Category Archives: Racing

Watopia: First June Friday Training Race

I’m so tired from the last two days of riding, I’m afraid that my brain has suffered from oxygen debt. I hope I can remember what happened during the Friday Training Race. As usual, I’ll just let Chris Wiedmann give the extended race report.

I almost didn’t participate. My Six Jersey Challenge attempt on Thursday had only been finished about 16 hours before. However, as I walked down the stairs into the basement my legs didn’t have that stiff feel I had when I woke up that morning.

I had a muted excitement about this ride. It would be the first time I would race with the new Zwift update. This update allows us to connect both a power meter and a Kickr to the program. This is helpful to me because while I love the feedback the Kickr allows from the software, I have not always liked the way it sends data.

You can’t ride like you would on the road. For instance, going for a sprint you have to start well before you think you do because you have to get the wheel spun up before the wattage reaches the level you need. Then when you are finished it just continues releasing the power.

This also plays a factor when trying to ride in a nuanced manner. I have been suspicious that this delay has played a role in my inability to stay with a group. I just haven’t learned how to find the sweet spot.

Riding with the power meter solves that issue. The response from the crank based power meter to the computer is immediate. Now there is only the small delay as the software receives the data and processes it.

Even if I couldn’t finish strong in the race, at least I could test my theory. So after warming up with Chris Wiedmann I pulled into the “drop in” zone to await the start. I kept seeing more and more riders appear with FTR beside their names. This would be a big group.

Becker is the lone rider in the middle - putting a hurting on us!

Becker is the lone rider in the middle – putting a hurting on us!

We rolled off and I looked around to take stock of the FTR-A riders around me. There didn’t seem to be too many. Most riders were FTR-B or C. Well, at least I could count on having a top ten finish!

There was Wiedmann, of course. F. Garcia and M. Wardle were on board. C. Schumm was there as well as N. Law — the usual suspects. This might work out okay… then I saw H. Becker pop up nearby. Oh boy, this really changed everything.

We finished up the warmup and Wiedmann called the start. Immediately I knew things were going to be different. I found it easy to adjust with the ebb and flow of the pack. I was paying so much attention to sitting in I didn’t notice a move up front.

Suddenly, I saw Becker and Garcia with a 2 second gap. This was not normal. Typically there was no attempt to make a selection until the first climb. Here we were just getting started and two strong riders were testing us.

I knew then I had to cross the gap or they would be gone. I could see Wardle and Wiedmann responding the same way. However, by the time we reached the sprint zone Wardle, Garcia, and myself with Becker were holding a soft gap over the rest of the field.

The rollers grew the gap even more and then on the first climb we were over a minute over the closest following racer. I was just happy to hold with the other three riders. We went over the top together and I spent the rest of the second full lap trying to make Becker and company do as much of the work as possible.

It was working until we reached the rollers. This was when I started to feel fatigued. It wasn’t that my heart rate was over the top. It was up there, but manageable. It was simply a matter of my legs feeling fatigued.

However, I stayed with them to finish out that second lap. It was now time to take on the climb once more. We hit it and the other guys started up at a pace that would have me pushing up at over 400 watts. It was too much. I could do 350, but that was it. I was done trying to keep up with them.

That was the race. For the most part the finishing order was where each racer was at that point (though the time gaps continued to grow). I kept an okay pace, but to be honest, with over a minute lead on the next racer, I didn’t have a lot of motivation to push too hard. I would ride along and then pick up my pace if I saw him closing in.

I finished a distant fourth place, but I was happy! Finally, I had no instance where I found myself slipping off the back and having to push to get back on. Of course, with the very early move, there wasn’t much pack riding for me anyway!

One sad thing to note. I was followed by G. Christopher who was in the B group. He stayed about 40 seconds behind me and even closing into around 15 seconds as I would begin a climb. One time he messaged the group asking where the finish was… the alien statues?

I tried to reply to him to say the Start/Finish banner, but my iPhone was so covered with sweat, I couldn’t get the touch screen to work! I had also dropped my towel earlier and had nothing dry with which to wipe it off. Unfortunately, no one replied and he stopped at the statues.

It is sad that he was giving me, an A rider, pause for concern and had the B race wrapped up. He ended with a DNF. Good ride, Garry! Sorry I couldn’t warn you.

And now… for the real report from Chris Wiedmann:

FTR Race Report 2015-06-05

19 riders gathered for the start of today’s Friday Training Race. This week H.-G. Becker was the main engine in the grinder that chewed up and spit out the rest of the riders. He drove the pace hard and managed a solo victory over M. Wardle with F. Garcia following some distance back in third.

In the B race a miscommunication cost G. Christopher the victory when he finished 1/2 lap early leaving B. Greatrick to take the victory with M. R and J. Lemon rounding out the podium. In the C race, S. Carter held off R. Butler for the victory with S. Yeatts on the third step of the podium.

The race started out fast with immediate attacks over the rollers after the start. Only Becker, Wardle, Garcia and J. Pait made it to the first climb in the lead group. Becker immediately drove the pace up, pulling out a 5s gap over the other riders, but they regrouped shortly thereafter.

On the next big climb, however, Becker managed to split the field with Wardle the only rider able to stay in contact. Garcia and Pait followed solo with growing gaps between all riders. On the third climb Becker proved his superiority by dropping Wardle. The rest of the race was a time trial to the finish with Becker taking the win and the rest of the group following in order.

The fast start separated the B group from the As by the back climb. J. Lemon managed to get a small lead with G. Christopher, J. Curley and B. Greatrick chasing one-by-one further back. By the second climb, Lemon and Christopher had joined up with Greatrick and Curley chasing. On the third climb Greatrick opened a gap on Curley and started working to bridge to the leaders. Curley dropped back to the next chase group of M. R and I. Munro.

Christopher managed to get a gap on Lemon on the back climb of this lap. Christopher and Greatrick pushed on solo in front of the chasers while M.R managed to bridge up to Lemon at the base of the last climb. Christopher dropped out leaving Greatrick to solo to the victory. M.R managed to pull out a slim lead on Lemon and hold him off to the line for second. Lemon finished third.

In the C race, Carter and Butler managed to establish a lead group in front of the rest of the field. Carter managed to pull out a gap on the last lap that he held to the finish. Butler solo a short time after, with Yeatts following for third.

A Group
1. H.-G. Becker 1:00:59 (41.0 km/h)
2. M. Wardle 0:00:32
3 F. Garcia 0:02:54
4. J. Pait 0:05:41
5. C. Wiedmann 0:09:20
DNF N. Law (Pub emergency)

B Group
1. B. Greatrick 1:05:35 (37.0 km/h)
2. M. R 0:01:03
3. J. Lemon 0:01:08
4. J. Curley 0:03:53
5. R. Van Praet 0:04:03
DNF G. Christopher
DNF I. Munro (Pub emergency)

C Group
1. S. Carter 1:11:45 (34.9 km/h)
2. R. Butler 0:00:22
3. S. Yeatts 0:04:52
4. T. Marshall 0:11:35
-1 Lap
5. G. Raya -0:07:00

Note: Time gaps for entertainment purposes only. Corrections to placings and race narrative are welcome. I have skipped listing anybody whose Strava activity I could not find. If you wish to be included, let me know.

Event Link:
Strava fly-by:…

Walloped on Watopia

When something isn’t working, you sometimes have to take a chance to try something different.  The problem is there is no guarantee that what you try will work. It’s the risk you take, but it doesn’t make you feel any better when you fail.

Well, that is what happened at last night’s Tuesday Night Worlds on Zwift’s Watopia Island.

My best ever finish on one of these Zwift races was third. Several of them were DNFs and the rest involved me finishing somewhere mid to back of the A group. All I know is that I am getting tired of getting several laps in and then getting gapped on the KOM climb and then being left to fight over scraps.

So approaching last night’s race I decided to take a different approach. I would try to keep my power up by increasing my cadence instead of my usual mashing along. I also would do everything in my power to stay protected in the group. Finally, my plan included going as easy as possible up the KOM climb — even if it meant a slight gap at the top.

On Watopia, it is hard for me to get the power I need to pull my weight around when I am spinning at, say, 95 rpm. I’m typically hitting my power sweet spot when I am in the mid-seventies. In real life, I would typically be averaging low to mid-eighties.

My hope was that by getting in the field, I could allow them to pull me along and I would not need to produce as much power and I could spin along. Of course, this changed the dynamics of how I’ve raced on the island. I wasn’t prepared for what happened.

I knew I was going to be in trouble before we had even finished a half a mile. The start is on a decline and then onto a flat. At first things seemed fine. I was with the front part of the group. I was pedaling along at 90 rpm. I began to slip back in the group, but that was okay. I figured I just needed to find the right rhythm.

As I started slipping farther back, I started increasing my cadence to bring my power up. I was now well over 100 rpm. Then I dropped off the pack as we came onto the flat section.

Once that happened, it was as though someone had put one of the running parachutes on my back. I tried to ease my way back to the field, but they appeared to be getting farther away. Finally, I shifted to a harder gear and went after them. I finally caught them, but I was already feeling the burn and was mentally frustrated.

I tried again and this time with a little more success. Success, that is until I reached the rollers. I learned how to attack the rollers in my normal lower cadence approach. Now with this different method I found myself once again getting separated and fighting to get back to the group after making it through the rollers and onto the “finishing stretch.”

Twice on this first part of the race I had sustained periods of efforts over 500 watts. Worse, I was mentally starting to fight the “here we go again” attitude. Still, here I was with the group and the climb was next. This could be the place where my new approach would pay off.

At first things seemed to be going okay. I didn’t start on the front, but close enough that I figured I would be able to set my own pace. So, I aimed to keep my wattage at or just under 400 watts. This is about 50 watts less than I typically put out to stay with the front in these races.

I also noticed I had an aero power up. My thought was that I could allow a slight gap at the top and then use the power up to give me a slight advantage in a chase. Saving my average watts up the climb might leave more in the bank even if I had to do a short effort to get back on.

Experience should have told me this was not going to work. Here is the fact: if you are gapped by 4 seconds when you reach the top of the climb and the riders ahead are in a compact group, you are toast — or you are one strong rider! My plan fell apart right there.

I launched my power up right before I crested the KOM line. I shifted down to put in a dig. The 4 second gap coming up to the line suddenly was 12 seconds before I new it. It hung there taunting me for a bit and then started ticking up.

My plans of putting in a chasing effort fell apart. I just settled in trying to hold the gap. When it reached 20+ seconds, things did hold for awhile. I even noticed a couple of times that I gained a second or two. However, by the time we crossed the start finish banner, the gap was over 30 seconds.

I was done. Of course, I still had hopes that I would stay ahead of the riders behind and maybe I could get past some riders who might fall off ahead. I pushed along looking for drafting help. However, most riders I came upon were not riding at high enough speed to help me without causing me to lose more time.

Finally, with the gap ahead over one minute, I decided to just finish out the fourth lap and call it a night. It wasn’t fun anymore and I had no real objective to accomplish. No need to rub in the disappointment by slogging through that last lap.

It was one of those “why do I do this” kind of moments. I mean, I’m not a guy in the running for winning these things, but, come on, that was just awful! There were C group riders who finished in front of me.

Of course, you know, I will have to try again.

Watopia Friday Training Race

Enjoyed participating in the Watopia Friday Training Race that takes place each Friday afternoon at 1:30 PM EST. In this post I am going to tell you how to participate and then provide you with both text and video recaps of the event. This race I titled, “Attack of the Schumm.”

People often ask how they can participate. It is quite simple if you have the Zwift software and an account. If you find what you see here interesting, but you are not on Zwift; I would point you to their website at It is in open beta. So no waiting line to play!

Once you have the software installed, your account set up, and your trainer configured; you are ready to race! I would suggest you follow the steps below in the order I give. It will keep you from freaking out at the last second realizing you are set up correctly.

  1. Go to your account and click on the Edit Profile button. Where you see your last name, add the following FTR-A, FTR-B, or FTR-C. Those letters represent the level at which you think you could be competitive. “A” racers typically are pretty fast. They are finishing a lap of Watopia in under 14 minutes. Of course, you can move up or down once you get in there and find how you match up with the pace.
  2. By the way, if you do not have an account on Strava. It is a great help to the race organizers to have you link your Zwift profile to Strava. This allows them to watch the race virtually and determine the finishing order.
  3. Hopefully, you do the above well before it is time to prepare for the actual race. I’d suggest you do it the morning of or at least an hour before the event. You’ll then be ready to warm up. I will log in about 25 to 30 minutes before the ride and do a lap at a reasonable pace. As time moves toward the start… say five minutes before, I then end my warmup.
  4. Ending your warmup will take you completely out of the program and you will need to start it again. When you do, you will notice the list pops up that asks if you want to “Just Ride” or “Join” someone on the list. I always look for C. Wiedmann and “Join” with him. If I don’t see him on the list, I click “Just Ride” which should put you in the general vicinity of all the other competitors.
  5. Watch the chatter and you’ll find out if Wiedmann is leading the ride or if someone else is heading up the race for the day. They will announce when to start rolling. You will see a bunch of FTR riders amassing. All you have to do is get in that group and follow the instructions given.
  6. Remember, the race does not start immediately. There is plenty of time for everyone to group before the race leader calls the GO! once the riders reach the weird looking statues of cyclist dudes (aliens?) and everyone goes from a rolling start. Take a look at this video… it shows how it works:

Of course, the video only covers the A race. Chris Wiedmann does an awesome job putting together reports following each race that covers all the categories. This is where the Strava account and proper use of the FTR abbreviation in the name you give the Strava activity becomes important. Be sure you name your Strava activity a name that includes FTR.

So, with no further ado… here is Chris’ report from the May 29, 2015 race.

20 riders showed up for the start of this week’s Friday Training Race. The A race was won in an exciting three-up sprint by F. Coppex with C. Schumm and M. Wardle rounding out the podium spots. The B race was taken by a small margin by N. Koenigstein (who was given a field promotion from the C category since he finished in front of all the B riders) over I. Munro with Mike Brew on the third step of the podium. R. Butler won the C race with S. Carter and W. Elvin following over the line.

The A race started with the usual contest of strength up the first climb. Six riders made it past the first selection: Coppex, Schumm, Wardle, F. Garcia, J. Pait and C. Wiedmann. In an effort to change the usual script, Schumm attempted an attack on the roller before the bicycle statues that held for a short time but was closed down by the sprint banner. The second climb took Garcia off the back, with the third climb claiming Wiedmann and Pait.

The three leaders worked together, quickly distancing Pait and Wiedmann who were riding solo in front of Garcia and Law who had combined efforts to chase. This situation held to the finish with the exception of Pait who sat up in the final lap to record video of the final sprint.

Wardle seemed content to lead out the sprint for the leaders. He left it late and jumped from the 100m sign. Coppex reacted quickly and managed to jump by with a strong acceleration with Schumm on his wheel. Schumm ran out road to come around giving Coppex the win.

The B race broke up in the early stages when the pace was pushed. Koenigstein was able to close the gap to the A group and ride with them for 1 1/2 laps. I. Munro and N. Law (from the A group) managed to work together for a lap before Law joined Garcia and Munro lost touch. Brew, J. Gill, G. Christopher and J. Denny chased solo further back.

The early effort took it’s toll on Koenigstein who drifted back behind Munro. He managed to find a second wind in the last lap to make up the deficit and take the win by 7 seconds over Munro. Brew followed less than a minute later to take the final podium spot.


A Group
1. F. Coppex 1:00:14 (41.6 km/h)
2. C. Schumm s.t.
3. M. Wardle s.t.
4. C. Wiedmann 0:02:57
5. F. Garcia 0:03:35
6. N. Law s.t.
7. J. Pait 0:08:10

B Group
1. N. Koenigstein 1:05:35 (38.1 km/h)
2. I. Munro 0:00:07
3. M. Brew 0:00:54
4. J. Gill 0:00:59
5. G. Christopher 0:02:04
6. J. Denny 0:04:37
DNF L. Ranicar (network problems)

C Group
1. R. Butler 1:06:32 (37.6 km/h)
2. S. Carter 0:07:03
3. W. Elvin 0:08:56
4. N. Pedersen 0:11:58

Note: Time gaps for entertainment purposes only. Corrections to placings and race narrative are welcome. I have skipped listing anybody whose Strava activity I could not find. If you wish to be included, let me know.

Event Link:
Strava fly-by:…

Make your plans to participate next week!

Bridesmaid but never a bride

Yep, I went out yesterday and tried to take back the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment. As has been the case often recently, I came up just a tad bit short. It was great to get a personal record, but I missed the KOM by 1 measly second.

I’ll come back to that effort in another post. Today I’m going back in time a bit to another time when I was a bridesmaid. Or, I guess I should say a groomsman…

Yes, this time I came up short behind Christopher Uberti. He has raced for several continental pro and elite cycling teams. You may have seen him a few years in the SmartStop colors. Most recently you may have seen him doing yeoman’s work in the Athens Twilight criterium race.

Chris is one of those guys on Strava with a little PRO badge by his name.  You’ll see a few of these on the Strava leaderboards around Greenville, SC. I think it might be time for Mr. Hematocrit to pay this place a visit!

There are a number of professional riders that live in the area. However, Greenville for many years was the location for the USA Cycling Professional Road Racing Championships. Some of the times up and over Paris Mountain still refer back to Strava data uploaded from those races.

This segment isn’t one of those. It is somewhat unique in that it is one of the few segments I created myself. It is long enough, safe enough, and challenging enough to be a segment. It doesn’t hurt that it is relatively close to my home.

I enjoyed the KOM for a bit back in 2013 before Mr. Uberti showed up one day and crushed my time by about 16 seconds. It was just about this time I started seeing his times popping up on other Strava segments I enjoyed. This wasn’t the last one I would see fall to him.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 8.55.26 AMHere is the thing. I make getting this KOM a goal in my old man cycling world. Chris picks it up just out doing what he does. If you look at the ride where he claimed the top spot you will see he named it, “Tooling around.” On this ride he claimed three KOMs and a number of PRs.

I don’t be grudge these guys their KOMs. Frankly, I am glad there are some times posted by pros. It gives me a chance to see the speeds and efforts it takes to ride at that level.

However, I freely admit that when it comes to pro times on Strava, I feel no shame in cherry picking. I figure it is only fair to level the playing field and give us amateurs a chance on the leaderboard. Sometimes you do what you can to avoid having to catch another bouquet.

Strava Segment: Woodland Way Sprint Climb

I could have headed over to Donaldson Center for the Tuesday Night World Championships or stayed home for the throw down on Watopia. Instead, I made my way to Cleveland Park to make an attempt at earning back my KOM on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment.

My secondary objective was to get some video of the attempt in order to create another installment of my YouTube Strava Segments series. The cameras were prepped and the lighting was great. So I had no doubt I’d get some some good video. Whether I would get the KOM was not so certain.

Woodland Way Sprint Climb is .2 miles long with a 3% average grade. That average is a bit deceitful when it comes to understanding how much that segment can hurt. If you divide the climb into two sections you find the first portion averages more like 6%. The second section even has some negative grade. This combination actually adds to the challenge.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 7.12.18 AM

I rolled into the park feeling kind of fatigued. The night before I climbed on the trainer to help get in some miles for the $5000 fundraising campaign on Watopia. As I was spinning, I felt that my legs were very flat. I made an attempt on the Watopia climb and it was as if my legs were telling me to “Shut up, Jonathan.”

After several laps of the abbreviated park route due to bridge construction, I decided it didn’t matter how my legs felt. I was going to have to give it an attempt at some point. It was now or I might as well go home.


“Pain is good. Pain means you are going fast.” This is what I told myself. “Your legs might feel tired, but you’ve got power. This is yours.” I picked up the pace and my confidence lifted with my cadence.

I hit the base of the climb in 53×11. The Felt surged forward and I could feel the power transferring to the rubber on the road. As I fought against the grade, there were times when the bicycle seemed to want to buck to the right or left. I worked to keep it going as straight as possible to avoid any waste of movement.

I had no idea what power I was putting out. I just went hard. With the top in sight the effort began to catch up with me. I did feel that fatigue, but what I felt beneath it was power. The training was making itself known. My legs were riding through it.

Then I crested the major part of the climb and now I had to deal with something else. While earlier I was fighting getting bogged down, now I was fighting to get power and speed from a more rapidly turning crank. The problem was it still wasn’t turning fast enough.


The slow twitch muscle that helped me on the climb was now working against me. I couldn’t get my cadence up enough to take advantage of the negative to shallow grade. My wattage dropped and my speed increased, but not by as much as it could have. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, “More powaaarrrr!”

As I crossed the line I was done. It wasn’t that I was gasping for air or felt nausea. It was that my legs felt like two sticks of wood. With the effort done, so were they. Had I been in a race, I would have been dropped right there.

It was with some surprise I arrived home to find I had indeed earned back my crown. However, it wasn’t an out-and-out victory. I had tied Nathan Race’s KOM of 40 seconds.

I’ll take it! A PR and sharing the KOM isn’t so bad. Yes, I do believe it can be done faster. However, I’m not sure I could get the speed I would need to make the jump to 39 seconds. Frankly, I think this one will stand for a bit.

That is just fine with me! My legs aren’t ready to go out there to defend it.

The shorter they are the harder they fall

Got another alert from Strava last night. Seems I just lost another KOM. This one has me concerned. I’m not sure I’ll be getting this one back.

The segment is the Woodland Way Sprint Climb… or is it the Woodland Way Burst? This is an example of one of the annoying things about Strava. These two segments are basically the same thing with the later being a bit shorter than the former. There is also a Woodland Sprint Interval which is shorter still. I removed my 7 second KOM from that leaderboard because I realize there was absolutely no way I went up that segment at 56 mph!

That leads us to a second thing you have to keep in mind when you are looking at the leaderboards with your mouth dropped open as you consider some of the times posted. In some cases you may even think that someone rode through the segment in their car. However, that isn’t always the case, and the shorter the segment the more likely you’ll see these wildly varying times.

The point is, it takes time and distance to make up a segment. Time is measured by the distance. Gimpy GPS data can lead to suspect time. My 7 second climb up the first part of Woodland Way is a perfect example. The more real estate Strava has to work with, the more accurate the time will be. Throw is the fact that Woodland Way is heavily covered in foliage and Woodland Sprint Interval can be a Strava tracking nightmare.

I had this confirmed from Strava when I once created a segment called Wellington Wall. I was frustrated because people were actually getting the KOM (which is a tough one to claim!) by simply riding down a perpendicular street. I went to Strava to see if I could find out what was going on and they let me know that the segment was too short. Also, it was in a wooded area that at times led to errant GPS readings.

So, I went back and increased the length of the segment. It is still a tough one with an average 17% grade! However, there are no longer any false-positive KOMs.

For this reason, I’m putting my focus on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb. While the Woodland Sprint Interval segment was the first created of the three, it can’t be trusted to be an accurate leaderboard. Woodland Burst is longer than the Interval, but I figure if you get the Woodland Way Sprint Climb, you are probably going to land the Burst anyway.

I am going to give it a try, but I’m not holding out much hope on this one. I know how hard I’ve gone up this segment. That one second looms large!

That is the other thing about short segments. The shorter the distance the less you have to work with to gain speed. The amount of speed you need to shave off a second grows each time a rider chops it down. At some point, you reach the lowest time humanly possible.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 10.03.54 AM

When I took the KOM back in 2012, I crossed the segment in 41 seconds at 25.9 mph. I had to put out 710 watts to make it happen. Yesterday, Nathan Race knocked out a 40 second time at 26.6 mph. Strava shows he averaged 861 watts for the climb with a max of 1404 watts!

It doesn’t matter if Nathan did it in 40.9 seconds and I do it in 40.1 seconds. It still shows up as 40 seconds on Strava. Best case scenario there is that I manage a tie.

To get down in the 39 second range will require me to average over 27.5 mph. That will require quite an increase in power output! The closest segment I’ve done recently to this is the Walker Wimps. It is the same distance, but most of the climb is at the end instead of the start — kind of the opposite of my target segment. Also the average grade is 7% while Woodland Way Sprint Climb is 3%.

The question becomes… “Can I put out around 900 watts for 39 seconds?” My lungs and legs are screaming at me just thinking about it! However, I’m thinking that is what it is going to take if I’m to reclaim the crown.

Here is my one hope. You see, I’ve never actually set out to claim this segment. I landed the KOM back when I was attempting to get the KOM for the Cleveland Loop. That means I was not going all out up the climb because I was having to conserve a bit for the best time over a 2 mile effort. I landed the Cleveland Loop KOM that day with a time of 6:15 and then reclaimed it at 6:05, but I’m pretty certain I’ve lost it for good to Christopher Uberti (a continental professional who races for Smart Stop) who owns the KOM at 5:02.

Well, stay tuned… I’ll go for it and hopefully won’t die trying!

UPDATE: So what happened when an attempt was made to take back the KOM?

Play-by-play of Friday Training Race

This will be a short blog post. I’m letting the video do the talking. After last Friday’s Zwift Training Race on Watopia, I wrote a post about it. This time, I figured it would be fun to let everyone see it. Of course, this isn’t like a Tour De France production! It is told completely from my point-of-view.

Won’t be able to join the guys next week. Have to travel on business. I’ve come to enjoy these competitions and though I’ve never met the guys with whom I’m racing, I’ve come to consider them riding buddies. It would be cool to someday have a Zwift Live Meetup.

Until then… I’ll see you guys on the island. Ride On!

Racing on Zwift is the real deal

Each week there are a couple of training races that take place on Watopia. The Tuesday Night Worlds and the Friday Training Race are the two I will typically attempt. It is somewhat of a challenge because the TNW takes place during the time of the “real life” ride with the same name here in Greenville. The Friday race takes place at 1:30 PM — when I am typically at work. Yesterday I was taking a long weekend, so I was able to join in the fun.

Special thanks to Chris Wiedmann who organizes the events. It is an interesting exercise to organize a “virtual race” and then to report on it afterwards. Chris does a good job, and I wanted to share his report from Friday so you can see what it is like. I’ll have some comments from my perspective at the end of his report.

FTR Race Report 2014-05-01

Fifteen riders took the start for what we’ll call “Rund um Watopia” in tribute to the pro race that was cancelled today. A strong international field with representation from South America, North America and Europe rolled out promptly at 17:30 UTC for the neutral promenade to the bicycle statues. As usual the first half lap at race pace was relatively quiet with only a brief testing of legs on the back climb.

The first climb was the first real test of strength. Matt Wardle (UK) initiated the acceleration with H-G Becker (GER) following suit to push the pace. The field showed considerable depth with 9 riders cresting the climb in the lead pack. A little later in the lap, Becker and Francois Coppex (CH) again tested the field with an acceleration on the back field that opened a small gap. The gap was only a few seconds but took ominously long to close, with the group only coming back together past the start/finish line.

The second main climb followed a script similar to the back climb with Becker initiating a move and Coppex following. The pair then started rolling away from the chasers. Jonathan Pait (US) tried a bridging move after the hairpin, but was unable to make the junction. Just after the KOM line he came back to the chase group consisting of Wardle, Casey Schumm (US), Robson Figueiredo Rodrigues (BR) and Christian Wiedmann (US). Unfortunately the bridging effort had taken a toll and he lost contact on the rollers before the bicycle statue.

Becker and Coppex worked together well, slowly opening up the gap. Wardle was clearly strongest of the chasers and after pulling the group for a lap decided to go on his own up climb 3. He got to within 30 seconds of the two leaders, but then got stuck in no-man’s-land 30 seconds in front of the chasers.

This situation held to the finish. Coppex and Becker sprinted for the win with Coppex leading out and barely holding off Becker for the win. Wardle finished solo in third. Schumm won the sprint for fourth over Rodrigues.

1. Francois Coppex 1:00:16 (41.6 km/h)
2. H-G Becker s.t.
3. Matt Wardle 0:00:37
4. Casey Schumm 0:01:37
5. Nelson Figueiredo Rodrigues s.t.
6. Christian Wiedmann 0:01:55
7. Jonathan Pait 0:04:43
8. Frank Garcia 0:05:42 (completed three more iterations of the full ride distance afterward – 20 laps total)
9. Mark Howard 0:05:45
10. Jonathan Lemon 0:07:01
11. John Greig 0:08:17
12. George Thomaidis 0:12:04
13. Johnny Bevan -1L 0:05:24
DNF M. Trudell
DNS J. Purtell (gender disfunction)

Note: Time gaps for entertainment purposes only. Corrections to placings and race narrative are welcome.

Not placed because  I couldn’t locate the Strava activity
G. Christopher

I think it is easy for people to discount Zwift racing because you are not actually on the road. You definitely have a point in that the dangers or racing are not present. Road hazards, equipment failures, and close proximity with other riders are not an issue. However, when it comes to effort and strategy, this IS racing.

Consider the course. “Oh, you’re just spinning along on your trainer.” Nope. Here is the topographical map of the island. See that climbing? It is real. The data used to create this virtual course is sent to my Wahoo Kickr and the resistance on my drive train increases to match the incline.

So, all the tactics of when and where to attack are there. This climbing is real! Actually, I think the one place where the island really steps out of reality is on the downhill. I found that the group seemed to pull away from me on the downhills and at times I was putting out 400+ watts just to get back to the group. Then I would go shooting through them and then when I tried to find the sweet spot that would keep me in the group, I would immediately start fading back to repeat the process. Frankly, that worked to wear me out early.

Consider the data from my participation in the race which lasted 1:15 hours and covered 29 miles…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.26.22 AM

Now, compare that to the most recent road race in which I participated that lasted for two hours and covered 43 miles…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.29.13 AM

What about the work I put out? Here is the power breakdown from the above road race…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.31.38 AM

Compare that with the breakdown from yesterday’s Zwift race…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.36.27 AM

Keep in mind that the Zwift race data includes a cool down lap that lasted for about 20 minutes. So, the percentages above Active Recovery will be higher than what you see here. Even with that lap, the effort put out in the Zwift race exceeds that of the road race. Yes, the road race was longer, but I did not work as hard.

Now, you could say that I am comparing apples to oranges… maybe it is more like oranges to tangerines. The two activities are definitely NOT the same. Zwift racing puts the emphasis on effort and secondly on tactics. The software has some work to be done before you will see riders taking advantage of a pace line in a chase group.

However, it is cool to see the race develop. It is like having a TV monitor of your race as you are able to instantly see time gaps. You have the visual stimulus of seeing the riders ahead of you forming that gap or drawing closer as you chase them down. It isn’t like racing in a group, but it has its own camaraderie.

Zwift will never replace racing on the road. It will never match the thrill of racing on the road. However, as a means of competition in and of itself, it is a blast… and is the closest you are going to get to racing on the road while in your basement!

The main point I’m trying to make is don’t downplay the competitive nature and sheer workload of competing on Zwift… especially if you are using an intelligent trainer. It may not be the same as racing on the road, but I give testimony that it is RACING!


No race for me today

I am typing this in a medicated stupor. it is either that or convulse with cough and cough. I feel like I’ve been through an abs crunching routine driven by a drill sergeant. My chest hurts, my diaphragm is sore, and my head is woozy.

I was hoping to get out to the Greenville Spring Training Series race today. I knew it would mean that I would have brave the cold temperatures, but I was excited that my morning had opened up and could race. Then Wednesday morning it hit.

It started as a little tickle in my chest. As the day went on, I found that the tickle was turning into an itching sensation and the coughing was starting to grow worse. I feared for my session I was supposed to teach at my church that night, but I was thankful that I made it through with only a couple of interruptions.

By the middle of that night though, all bets were off. My wife ended up moving to another room   because of my fits of coughing. And so it has been for the last two days.

I get some relief by breathing over a humidifier. I’ve never liked taking medicine much, but this time I went after it. I want to knock this thing out as soon as possible. I still have my sights set on my original plan of February 28’s River Falls race.

A side benefit of all this is that my time off the bike has resolved the pain in my calf muscles. My fatigue has also come more into line so that while my fitness had dropped a few points, my form is moving into the positive area. That should be good for when I am able to get back on the bike.

So, good luck to your brave souls heading out into the frigid temperatures to race. To my friends on Zwift Island keep the roads hot. Once I can beat this cold, I’ll be back!

Things are not always what they seem

One of my most embarrassing moments on a bicycle was at the conclusion of a race where I made a jerk of myself. This was compounded because I thought I knew something had happened and I responded to it. Turns out what I thought happened didn’t.

Life lesson learned. Don’t react to what you think happened. Act when you know the truth.

I was finishing the final lap of a race on the BMW test track course. Being a relatively new racer and trying to pick up as many points as I could, I sprinted for the line hoping to get inside the top twenty. In doing so, I zipped around a couple of riders who (older and wiser) were winding it down as they approached the line.

One of them was a teammate of mine. I know I frustrated him because I was a noob. I tended to do stupid things — not dangerous, but tactically infantile.

As I went past, I heard something a long the lines of “What the —- are you doing? You’re going to ——- hurt somebody!” Now, first of all. This was a true statement. I shouldn’t have altered my line to weave through the slower riders. Basically, the race was over. However, nobody likes to be cursed at.

Well, I got angry and assumed it was my teammate who had had words with me in the past — though not cursing. I went off on him and said some things in anger. I even posted a tweet expressing my anger.

Guess what? It wasn’t my teammate. It was the other guy. Actually, the more I’ve taken the time to understand my ex-teammate, I realize that isn’t anything he would do. Now, he might silently rip your legs off in the next race, but he wouldn’t act out like that.

I had to publicly apologize for my stupidity. I’ve grown to respect his racing knowledge and abilities even more as I’ve grown to understand the “rules of the peloton.” Now I’m glad I had the opportunity to race with him and am enjoying his son seeming to follow in his footsteps.

Now, that brings us to this weekend. Yesterday, I posted the race video on YouTube. Before I watched the video, I crafted my race report. I ended up having to change my post after I watched the video because something I thought happened, didn’t.

Toward the end of the last lap, Darrin Marhanka came around me. Almost immediately, Rodney Dender also came sailing past on his way to bridging over to the break. From my vantage point on the front, it appeared that Darrin had pulled Rodney up to the front to launch him and then move over to control the pace.

On the video, I realized that wasn’t the case. Darrin came up through the field alone until he got to his teammate, Chris Knetsche. You can see Darrin say something to Chris and then move up to come around me. You then watch Rodney attack from further back in the field.

Even seeing the video, I thought Darrin was coming to Chris to let him know Rodney was going to attack and they should settle in to hold back the pace. What I saw happen seemed to be consistent with that. However, even your eyes can lie.

What happened was Rodney had told Darrin that the break looked dangerous and that the team should work to bring them back. Marhanka had come forward to tell Chris that they needed to move to the front and help pull (which would have made me happy).

Darrin had no idea that Rodney was going to attack at that point. He was not coming around me to hold the pace for Rodney’s attack. He was coming around to start working. Of course, when he saw Rodney take the flyer, he eased off to allow his teammate to get the gap.

This is what makes racing a bike so interesting. It is so much more than pedaling as hard as you can. There are strategies and politics going on constantly. It is kind of like life!

However, just like in life, your assumptions can get you in trouble. Don’t act just on what you THINK happened. It is always good to OBSERVE what happened. Even better, it is a good idea to talk to people and find out what ACTUALLY happened.

It will help you understand tactics better. More importantly, it will help you avoid messing up relationships.