TeamEN Hang On Ride - A before Z
Progress. Training is all about making progress. It is hard to maintain peak form for an extended period of time, so you need a target. My original target was the Steaming Nostril gravel race. 97% gravel and road with 3% muddy trail (and deadly hill) nicknamed the longest kilometre. Get in a good group and finish Top 10 was the goal. Well, now that’s not happening. Instead, that Sunday I’m flying to LA for a conference. Sooooo, reset!
Thankfully there’s another race the following Friday, the Mosport Classic. A road race on a closed circuit race track, I have unfinished business there. It ate me for lunch last year and spit me out. I don’t intend to repeat that incident. Changing up the plan for a mere 5 days shouldn’t cause much of an issue but it does introduce a delay in my plan. I was just about to enter the Peak phase but now I have a bit of extended build.
This is all to say - I was ready to race today.
As explained before, the TeamEN Hang On ride starts at a nice warm up pace and continues to accelerate through the 60km course until the last 15km where it flips over to a race. At that point, everyone just hangs on as long as they can.
It was a slimmer than usual field this morning, likely owing to it being the end of March Break for most families and the outdoor race season starting up in the warmer climates. There are usually 100+ riders, and we were looking at about 70. Other rides over the weekend were similar. The usual competition were in attendance - Tim, Pat from TeamEN and Robin from the KISS Racing Team. Due to the shorter length of this event, you have to keep an eye out for wildcards as well. Those typically don’t show up until after the climb.
I managed to grab an aero powerup early. By the start of the race portion, I was pretty sure that all the major players had one. Level playing ground in the sprint meant it was going to be a bit of work beforehand to see who we could wear down.
It what seems to be the recurring theme with a double draft ride then race, the neutral part of the ride ends and the pace accelerates but nothing over the top yet.
The Jungle Climb
I was all set to just run a nice 4.5-5w/kg up the climb. Enough to dissuade attacks but keep the pace high. That didn’t work. Attacks, originating from Robin and Tim, pushed the pace up to the rope bridge. I was feeling good after holding on to a few, so as soon as people starting talking about how hard that was, I started to counter attack. Just enough to keep people on their toes. We had whittled the group down to 9 already.
There was a brief reprieve as we transitioned to the final bit of the climb out of the jungle where I resumed the program of trying to keep the pace high enough that few would want to go over the top. The secondary goal was to make sure the small group forming about 15 seconds back would not be joining us for the sprint. The fewer people that make it to the finishing straight, the easier it becomes.
We hit the paved part of the climb, and off goes Robin… again. I move to cover it while Tim and Pat latch on. Robin backs off a bit, while I continue a moderate drag up to the top of the hill. We’ve split off a few so let’s make it stick - no attack should go to waste. As we head over the top, the 5 remaining have a 5 second gap… and we had a wildcard - Richard Unwin, a rider from Innovation. We keep on the gas to keep the gap open. By the time we hit the switchbacks awe are up about 15 seconds, they’re not coming back.
Now to sort out these other four. As we ride over the dam, Unwin goes for an attack and Pat follows, then Robin. A bit early, but ok, I’ll play. I hop on. Pat sits up, so do I, then Tim goes over the top. Oh crap, I’ve been here before, but I don’t have much of an option. I’ve got to stick with Robin and this Unwin fellow, even if Pat and Tim are going to try to 1-2 punch us. Tim opens a big gap - that must have hurt - but he is unable to continue the attack all the way up the incline.
I raise the pace to drag the rest of the group back up to him and catch him right before we turn for the village - perfect. Unwin beats me to the attack - even better. I jump his wheel and hold on.Pat and Robin join, Tim is now in the hurt locker. I press the attack over the top of the hill. If I can make them work, maybe one will falter. Unfortunately soft pedaling starts on the downhill, Tim rejoins as we head towards the volcano.
We seemed content to coast into the finish. Well, we can’t have that there is a chase group back there somewhere and at this point I know that Tim and Robin at a minimum are suffering. I move to the front to up the pace a little bit, pushing just over 4 until we come into the volcano proper where I drift back a bit and let the group slow. I manage to get both Tim and Pat in front of me and wheel surf to the base of the ramps.
Unwin unleashes an attack again. Over 11w/kg but early. We are still 20m from the base of the ramps. Pat jumps, I jump onto Pat, and Robin onto me. We sprint up the hill in single file. As we get to the turn, I see we have a 2-3 second gap on Tim. BINGO. Have to keep on the gas here! I’m able to reach Unwin’s wheel and while he continues to press above 8w/kg, I can sit in around 5w/kg (yes drafting!) until we hit the second ramp. I attack up and over, hoping to put an end to Tim’s chase. However, Tim is chasing hard. There’s still only three seconds between us. Exiting the volcano, Tim has caught back on. I consider for a moment if I could just solo the next 2km to the finish. Knowing I would be facing two triathletes at a minimum, I decide that’s probably not the best strategy. With burning legs and only a two second gap, I back off, hoping I have done more damage to them than to myself.
I remind myself that everyone has aeros, and I try to get off the front. Tim and Robin are decent sprinters. I have no idea about Unwin. At about 300m, all the power ups appear and not surprisingly, everyone has an aero except Unwin (whew!).
Robin gets the best jump, followed by Tim and I’m third wheel. Not a bad spot with 250m to go. I out-leg Tim by 190m, and I’m just coming around Robin with 10m to go. I’m starting to fade. This would end up being a 900w+ effort for 15 seconds. While not pro, that’s pretty deep for a masters racer. Hitting the line at 68kph, neck and neck with Robin. I wait for the Zwift elves to figure that one out.
I guess the bike throw worked. I managed a victory by the slimmest of margins. Literally, there is no enough precision on Zwiftpower to show how close the finish was. Could it have come down to the alphabetical listing of our names? A coin toss? Could be. Either way, the final listing had me beating Robin by 0.0 seconds. I guess I’ll take it.