put out that much more. I’m not complaining. On the flats I can use that weight and power to my advantage. It is just on this hilly course my weight does not work in my favor.

Still, it was great fun! I want to try it again, but next time I’ll be a little more judicious in my efforts! I think I would be of more use working to just stay in contact with the group on the climb and then use my power to create a draft for a teammate on the flats or the rolling section.

Of course, Richmond is a whole different ball game! It is a course that better suits me. The climbs there sting, but they are not as long. I can power over them and take advantage of the flats and downhill. It is more of a sprinter’s course than Watopia.

Did I mention that Team X1 won? Still waiting for the official finish report, but we had two guys in the finish sprint (which was pretty cool!) and the first finisher wasn’t really a valid racer — best I could tell. Neil Law took the win for us with Casey Schumn finishing close behind. UPDATE: Race report is not out. If you want to see a very good blow-by-blow account of the race, check out Nathan Guerra’s Twitch.

So, team racing has come to Zwift. It works. It is loads of fun! I can see a day when Zwift will incorporate this structure into the game.

Now that I’ve helped make history, I’m looking forward to that future!

The fun of the county line

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.

orange

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.

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.

Richmond motivation

Looking back over the years of my blogging, I’ve noticed that around July I seem to disappear. I think it is because I start off the season all excited with lots to write about. Then I get into the the rhythm and things begin repeating. I start repeating myself and lose my imagination.

Enter Zwift and Richmond Worlds.

Zwift launched a new course. It was a major change because this virtual course was a drop dead ringer for the UCI World Championships course in Richmond, VA. As usual, Zwift threw out some “virtual swag” — and some real stuff as well. It was enough to get me back on a regular schedule.

A surprising 6th place finish in the riding with real power group.

A surprising 6th place finish in the riding with real power group.

It just so happened that one of my scheduled rides coincided with the Zwift Race with GCN. GCN stands for Global Cycling Network. It is kind of like Top Gear (BBC edition, of course) for bicycles. For this particular episode, Simon Richardson would be competing with racers on Zwift while Daniel Lloyd and Matt Stephens would call the live race being webcast on YouTube.

So, I decided to hang out with the group and give it a go. It would be only two laps. That would be twenty miles. That would be doable. I could give it all I had for the first lap and maybe get some camera time! Then I could just hang on for the finish.

We rolled off and I tried to stay up front. For the most part I was able to set in the top ten or so. I kept my eye on Nathan Guerra, Francois Coppex, Simon Richardson, and Scottie Weiss. My goal was to stay close to them for the first lap.

Nathan and Francois I have raced with multiple times on Zwift. I KNEW I could not beat them. Simon Richardson is a former pro and presenter on GCN. I obviously figured he would be hard to beat. Finally, Scottie is a recent podium finisher in masters world championships.

For the majority of the first lap I simply tried to stay in position up front while keeping my nose out of the wind as much as possible. What a difference the ability to stay in the draft made. It allowed me to ride at speeds that made the first lap a 21 minute effort.

As we neared Libby Hill, I moved closer to the front. I wanted to be one of the first into the climb so that I could fall back into the clutches of the lighter riders. I measured my effort and came through the climb in good shape.

It hurt though. I can’t imagine racing up that climb as many times as the women’s and men’s elite fields. For me it was clearly a “match” I burned. I was just wanting to find somewhere to hide to let the flames cool down.

Up the second cobble climb I was still feeling the earlier effort. It was at this point that I started paying more attention to keeping my effort up instead of the riders around me. I was able to catch glimpses of my marked riders. However, I knew that there were a number of riders in there I did not know.

I had spent the first lap at 3.5 to 4.5 wkg. That means I was at my functional threshold power for that 20 plus minutes. At the start of the second lap I just knew that wouldn’t continue. The other riders started putting out over 400 watts and I could not maintain that. So, I began to drop back.

I slipped into that “Well, I guess I’ll just turn this into a cookie ride” mode. I eased up and recovered a bit. That allowed me to take another look at the leader board. Yes, there was a sizable gap between the front riders and myself.

However, I noticed I had a real chance at getting a top ten finish. I also noticed that Scottie was surprisingly back with me. I hooked up with him and another rider and we worked together to bring down the gap between us and some of the riders dropping back from the leading group.

Then we hit the climbs at the end of the course. Unsurprisingly, Scottie dropped me. However, I was in a battle now for position with R. Sines. He was making it tough, but I determined I would get him over the last three climbs to the finish.

Scottie was leaving me in the dust with a lead over a couple dozen seconds. I was able to keep Sines at about a four seconds gap. While the gaps were growing between the riders, I was still right in line with the guys I had started out the race marking. Now I started to think if I could hold off Sines, I might even get a top five!

And so we finished our second and final lap.

It was somewhat confusing because we were not the only riders on the course. We were all supposed to have GCN out beside our names. Some of the racers didn’t. It was hard to know what your finish actually was.

Then there is the matter of “real power” versus “virtual power”. Some of us were being measured by power meters. Others were being measured by software generated power numbers. The virtual power numbers can often be a bit gracious.

So, I was excited to see the Official Leaderboard Top Ten. This was the real power list and I managed a top six. Granted, it was a big gap, but it was way better than I anticipated.

Most of all I was thankful for the motivation I received. As you can see, there is a post here on LowCadence.com. It also gave me some motivation not just to ride, but to start organizing my own race.

Stay tuned for an I Do It For Foundation race once “trainer season” starts in earnest here in the Northern Hemisphere. I’ll be sharing my ideas and asking for your feed back here on the blog. Zwift has let me know they aren’t excited about a payout race, but I’m sure I can think of something to hold onto for bragging rights!

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!

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 StackOfStuff.net (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…

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 acheter cialis en andorre. 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.

Why?

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.