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

Zwift now, win later! Matt Hayman’s journey to 2016 Paris Roubaix victory.

Last year Orica pro Matt Hayman famously hammered his way to an incredible victory at Paris-Roubaix. Only months beforehand he broke his arm in a crash while racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Not content with just recovering, he set his sights on a bigger goal using Zwift as a major training tool. As we all know now this ultimately paid off with the biggest win of his career! Make a coffee, sit down and soak it all up:

#ZwiftEffect

Zwift’s Watopian Landscape

Hats off to the programmers and developers at Zwift. They really have created a fully immersive and impressive landscape in “Watopia” for us to lose ourselves in. It sure beats staring at a garage wall or numbers on a screen! Paired with a smart trainer that changes resistance to simulate gradients, it’s the ultimate in indoor cycling.

From cruising along the Ocean Road boulevard to climbing through Swiss style villages into the Watopian Alps to circling an active volcano, there really is an abundance of highly detailed landscapes to amaze the rider. Of course it’s hard to soak it all in when pushing hard, but it does take your mind off being on the trainer! #RideOn

Winding roads through the virtual Alps.

Descending like a pro as the sun rises over the virtual ocean!

The “Zwift Me” is totally cool and calm when climbing hard, just like real me…

Watopian whale selfie though the underwater tunnels!

The Zwiftcast

If you’re into podcasts and are an avid (or even occasional) Zwift user, then you really should be checking out the Zwiftcast.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/i5rtj-6815e8?skin=108

Released roughly every two weeks, it covers everything new or rumoured in the world of Zwift including map expansions, the racing scene, new trainers and training tech, troubleshooting, competitions and of course general Zwifting tips and talk. The contributors are big time Zwifters (obviously) as well as real world gamers and racers, plus there’s the occasional big name special guest. Well worth a listen to current and previous episodes!

Pretend Cycling?

There seems to be a swell of of anti-Zwift sentiment out there at the moment, with many nay-sayers labelling Zwifters as “pretend cyclists” and that true hard men just hit the road. They see Zwift as a gimmick rather than true training.

Zwift was good enough for Matt Hayman to recover and win Paris Roubaix, now many other pro cyclists are on the platform too. I’m sure if it were old school 2×20’s in the pain cave the haters wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but throw in the “game” of Zwift and suddenly it’s just not cycling. Maybe they’re secretly scared of anything new? Or are jealous of the gains seen by those who spend a lot of time on Zwift?

Who knows. Who cares? What I do know is that I enjoy hammering away in the virtual world and enjoy even more seeing the real world improvements on the road:

kom

Happy New Year! :-)

Chasing the Pixel Peloton

I’ve put over 1000 virtual km’s on the digital roads of Zwift so far and it’s safe to say that I’m pretty addicted to the program. I’ve ridden the lusciously tropical Watopia, storm soaked streets of London and also the Richmond World Champs course. I still can’t believe I’m spending so many hours on the trainer and actually looking forward to getting home from work and jumping on the rollers – and it’s summer!!!

sweetspot-flierHard fought virtual miles …

An aspect of Zwift that I love are the organised group rides. Just like out on the road with your buddies, trying to stay with the bunch and keep the pace high is seriously good fun. It’s strangely social while cycling alone in a dark room. Even though it’s just a bunch of pixels on the screen, not being dropped by the pixel peloton is one hell of a motivator to keep the wattage high!

thirds… result in real world smiles! (and Strava bragging rights)

The time on the trainer is still flying by and I’m starting to see positive results from all that hard work when I get out on the road. Or maybe I’ll sell my other bikes, buy an expensive Tacx Neo smart trainer plus a big high definition TV, then not have to ever cycle outside again? Hmmmm! #virtualmiles