Cycling Tips eFondo #3 London Pretzel

It’s still very much mid-winter here in Tasmania, with many a frosty start to the day and snow settling about half way down Mount Wellington. So when the third event in the CyclingTips eFondo series rolled around, I decided to jump on again and ride the virtual sportive bandwagon!

This time it was over the shorter “London Pretzel” course. It’s only 55km yet covers all the roads on the Zwift London Map in both directions – so about 32km of rolling road followed by “climbing” Fox Hill and Box Hill before descending back into London for the finish.

I didn’t plan on smashing myself over this one as I’d been slacking in the training department, but as I sat in the virtual holding pen warming up with 300+ other Zwifters, that plan went straight out the window! I dialled up over 400W and launched out the gate in order to make the front group. No matter what the event, the starts are always a smash fest so I knew the drill. Sprint hard out the gate, keep it above threshold and hang on for the first five!

As a bunch formed I tried to hold it at FTP wattage with squirts above to keep my place in the group. The pace finally “settled” and the initial selection saw our 50 strong peloton put a minute or two into the rest very quickly  – we were bowling along at 42+ km/hr average all the way to the foot of the first climb.

As soon as we hit Fox Hill the group shattered as expected. I’d been riding at or above threshold for the best part of an hour so was doing my best to keep pace with the depleted bunch around me. It wasn’t to be my day though and right at the crest of the climb my head was shouting PEDAL HARDER but my legs had other ideas. Tank empty. I was shelled quicker than a boiled egg at breakfast…

Luckily the descent down the other side gave some respite – although the pace was still high as I tried to latch onto any other rider I could. The rest of the ride was spent trying not to lose too much time – a short flat section back through London swapping turns with five other riders and then straight up Box Hill (the less said about that the better) before hammering it down the other side to the finish.

Passing under the banner I was spent – hardly anything left for a final sprint – but somehow I’d managed not to embarrass myself too badly coming in 39th place from 320 starters, six minutes down on first. I’m a fan of these events now, they really do push you hard and the motivation to keep pace with those around you is strong! A great way to keep those legs turning through the winter. #RideOn

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CyclingTips eFondo: I just “rode” a Sportive on the turbo…

So a while back I wrote about eFondos and eSportives totally becoming a thing these days. Not one to knock things before trying, I jumped aboard my Tacx NEO and logged in to join the first ever CyclingTips eFondo on Zwift.

The night before I went through my usual cycling event prep. Clean and lube the bike, lay out my kit, prepare my ride fuel/bottles, make sure everything is in it’s place and most importantly study the route profile. Just like a “real” Sportive!

The route for this one was the Watopia Pretzel, which takes in all the “climbs” on the island (apart from the Volcano) over a distance of 73km. Having ridden part of the route before I knew that that first 15km were basically uphill, all the way from sea level into the Watopian Alps and to the top of the Radio Tower. The course then rolls around the island with a couple of lumps before heading back up the reverse side of the mountain for a second big climb.

The morning of the ride I had a hearty breakfast of my usual porridge topped with golden syrup before kitting up and logging onto Zwift for a short warm-up. The riders were set off in two waves for this event. I joined the second wave consisting of over 250 riders all resplendent in their eFondo jerseys. A whole peloton of pixelated people pedalling away on their trainers. Alone yet together.

There’s a short roll-out before the road heads (virtually) skywards and stays that way right the way to the Radio Tower. The pack thins out and I settle into a nice climbing rhythm with a small bunch of other riders. I know this climb is going to take around half an hour – with the hardest section right at the top – so it’s best not to push too hard and blow early. There’s a long way to go and more climbing later.

I’m sitting just above FTP wattage for most of the climb, alternating seated efforts with short bursts out of the saddle. With 20 minutes done we turn left, heading up to the infamous Radio Tower climb. The road ramps to 19% at places. It may be virtual, but when the Tacx NEO clamps down it sure feels like true suffering! It’s a tough grind in my lowest 36/28 gear, but I manage to snag a PR to the top.

Circling around the Radio Tower and heading back downhill, I reach for my first gel of the ride. Yep, I’m fuelling this just like a real ride. The descent is ace. Once you reach a certain speed in Zwift, if you stop pedalling your avatar will “supertuck” and fly down the hill like a pro. The NEO has downhill drive to add to the immersion. It’s good to rest the legs for a moment as there’s plenty more to come.

Half way through the course and our group has thinned to six riders. We circle the island at a lower intensity, knowing we’ve still got to head back up the mountain in the opposite direction. The second big climb is a real killer. Another 20 minutes with much of it at 10% or higher. As we slog up with heavy legs a few of the group fall away until we are but three. I just concentrate on my wattage and keep focused.

Finally over the crest and another fast descent follows. We’re into the final 10km of rolling roads now.

Having given my all I’m pretty gassed and  eventually I lose the draft of the two other remaining riders of our bunch. Nothing left! Looks like the last 5km are going to be solo. Through the last of the rollers and it’s a downhill sprint to the line. Well, as much of a sprint as I can muster. I’m happy with my effort as I’ve got nothing more in the legs. As I pass under the banner my time flashes up on the screen with the results table: I’d finished in 21st place with a time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 49 seconds! Really pleased with that.

Unlike a regular Fondo or Sportive, there’s nobody at the finish line to hang a medal around your neck or hand you a goody bag. You do unlock the CyclingTips eFondo Jersey though, which your Zwift avatar can proudly wear so that’s something! I must say I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, it was about as “fun” as riding a turbo for over two hours can be! This was mostly due to the seriously immersive nature of Zwift paired to the Tacx NEO.

Would I do it again? Yeah, probably. CyclingTips are running a series of five of these eFondos over the Australian winter. If the weather is rubbish and the legs feel up to the challenge I’d be tempted to give it another shot! #RideOn

Total distance: 73km
Elevation: 1365m

Time: 2 hours 17 minutes 49 seconds
Finish Position: 21st

The rise of the eFondo and eSportive

Riding a Sportive on your turbo trainer. Apparently that’s totally a thing now. With the success of their first eFondo, where over 1000 people signed up to “ride” the event, Zwift have this time partnered with Cycling Tips to run a whole series of eFondos over the coming months.

Yep that’s right folks, a virtual Sportive! Dust off your replica World Champs kit and get ready to litter the floor of your pain cave with discarded gel wrappers, because you can now have the whole Sportive experience without leaving the house.

They’ll be on a Sunday morning (for those down here in Australia at least, where winter is on the way) and consist of one full lap of the Watopia Pretzel route. That’s a virtual 72km with 1330m of virtual climbing. For those with smart trainers it can be quite a challenge as the route is almost entirely “uphill” from the gun all the way to the top of the Radio Tower climb. I rode the first half of the last eFondo and to be fair it was actually pretty motivating. Being surrounded by so many other Zwifters means you always had somebody to chase!

Get ready for the Zwift Cycling Tips eFondo Series!

If you complete one of the events you unlock the Zwift eFondo kit (virtual). Now if only they could incorporate virtual feed stations along the route and a virtual finisher’s goody bag when you cross the line… #RideOn

Tragedy at Indi Pac Wheel Race

Incredibly sad news coming from the Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia as we learn that competitor and world class ultra cyclist Mike Hall has been hit and killed in a car accident while taking part in the 5,500km race from coast to coast.

For the past two weeks we have been watching the dots on screen as riders made their way from one side of Australia to the other, totally unsupported and racing under their own steam. We’ve watched their progress, their photos on Twitter and updates through media as they endure incredibly tough conditions along the way. We admired their determination and athletic ability to even attempt such a challenge.

Then disaster strikes. One that should never happen. The Indi Pac has been cancelled with immediate effect as word is being delivered to the other competitors. RIP Mike Hall. A dark day in ultra cycling indeed and our thoughts go out to his friends, family and every other Indi Pac competitor. Stay safe out there folks…

Hands on with mechanical doping

Recently I had a chance encounter with the guys from Typhoon, who build intriguing “motor assisted” road and mountain bikes. They had on display a motorised carbon road bike that on inspection shared an extremely close resemblance to one recently discovered in the world of cyclocross.

At first glance I didn’t spot that the bike was modified. It just looked like one of many very sleek carbon road bikes. In fact the weight wasn’t even that bad, I’d guess around 9kg, no featherweight but less than my fully kitted winter bike. Even on close inspection the only clue was a barely visible wire running from the storage bottle into the seat tube. The guys assured me this would be totally hidden in the future and that the storage bottle would be much smaller.

IMG_0988Click on the pic to enlarge. You still won’t be able to tell it’s an e-bike!

This particular pre-production model had a three-speed motor activated by a tiny switch hidden on the bars. Once turned on it kicks in when you pedal, providing up to an extra 250 watts of power in high mode.

Yes, that’s an extra TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY WATTS!

According to the guys they are currently two months away from a proper release, but with the recent publicity surrounding mechanical doping in the pro ranks they brought a couple of examples to the Bike Show to ride the wave of that publicity, so to speak!

At a cost of around 12,000 euros I don’t think you’ll be seeing many on the club rides any time soon, but this undoubtedly proves that the tech is out there, works perfectly and is accessible to the general public.

Now if only I could score a proper test ride…

The London Bike Show 2016

Yesterday thanks to work I took a trip to the London Bike Show to check out this year’s latest and greatest cycling releases. I’d never been to the London show before so was really looking forward to it. A short car journey and three trains later I arrived at the ExCeL Centre around 1pm.

First call was the Specialized stand to see the S-Works Venge ViAS. I’d been hankering over a peek at this bike and it did not disappoint. I will admit to not being a fan in the past, but this version has totally changed my opinion! I’ll have a more in-depth feature for the Venge ViAS in a future post.

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From there I did a quick (okay, very slow) few laps on the Street Velodrome, where I almost crashed when I clipped the exit during my timed two laps and got my ass handed to me by a 12 year old kid! That going around in small circles at speed is harder than it looks…

IMG_1027Another highlight was sampling the different flavours and brands of energy bars on the market. We stock many brands such as Torq, Honey Stinger, Mule Bar and SiS but to be honest I’d never tried many of them! I still much prefer to make my own ride fuel. At least then you know exactly what is in them. The ever expanding Mule Bar range was by far the tastiest.

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There were plenty of high end road and mountain bikes on display for punters to ogle over. I was particularly taken by the growing number of titanium offerings, plus the Argon 18 range of aero road and time trial bikes. Lets just say there was no shortage of serious cycle porn on display! Clothing, accessory and component brands were also well represented with the likes of EDCO, Continental, Mavic alongside smaller independent brands all mixing it up for a slice of the consumer pie.

IMG_0986One day I will have my own Van Nicholas titanium beauty!

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I was a bit disappointed  not to see any SRAM eTAP on display (apparently there was one bike on the Pinarello stand) or Rotor’s hydraulic groupset. Also I didn’t see the new 9-series Trek Madone, the closest competitor to the Venge ViAS. Apart from that, all the usual suspects and high end brands were present. If you’re at a loss for something to do this weekend, the London Bike Show may just be the ticket!

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