MGCC Pursuit - No Chance to Catch this Rocket!
What’s a pursuit?
Ah, the pursuit. This is a format that works really well on Zwift. Each category starts with an appropriate time handicap (D - 5:50AM, C - 5:54AM, B - 5:57AM, A - 5:59AM), positioning the race for a final showdown near the finish line. Effectively this is a blob versus blob battle, where you are rewarded for making the blob in your category go as fast as possible. You make catch and devour the other blobs with a strong sense of satisfaction. Then you sprint for the win.
Simple game plan. Hard to execute well. It requires pushing hard but not too hard. Working together, yet being aware of the individual strengths and weaknesses of the riders involved as they will quickly become competitors when the final catch is made. A finely layered strategy is required.
More often than not though, it becomes a numbers game. Not numbers in terms of how many watts you can push, but rather how big your blob is.
This race was held on the Road to Ruins course. A single lap, 30km long. Note the sections marked in red, I’ll be referring to these later!
Warm Up (+2:00 initial gap)
I was late. Literally clipping in the left shoe as the timer hit zero. So I jumped into this race with no warm up (excuses start here). I guess that made me super fresh! I adjusted my HRM a few times as it didn’t seem to want to read and I was pretty sure I was alive. It seemed like just about all the other Category A riders were in a similar mindset though, questioning just how alive they were. we cruised at a solid 43.6kph through to the base of the first hill. By comparison, our frenemies in Cat B did this section at 45.5kph
Ouch 1 (+2:15 gap)
So we were already losing time at this point, 15 seconds on a flat section. I didn’t know it at the time (I am going to have to train one of my kids to be a time keeper… and wake up before 6am) so we continued to push up the hill as per the standard plan. I used this as a 5 minute interval, trying to stay steady. We want to keep as many of our group together as possible to create as much draft as possible on the descent.
Recovery (+1:31 gap)
We made up some time. I know this because Rolston asked for a timecheck and I was able to pick up my phone and look on ZwitPower. I snapped a screenshot at the same time - why not? At this point Rolston took over at the front and led us quickly downhill to the base of the exit climb. Lucas, being the good guy he is even popped an aero on the way down. Not quickly enough though, as we would later find out. The physics of blob size were against us.
Ouch 2 (+1:58 gap)
We lost a lot of time on that descent. Even with Rolston pushing about 300w the whole way. It was pretty disappointing to be honest. Back to work we went on the climb out, trying to make up time without killing the entire group.
Major kudos again to Lucas who took one for the team and threw out a second aero on the bridge to give our little blob a speed boost. I was hoping that Cat B had fallen apart up this climb, as we came to the top there was a blob on the minimap… and that blob was blue. It was a contingent of Cat C riders. Damn.
Recover (+1:26 gap)
At this point our chances of a catch were fading fast but we did get some downhill assistance from infamous Hans Winter! Also, we managed to drop Lucas, which would hurt us later.
Tempo? (+1:28 gap)
This was the last time that we saw the Cat B blob on the map. Lucas was still doing us a solid and was calling out the gap. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t find our grove. We sort of meandered up this switchbacks. I was hoping someone else would pick up the pace here as this is a good draftable climb to make up time. No one was coming to the rescue today.
Push (+1:21 gap)
I think this is where the frustration set in. We had suddenly gathered a bunch of riders that had been shot out of B and C and they were just sitting in. Rolston asked if one of the new guys could perhaps take a pull (as he was doing most of that duty outside of the climbs), and PJ was the only person who responded with a few 4.5w/kg pulls across the Volcano Flats.
Ouch 3 (+1:20 gap)
Usually the ramps heading into the volcano are a spot for carnage and attacks. Unfortunately, I think the group knew we were done by this point. Minor 500w ramps, no fireworks. Defeat.
Look Around (+1:26 gap)
So, what now? Everyone pauses to look around at the sprint competition. I think to myself - are we really going to sprint for 20th?
Sprint (+1:31 gap)
After what seemed like a long time of people popping powerups and not accelerating, we finally go. Pretty sure it was Marcel leading out with an aero while PJ having a draft followed, and me who had managed to pick up some great bonus XP at the base of the jungle trying to hang on. Places 14, 15 and 16 went to PJ, myself and Rolston in some sort of dignified response to getting crushed by the Cat B blob. At least they didn’t take us in the sprint.
Well done B Group! I personally like seeing Joanne out foxing Blair in the sprint!