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

Will taking time off from training make me slow?

A change is as good as a rest, but can a rest be good? Will taking some time off from training ruin your hard earned fitness?

Recently I had to take some time off the bike. Nine straight days of no cycling plus a further 5 days away from my road bike. In total I had a break of 14 days from training and my much loved road bikes. Two whole weeks of no training! I was a little concerned about losing all my hard earned fitness, but couldn’t really complain as it was a two week holiday in Vietnam! #firstworldproblems

Don’t mind me, I’ll just wait here and put my feet up for a while…

April and I tend to do a lot of walking on our breaks, seeing the sights and exploring by foot away from the tourist traps, plus we were mostly eating healthy and delicious Vietnamese food so it’s not like I was overindulging on sugary cocktails while lazing in a deck chair. For the final five days I had access to a hotel shopper bike – complete with cane basket – so did a few rides on that for fun.

So after two weeks away from training did I lose much fitness?

On my first road ride back I felt great! Refreshed and ready. Even though it was only a cafe ride I still managed some high Strava segment results and my legs felt strong. Back on Zwift I smashed my virtual Box Hill time by 30 seconds, adding 15 watts to my 8-minute power PB. My average power tracked similar to before the break too, so it’s safe to say the time off didn’t negatively impact my fitness much, if at all. :-)

Don’t worry, be happy. You’ll come back stronger than ever!

If you’re worried about taking a break from cycling and losing fitness, worry not my friends. Enjoy that holiday or time away from two wheels. Use it to recover, unwind, spend time with friends and family. Relax. After all, you’ve probably earned it!

A perfect Sunday cafe spin!

After almost a year in Tassie I finally managed to meet up with a local rider. Paul lives in the next town over and I’d initially found him through Strava, as we swapped KOMs back and forth a few times when I first moved to Tassie, then crossed paths out riding on our own. More recently we’ve both been riding Zwift and chatting on there, but we’d never been able to get out for a proper ride together. Today that changed.

We had agreed on a more sedate “cafe ride” this Sunday to start things off. We met up at the bakery (conveniently located half way between each of our places) for a later 10am start to let the sun burn away the morning chill. It was glorious outside, almost perfect as we rolled along the coast and country roads. The sun was shining brightly and a gentle cooling sea breeze swept across the island. It’s hard to beat Tassie on a day like today. We weren’t pushing super hard and spent much of the time side-by-side having a good chat like old friends.

After a solid 60km loop back to the bakery we stopped for a quick coffee in the sunshine, review the ride and chat some more breeze. Even though we were weren’t smashing it or pacelining, we still pushed hard enough to feel it a little in the legs and snag some good Strava trophies. A perfect Sunday cafe ride!

I don’t mind admitting that Paul is a much stronger rider than I am, in his words all he does is ride, eat and sleep! His FTP is a good 100W over mine so I know if he wants to he could drop me pretty easily. We’re hoping to make the “Z TAZ Sunday Ride” a semi regular thing, so it should amount to pretty good training when he does decide to put the hammer down!