What weekends are made for!

Daylight saving has kicked in, the days are getting longer, warmer and so much brighter. Summer is on it’s way! For the first time in a while I rode outside both Saturday AND Sunday. Sure I’ve been hitting the trainer and Zwift with a vengeance, but there’s nothing quite like two beautifully sunny and perfect cycling weekend days in a row! How I’ve missed this!

Saturday was a climb-fest with some new cycling buddies and saw me tick off another one of Hobart’s Top 10 Climbs. Sunday was a much more laid back affair with a simple solo spin soaking up the sunshine.

It really doesn’t get much better than that! #happydays

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Zwift Academy 2017 – All signed up and ready to roll!

So on a whim this morning, I signed up for the 2017 Zwift Academy!

This year alongside the women’s event, Zwift have teamed up with Dimension Data to offer a men’s Academy! Dimension Data have even offered a spot on their continental squad to the top male graduate under 23 years of age. Of course, for us oldies and mere mortals it’s simply a chance to take on some free structured training. Plus for every ten graduates, Zwift will donate one bike to underprivileged communities in South Africa. Talk about a win-win!

In order to “graduate” from the Academy, you need to complete eight structured workout sessions, five group rides and two Zwift races over the next six weeks.

Being a rash sort of guy, I signed up this morning and completed the first workout this afternoon. This was (surprise, surprise) an FTP test. What fun. The hour long workout started with a long warm-up, followed by a 20-minute all out hammering at a pace you think you can sustain for that period, then a gradual cool down.

I’d forgotten how much these tests hurt. I’m not sure why I chose to do this test today, especially as my legs were pretty achy after yesterday’s 70km ride. I guess I just wanted to get it over with! It’s been a long time since I’ve done a “proper” FTP test on the turbo and I do not miss them!

So that’s one workout down, seven more to go… #RideOn

Climbing faster, getting fitter (or taking the #ZwiftEffect to the streets)

I’ve hardly ridden any road miles in the past couple of months, a combination of a chilly Tassie winter and weekend commitments meant that outdoor cycling has taken a back seat. Finally last weekend I got out for a decent spin including a local climb.

Mount Rumney (can you pick it from the route profile? lol) is a Cat 3 rated climb and number seven on Hobart’s Top 10 Climbs list. The full climb is a fairly consistent ascent averaging 5 percent for just shy of 6km. It allows to you get into a good seated rhythm for the most part, with a few steeper sections to test you out of the saddle.

On my fastest previous attempt I was actually gunning for a PR and was pretty gassed by the top. This time around I wasn’t aiming for a good time – simply enjoying the ride and fresh air – and I managed to knock 30 seconds off my previous best! I still had plenty left in the tank and was going to bang out another rep, but ran short on time before needing to be home. Instead I took a quick photo at the top…

…before descending back to the base. There’s actually nothing else at the top of this climb besides the nice view towards Hobart and only one road up the mountain.

I know I bang on about Zwift a lot, but it really has saved my cycling over the past couple of dark and cold months. There is no way I’d be as fit as I am or as motivated as I am right now without it. Bring on Spring and Summer!

Cycling and Hearing Damage?

The subject of hearing loss from wind noise has always played on my mind. When you’re bombing around at 20+ mile an hour in the paceline, flying down your favourite descent or just battling a strong headwind – the noise from the resulting wind rush can get quite loud. Sometimes you notice it, sometimes you don’t, but it’s there. Should we be worried about it?

Huh? What did you say? Time for cake?

Ever been sitting somewhere and seen a bunch of cyclists ride by having a good old chat to each other? They need to raise their voices quite a lot just to be heard clearly by one another! Here’s an interesting article from Cycling Tips discussing the issue:

https://cyclingtips.com/2017/08/listen-cyclists-risk-hearing-loss/

About to head back down the mountain, should I pop my earplugs in?

On my motorbike I always wear hearing protection (disposable foam earplugs rated at 30 decibel reduction). Even with a full-faced helmet the wind noise can easily reach damaging levels, enough to cause permanent hearing loss as well as increasing fatigue and distraction levels.

Wearing earplugs is not something I plan on doing while out cycling. I haven’t heard any reports of pro cyclists suffering hearing damage, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Maybe future helmet technology will focus on reducing wind noise? My aero road helmet (Bontrager Ballista) is noticeably quieter than my heavily vented Specialized Propero, so there’s definitely something in it.

Exploring the Tasman Peninsula on two wheels

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take my bike down onto the Tasman Peninsula for a ride along the coast and into the hills. It was one of those rare and perfect early winter evenings. Still mild enough to have the legs out, not a drop of wind and hardly a car to contend with.

It’s not often enough I get out on the road these days and this ride certainly reminded me of what I am missing out on!

During the summer  the roads down on the Peninsula are jammed full of tourist rental cars and badly driven camper vans, but outside of peak season you can almost have the place to yourself. It really is a little slice of island paradise. If it weren’t for the fading light I could have ridden for hours, but in the end I rolled back to the house with a shade over 51km on the Garmin, three Cat 4 Climbs, 28kph average, two Strava KOMS and one absolutely stunning sunset to finish off the ride. Some days life is just ohhh so sweet and it makes you thankful to be alive. #keepthosepedalsturning

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