MGCC Ride & Race - Don't show up late
The most important lesson you will ever learn in life is:
“5 minutes early is on time. On time is late. Late means you chase.”
Ok, maybe that last part doesn’t apply in every situation, but it does in Zwift racing. I rolled out of bed at 5:30AM, assuming I had 25 minutes until go time. Had a bowl of cereal, filled a bottle, grabbed a towel from the dryer and went downstairs to get kitted and set up.
I’m still in my PJs when I see the “Join Ride? Starting in 1 minute” notification on the side of the screen. I spare a second to consider if Late Join is turned on then quickly run over to the laptop to get into the pens. I don’t even have bibs or shoes on at this point and the counter is already at 15 seconds to start. I buckle the first shoe and watch the riders leave the pen. I throw my foot into the second shoe and then hop over the saddle. So much for a gentle warm up the group already looks to be about 90 seconds ahead.
I explained this race previously - one neutral lap @ 2.5-3w/kg, two race laps. Rolling start to race with double draft makes it tough to break away at the banner. A flat course makes attacks somewhat predictable as well, so it is likely going to be a bunch sprint finish.
I know they are taking it easy for the first lap so if I push it I can probably close this gap. However, double draft is on, so even at 3w/kg they could be moving at 45kph for all I know. So I dedicate myself to a 5w/kg effort to see how that goes.
Coming out to the end of Ocean Avenue, I see the gap is starting to drop quickly. I’m under 1 minute and the little ramp is ahead, so I up the pace. Clearing the top, I see I’ve cut the gap in half and I can see the golden light of Hans’ beacon. I can do it.
I slide in to the pack at the base of the switchbacks and rest up for the start of the race. I take note of a few names that have made an appearance today: PJ Kings, Matt Yankow, Luiz and some Splunk teammate I haven’t raced against; the rest of the MGCC crew which can toss out some epic surprise performances (like that time that Joanne beat Blair in the sprint?!). Given I’ve already burned some matches, I’m going to have to be very particular about the rest of this morning. Watching the four guys (PJ, Matt, Luiz and friend) is going to be key.
It’s worth noting that basically as soon as I rejoined the pack, everyone stopped listening to Hans and accelerated away, risking the DQ smackdown. Hans was merciful post race and let the results stand as most riders did soft pedal and let the blob catch before we hit Ocean Avenue.
The first laps ends up as a slightly faster than usual group ride. I put an attack in on the ramp up from Ocean Ave, there’s a little surge up the switchbacks as Blair attacks for what must be the 3rd or 4th time, Luiz attacks through the sprint bridge and we know we will bring him back by the start of Ocean Ave again. Blair yells at the pack for not pulling, we bring Luiz back anyways… YAWN.
The fun starts as Yankow just starts telling the group where he is going to attack. I’m honestly not sure to trust him or not. He says “I’m going to attack as we leave the tunnel”, and then he does. He says “I’m going to attack on the bridge,” which I assume means the sprint bridge, but he meant the dam bridge, and he does. There are enough folks still in the group that I don’t have to chase these back. I accelerate a bit up the last switchback towards the Italian villas (classic attack point) and cause enough damage to kick a few off the back of the group. As a final gift, Matt announces an attack through the Esses and follows through one last time. We have narrowed the group down to about 14 of an original 40 person bunch.
I try my best to be patient coming into the finale (queue list of excuses - I was late, I had to get up at 1am with the dog, I’m still tired from Nationals, etc) because I probably don’t have a full power sprint. With 14 guys, I was trying to pat attention to who was burning power ups after the sprint banner to get feel for what was left. I figure about 6 guys have something to play and 8 of these guys are known to be dangerous in the final meters of a race.
With about 600 meters left I’m sitting near the front and I see some other power ups pop over head. I wait a second to see the response - not much. I pop my aero and take a few hard strokes to make it look like I’m going to lead out. It works.4-5 guys immediately explode behind me (or it was just a coincidence), orange numbers hit the chart and I let them surge past me as I jump into their slipstream. As we pass the 250m marker, I get out of the saddle and try to open up as much as my legs will let me. Thanks to my aero which is still active, I manage to accelerate about 4kph in a few seconds and snatch a podium spot, just barely squeaking in front of Yankow but 30ms behind Andi from Splunk and 120ms the previously unknown Yu Guantou.
Here’s to hoping that attacks are as well advertised in subsequent races!