ZHR Hare & Hounds Race
Well well well. Our team channel lit up around noon with a message from Brad, “Hey, instead of a VO2 workout today, how about we do this?” A screenshot of the ZHR Hounds & Hare race was attached. I can’t turn down a good race and doubly so when I know I have someone willing to just kill it the entire time. Zwift is not Brad’s thing but Jesus, I’m glad he’s a teammate and not someone I need to chase down on the road. The bad news was I had already put in about 90 minutes earlier that day and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
The guarantee of my attendance came later in the day when I found out Thursday would be spent on the road and I’d miss that workout. So, I was now committed! Further family plans actually made it work more smoothly, I even bartered some Minecraft time with the little dude in exchange for his DJ and cheering skills for an hour - 45 minutes of which we’re past his regular bedtime. Win-win.
It was a traditional pursuit, 12 minutes to make up on the slowest group, then 7 and 2 on the next two. The hardest catch is always the B group at 2 minutes. Why? Because the skill difference between the strongest B at 3.99w/kg and an above average A at 4.5w/kg does not usually afford much of a speed differential. Where time really needs to be made up is on any climb where a sustained power surge keeps the velocity of the bunch high. The course selected by the organizers, Greater London Flat, offered little in the way of gradients, a little bit over 2% for 10-15 seconds and one two step climb that is a bit under a minute. This is going to be a tough one, even with Brad’s help.
Lead In and Lap 1
In the pens, I received a PM from one of my local club members. Thorsten, the hearty German swimmer turned cyclist, had decided to join today. His deisel engine would be a welcome addition to the group, especially since Brad might have had a bit of wine for dinner. The countdown hit zero for our group, the gate opened and away we went.
It was not a hard start, which was to be expected. This was a pursuit and we needed to keep our group of 15 or so riders together. We rolled onto the streets of London around 4.5w/kg the pace was steady. Thankfully, the organizers had the leaderboard set up so we could see the time gaps. By the time we were ending the lead in, the gap to B was 2:12. Uh, we had LOST time. That wouldn’t do. I headed to the front to do some work and get us back on terms with the Bs.
We pushed harder, above 4.5w/kg for the next 10 minutes or so. It was tough as we pounded the flats. By the time we hit the first minor uphill section we were already below 1:50, we were making up time at a great rate. Maybe they had gone out too hard?
As we went through the underpass, there was a sharp uptick in the effort again. We went steadily up the subsequent climb around 6w/kg and by the top the gap to B was under a minute. This catch was going to happen.
With the gap falling so quickly and about 20km left in the race, we knew this catch was going to happen. Apparently so did the B group, as the gap quickly narrowed. I had anticipated catching them on the underpass climb, but it happened on the much more shallow climb.
In my experience with these races, you want to make it as difficult as possible for that bunch to grab on to your charging group. I would much rather go to the line with 10 As who I know are tired than a bunch of Bs that have had a chance to recover by sitting in and letting us pull. Or the more challenging position of having a bunch of As that also sit in and are well rested for a sprint. So, when you are passing through the B group, you attack and try to immediately get a big gap.
I forgot to tell Brad that this was the plan. He got mixed up with the Bs that didn’t try to latch on and well, that was it for him. By the time we got to the banner, they were 24 seconds behind. The remaining Cs and Ds were about the same gap ahead of us. My little DJ, a few days removed from watching Bohemian Rhapsody, threw on “Another One Bites the Dust”. On point, little guy!
Lap 3 and Finish
The final lap was pretty uneventful. We closed the gap on the remaining riders by the time we started to ride back up from the river. The blob was pretty large by this time (20+ riders) and it was probably going to come down to a bunch sprint. No one was attacking, it was like everyone was resigned to this fact.
So, I decided to attack. Through the underpass I pushed up the hill at about 550w. I was hoping I would get a smaller group to join, 1-2 riders who wanted to go for the long range podium finish. You could easily complete the last kilometer together pushing the pace with double draft on. The little guy was cheering on the attack and frantically searching through iTunes for appropriate music. Unfortunately no one bit and even though I had a 4 second gap over the field, I settled back in on the descent to recover. I grabbed onto the group as they passed and prepared for the sprint.
This course uses the Classique finish line. That is the on on the red road and it is a slightly downhill finish, which benefits a 73kg rider a bit more than a flat or uphill finish does. I also had an aero that was picked up on Lap 1.. This might turn out ok after all. The little dude started pumping “We Will Rock You”.
After hanging the final right, the group exploded. Icons flew over everyone’s heads and it was a charge to the line. TOO EARLY, I said to myself and hung on 3 or 4 wheels back without yet revealing my aero. At about 400m, I tapped the icon on my Companion app, jumped two gears, and willed my legs into another effort. It was good, but not good enough. I made up all the space but missed the leader by a fraction of a second, taking home second place on the evening.
Ignoring the fact that I didn’t actually win, I hear “We are the Champions” start to rise out my DJ’s iPad. “Buddy, I didn’t win,” I tell him. “Dad, you did a great job, that attack and sprint were awesome, you almost had it! You’re a champion to me!”. High-fives and hugs ensued.
To bring it back to earth, Brad called me a jerk for blowing it up on the second lap. I sort of deserved that for not letting him know. He still hates Zwift, maybe next time?