Zwift Canadian Nationals
It’s almost March! Apparently, in the Zwift world it means that it is time to crown national champions. All crap about cheating and verification aside, it is a ton of fun to be able to go up against what is considered the cream of the crop in your country and battle it out. Just how tough are you? I guess we will find out!
I had tried to get prepared all week similarly to how I would for a road event. Take the start time and work backwards, plan the week, make sure you are in good shape mentally an physically. I may have over done it Saturday with the Hang On Ride, even after a rare 30 minute warm up I still felt some of the reverberations from that effort in my legs for the first few minutes of the race, so let’s get on to that!
I logged into the pens 27 minutes early. I was already #58 in the list. Apparently other people were taking this seriously as well! The start list continued to grow, by the time the clock hit zero we were well over 450. Large contingents joined from Quebec and BC, some of which I had never had the pleasure of racing against. I immediately started limiting my odds. Top 25 maybe, I thought then I noted huge favourites - Warren Muir, Justin Purificanti, Bruce Bird, Ed Veal, Oliver Dowd, Eric Loiselle, Trevor O’Donnell and even Lionel Sanders took to the line. Ok, maybe top 50? Top 100? Any of these guys had the ability to really blow the race up.
We launched from the starting pens like a Telsa in plaid mode. Spinning up to several hundred watts for several minutes. In the 8:37 seconds leading up to the first climb, I had already averaged 50.5kph @ 324w and 170bpm. It was an immediate agony fest. Just hang in there, I told myself. Everyone else is suffering just as much as you are (I hoped). Hopefully we will get some recovery after this first climb and a bit of a separation happens.
Reverse KOM #1
I set a new PR here (3:29). Nothing major like we saw in the Polish and British championships (3:13 or below), pushing 382w @ 176bpm for the duration. I was pretty sure I was near peak vomit at this point. I just prayed to hang on to the surges and tried to get as much recovery between them as possible. We were only 10 minutes into a 70 minute race, right?!
Recovery (sort of)
We cross the KOM banner and I’m hoping for something that is going to help keep me on terms. I scored XP. Super valuable. I might have yelled an expletive as I see others pop aeros and draft power ups to push down the little mountain. I’ve got another chance coming up at the lap banner to grab something useful, but I come up empty handed again. Foiled by the Zwift gods of the Random Number Generator, I say my piece (starts with F and ends like aero tuck), and trundle on through the Esses and to the sprint banner where I finally get something - a draft power up - which will hopefully help me on the forward KOM.
Forward KOM #1
I honestly expected some pretty big fireworks here to splinter the group. I expected to get dropped as the leaders pounded out a sub 1:30 trip up this little climb. Then I was going to drop back and hang out with the chase group. I was pleasantly surprised to not have that happen. I managed the climb at under 500w, but peaking at 180bpm for not the first time in the 30 minutes that had elapsed in the race so far. I was seeing red for a bit, and missed a few wheels as they went by. Crap! I slammed on the draft power up as soon as I hit the flatter bit of the climb at the top, just before the banner (picking up a feather, I laughed) and working hard to rejoin the group before we hit serious downhills and I was permanently dropped.
The group was down to about 35 now and we were going to be settling in as we have most of the lap under our belt. The only serious bump in the road comes after the sprint banner, where I’m going to drop this silly feather and hope for something better. I got a feather, which I immediately used to offset the power up the hill to the Esses. I’m pretty sure that by this point I had tossed my towel from my bars to maximize cooling. Unzipped and a bottle half finished, 16 minutes cruising at an average of 48.7kph, 267w @ 162bpm, it was like a dream. That was about to turn into a nightmare.
Reverse KOM #2
So, when I hurt, others hurt. When I recover, I expect others to not recover… right? My brain was totally on board with that reasoning. So, this KOM should be easy. There’s still one to go, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Basically the same effort through the KOM. One second slower but you don’t notice that. The worst part was that I was positioned badly at the back. Thankfully I got a draft power up, I held on to the back of the pack. Then I had a mental break, “Hey, if I am so good at drafting, why not just tuck on the decent?”
BIGGEST MISTAKE I HAVE EVER MADE IN A ZWIFT RACE.
You can see it on my Strava data, I attempted to ramp it up after I knew I was screwed but it was too late. The blob was moving too fast. 1 second, 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, it was over. Hopes dashed. A momentary lack of judgement and I was done for the day.
Recovery/Chase/Stay Away in No Man’s Land
I now had a decision to make, do I try to pursue and maybe there’s a #conegate moment, or drop back to the major pack behind me? But wait, there’s a third option emerging. It appears that there is someone taking a flier off the main group. Denny Hohmer from Whitehorse, Yukon was about to be my saviour.
I’ve got no clue how legitimate his power numbers were but the two of us pushed 4.0w/kg+ for the remainder of this section. We kept the chasing group over 90 seconds back and grabbed another partner before we hit the forward KOM. My goal was now to stay away and secure a Top 40 finish. I made sure to hang onto my newly found aero powerup to make sure that was going to happen.
Forward KOM #2
Our trio continues to work well together. Denny yells at me once to pull. I put in some 5.0w/kg efforts to give him some recovery time. He seems happy and continues to work, and I continue to let him do so. We’re definitely not splitting it 50/50 and our newly found friend isn’t pulling much either, but I’m just happy we aren’t caught yet. I look at the map with some trepidation as we get closer to the forward KOM. Are these guys just going to dust me here? I say nothing that would give an indication of my current state of discomfort. Up we go and I head to the front in a defensive move to make sure no one tries to attack over the top, and if they do, I can react. A nice and steady 400w up the first part of the climb.
I am standing, and I unclip my right foot. Of course, at 171bpm, I’m not super graceful when it comes to clipping it back in. Seconds tick by. It feels like it takes forever to get the cleat re-seated. I don’t even look at the screen and just hammer it to jump back on. Maybe a dozen strong pedal strokes and I’m back to the group. I guess it was a good thing I was on the front, or I would have been climbing by myself.
We close out the climb still together, but our slower climb has allowed the chase group to make up significant time on us.
The three of us almost make it to the end of the Esses together, but as the time ticks down to the group behind us our fate is sealed. I take stock of the situation. Thanks to Denny, I’m not feeling too bad. I can tell from the leader board that these guys have been pushing it hard to catch us. The guys on the front have been pushing 5 and 6 w/kg for the last 10 minutes at least. If I play my cards right, I may have a chance.
One, two, three, four riders pass us on one of the undulating curves. I ramp up my effort. I can’t get dropped twice in the same race. Well, at least not to today. I latch on. Stay on the pointy end I say to myself. We enter the tunnel. Be patient, I say to myself. This is a big group, there will be lots of draft. Thumbs start raining down on riders heads (this is a bit distracting as I’m watching for powerups). I see some riders start to pop aeros while still on the downhill. Be patient, I remind myself. I follow wheels, the pace is increasing as those early aeros move to the front and people start to open up a bit. 500m out I pop my aero powerup but don’t yet open up. There are enough guys with power ups around me that continue to pull the bunch forward. I’m about 4 wheels back and orange numbers start at 250 meters. I am well positioned and give it everything - which at this point is only about 800w but it is enough. The kick immediately pushes me up almost 2kph as I race towards the finish. I manage to cross first out of this group, grabbing 32nd, after all is said and done on ZwiftPower.
Looking back, there is always room for improvement. As I play the “What If” game in my head, I know I only have myself to blame for this one. What if I didn’t race Saturday? What if I had not tried to recover so hard on the downhill? What if I didn’t have my trainer mat bunch up under by pedals (yeah, that happened too)? But that’s racing. There’s always going to be those little things that happen and it is the day when all those things fall your way that you actually win.
Looking at the results in the field, I know I had a shot at a Top 20 finish had I not made the same mistakes, but then again, there were guys that I respect and who can beat me most days significantly below me on the board as well. Maybe next year it will be their shot as well