Throwback to the 2012 Olympic Road Race!

I can’t believe this was FIVE YEARS AGO now! It really does seem like yesterday I was cheering the guys on as they hammered their way up Box Hill nine times! I was also totally in awe at the speed at which the peloton flew up the road. The wind rush of a 100+ strong peloton flashing by inches away from your face is also quite an experience.

Unfortunately that day Team Sky Team GB couldn’t gain control of the race and deliver Cav to the line first (even with the current TdF winner and a future one in the team).  In no great surprise, none of the other countries wanted to work with them in order to reel in the break. They spent a lot of time riding on the front.

Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan (and of ASTANA blood doping ban infamy) took the gold medal, with Rigoberto Uran and Alexander Kristoff rounding out the podium.

Along with Wiggo’s Tour de France win, it was this event that lead to a huge cycling boom in the UK and in particular Surrey and the home counties. Thousands of guys and gals dusted off their road bikes (or bought shiny new carbon ones) and got back into shape, logging thousands of miles racing along thousands of Strava segments.

It was certainly an event that got me motivated to pedal a lot harder!

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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!

How does the real Box Hill compare to the Zwift version?

It’s a question that comes up quite a lot in the Zwift community! How does the real Box Hill compare to the Zwift version? Will riding London Loop on Zwift help me train for Ride London? I’m lucky enough to have ridden both climbs numerous times with the same power meter (a very reliable PowerTap G3 hub) thus have some  meaningful data to compare the two. This weekend I got number crunching.

First up a bit of real life riding:

Box Hill Roundabout to Cafe (2.8km @ 5%)
https://www.strava.com/segments/1450512

Watts: 237W
Time: 8 min 50 seconds (cadence 81rpm)

boxxxxxxxThis particular effort was in the middle of a stark British winter on a 115km club ride with Woking CC. I was rugged up in a lot of warm clothing and had already climbed Staple Lane followed by Ranmore Road (both Cat 4 climbs) in the Surrey Hills before hitting Box.

I was still pushing hard of course with a small group to get to the top for some steaming hot coffee and home made cake. As you can see from the photo it was a pretty bleak looking day for a ride! Cold, wet, foggy and grimy. Ahhh those romantic hardcore UK winter rides before we all got soft…

Now for the VIRTUAL version:

Zwift Box Hill Real KOM (2.9km @ 5%)
https://www.strava.com/segments/13812242

Watts: 230W
Time: 8 minutes 10 seconds (cadence 79rpm)

Ridden as part of a Zwift race where I was trying to stick with a small group of 4-5 other racers at the time, this ascent of the virtual hill was actually a PR for me. My setup is Elite rollers with my PowerTap measuring wattage. I was pushing hard, but pretty gassed after the SUPER HARD start that makes up a Zwift race. I didn’t use any power-ups during the climb.

zwift-london-5

Evaluation of real life vs Zwift life:

With pretty much the same cadence I averaged a 7 watt difference over the two efforts, which is well within an acceptable margin of error for measurement.  As you can see there is a 40 second difference in favour of the Zwift climb for me (the virtual segment is also around 100 metres shorter). This is roughly what I would have expected from the data I have collected and my percieved efforts over both of the segments. On a fair summer’s day (with less clothing, lighter bike, etc) I would knock a chunk off the real Roundabout to Cafe segment – and have done – thus getting closer to my virtual time.

woking-cycling-club

So what can you take away from the data? Training for Box Hill or similar climbs by using the Zwift virtual Box Hill climb would actually be pretty effective, especially if you have a smart turbo that changes the resistance settings for you. Time-wise you can expect to spend a bit of extra time laying down wattage when you get out to Surrey for the real thing. Also the Zwift climb finishes past the National Trust cafe! You’ll definitely want to pull in there for the best treacle tart in the world… :-)

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END NOTES: For reference I weigh in at 60kg so was climbing at just under 4w/kg. I’m no powerhouse. I chose these two segments rather than the Zwiftblog verified one as they were the two closest matched ones for distance I could find on Strava.

EXTRA TIP: Don’t ride over the squiggly white line painting when you do the real Box Hill climb. It’s actually pretty bumpy and will kill your speed…

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

Do you even Zwift, bro?

So as you know, I’ve been making regular trips to my “Zwift Cave” to sneak in a quality early morning or evening session on the rollers. It has really got me motivated to train harder again in order to recover some of that lost fitness. Zwift has changed my entire mindset when it comes to how I view indoor training.

zwift-doomZwift. I haven’t spent this much time playing video games since the days of Doom II.

Could I just go outside? Yeah of course. I just don’t really feel like risking the dusk/dawn gauntlet of errant Tasmanian wildlife. Colliding with a wallaby, possum, wombat, echidna, Tassie devil or six foot long tiger snake while bombing along would not make for a good end to a ride!

tigersnakeTiger snake venom is neurotoxic, affecting the central nervous system. It also causes blood clotting and breakdown of muscle tissue which can lead to kidney failure. Death from a bite can occur within 30 minutes, but usually takes 6-24 hours.

Plus I’ve got to make good use of the Strava Premium bonus! I’ve got the CX bike on the rollers with my PowerTap hub. That bike hasn’t seen any use since my Sigma Sport commuting days and it’s great to be back using Di2 again, if only indoors. I already had the rollers so the only purchases I made to “get Zwifting” were an ANT+ dongle ($30 from eBay) and a USB extension cord ($10) to move the dongle closer to the wheel.

2016-11-04_1526454The virtual me is *almost* as stylish as the real me.

I can feel the positive effects already. Just that extra time in the saddle, even if it’s just unstructured riding around the Watopia or London courses, has already made a tangible difference to my fitness levels. I’ll still need to clock some road miles, including time aboard the TT bike and hitting some hills. It’s another string in the training bow that should see me making inroads back into good form.

But best of all, I no longer dread indoor training!!! #virtualmiles

2016-11-04_1528045Riding off into the warm Watopian sunset…

Keep the wheels turning

The wind has been crazy here of late. It’s been whipping across the Island like a crazed animal, throwing down some hairy crosswinds, the kind where I’ve had difficulty not getting blown around on a 200kg motorbike let alone an 8kg bicycle! But when the wind drops to sane levels, it’s been stunning.

IMG_2005

As far as winter goes it’s been bright and blue most days so I’ve still gotten out for the odd ride between work and other chores. Not as much as I’d like and the fitness has suffered slightly, but sometimes that can’t be helped.

Most of my rides have just been for the fun of it (plus clocking my Woking CC 100km ride each month). I’ve passed the 6000km mark for the year out on the road so that’s one marker ticked off my list. Also I’ve got a set of rollers on order so very soon I’ll be able to sneak in an hour before/after work when I can’t get out on the road. That should at least keep the legs turning a little easier!

Oh and good luck to all my UK peeps hammering around the closed streets of London and the Surrey Hills this weekend at Ride London 100! #dropthehammer