I’ve always had my routine where cycling is concerned, my week usually consists of Zwift SST training twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:30am, then a long ride on a Sunday. It suits my life and the other responsibilities that I have to work and my family, although sometimes I would love to just pick up the bike at any point and go! I have found that a dedicated effort to complete SST training, increasing the base watts every few weeks, has produced considerable improvements in the Sunday ride so it has worked well for me but the increase in online activity during the global lockdown led me to look at other events and group rides that were taking place in the online world.
A few weeks back Corine van der Zijden (former pro and Mike Teunissen’s partner) invited me to a Rapha CC meetup on Zwift that she was organising as she was doing some ambassadorial work for Rapha Amsterdam. Even though I’m not a member of the Rapha club I gladly accepted the invite and welcomed a new angle to the platform, the group ride. I enjoyed the experience (especially as it was a no drop ride!) and found that, actually, I was in a lot better shape than I thought I was and I wasn’t making an arse of myself by turning up! I’ve participated in a few since, where my dodgy shed WiFi connection has allowed me to!
Yesterday, however, I had a very strange thing happen to me and something that I’ve never seen before. As the group ride timer ticked to zero and the group rolled out on the streets of London town, I was left pedalling furiously on a virtual trainer going absolutely nowhere.
As I pressed various buttons and expelled a few choice words and colourful phrases the group moved ever further away and I remained there, spinning on the pavement, shackled by a luminous virtual turbo trainer. I had no choice but to concede defeat and quit the meetup. As soon as I pressed that button though the shackles were removed and I started to roll through town, albeit out of the group so no crazy boomerang effect back to them happened! As London wasn’t in rotation on that day there were very few rides on the map so I could still see the group on the the user list on the right hand side of the screen, I was 5 minutes and 12 seconds behind. I decided to try and make the catch, hopefully before Box Hill, the chase was on! I settled into kind of a combination of SST and TT and started to eat into the time gap
The image above shows the time gap down to 4:04 (forget Z Turner!) and it had already been a pretty big effort to get it down to that, I started to have doubts that I could pull this off. I couldn’t see any of the group chat so I didn’t know if they were even aware I was still in the game, they didn’t seem to let up at all so I concluded that they didn’t. Every time I got another chunk of time back, the gap would go out again as I’d hit a gradient or a slower section and it started to get in my head so I whacked the Chemical Brothers on loud and went for it.
At 1:35 behind I thought my heart was going to explode, I’d been pushing 160bpm for nearly 20 minutes and the graph was more in the red than yellow. It was at this point where I nearly quit.
I could still see them on the user list and the map now showed a little marker where Mike’s pro symbol shows up, I started to get a bit stubborn about it. I will catch them and I will catch them before Box Hill! Head down, I kept going. I was panting like a dog in a dry spell and the sauna like effect of the shed I was in wasn’t helping matters but that gap kept coming down, I realised that I could do this!
After 26 minutes of full on chasing I made the catch, just before the turn onto Box Hill. Rather than feeling spent I felt energised and I was buzzing so I continued on my merry way up the hill.
The Rapha guys were in a no drop grouping ride so they were going at a pace that suited the bunch but I was on cloud 9 after getting back on so I got stuck in to putting in a decent effort on a road I know very well, both virtually and in reality.
As the ride finished I felt pretty damn pleased with myself, it was a solid workout forged from a weird glitch in the Zwift universe, but further info only served to improve my mood further
A rather fine chap from North London, Stephen Lowe, informed me that the group chat was awash with speculation on whether I would manage to chase them down and that he had been very vocal in his support of my plight. Mike, as it turns out, was not and lost a bet in the process! With friends like that eh?!
As the buzz of victory subsided and I started to ache, I had a look at the ride report for the chase section in Training Peaks
In the 26 minutes I had spent chasing the bunch I had averaged 243w and 154bpm, for me they are crazy numbers as my FTP is more like 220w……although, at the end of the ride, Zwift informed me that it is now 240w so my SST sessions are about to get a lot more difficult! But, progress!
As more and more people start to emerge from lockdown restrictions and online numbers start to return to pre-Covid levels, I hope these group rides continue and people continue to participate. They are a welcome change from the singularity of workouts or the over-competitiveness of the events and races. I’ll just be hoping I don’t get stuck on a trainer again…..