Zwift Academy 2017 Review

Well it’s all done and dusted. The 2017 Zwift Academy (for those who haven’t made the final U23 top ten) is officially over. From the 9234 entrants in the Men’s Academy, 1245 managed to finish the program, myself included!

Over the six-week program, entrants needed to complete 8 structured workouts, 5 group rides and 2 races on Zwift. The workouts were pretty tough, especially towards the end of the program. One called for twenty four 15-second sprints at max power with only 30 seconds recovery! But then they are made to test you and also uncover real talent for the Dimension Data Pro Conti team! Overall it was great to have some proper, structured training rather than just randomly smashing it on the trainer.

The warm downs were a bit long for my liking, a lot of them were over 15 minutes long soft pedalling at really low wattage. I was ready to climb off and grab a recovery shake after five. I prefer a short, sharp hour.

The races – as with all Zwift races – were brutally tough. I’m very much a mid-pack B grade racer on Zwift at the best of times. I managed 26th place on my first race and a much more respectable 5th place on the second. Those were a real test! The group rides were a little hit and miss. I used most of them as recovery spins.

Overall I did enjoy the Academy. It motivated me to get on the trainer and dig deep in order to complete all the rides within the specified time frame. The workouts were longer than I would have preferred and that is my only real complaint. Would I do it again? Yes, if the program fit in with my training at the time. Free structured training laid out for six weeks? Why not!

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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!

From TT to Road bike: Aero topped handlebars

A little update on my winter project! As outlined previously I wasn’t getting enough use out of my Planet X TT rig so over the winter (still very much winter here in Tasmania) I’ve been fettling away to convert it from time trial weapon into a fast road machine.

Since my last update, I sourced a set of 3T Aero Nova handlebars. These are aero topped carbon fibre drop bars with internal cable routing. Sexy as hell I gotta say!

This was my first foray into internally routed cabling and it was quite the job. Luckily the bars came with hollow plastic tubes to help feed the cables though which made the job easier, but certainly not easy. The cables were fine, but there was a LOT of poking and prodding and swearing involved to get the fatter housings fed around the tight bends. It took the best part of an afternoon to get right.

Hoods pulled back and cables run through the feeder tubes.

Once fed through and seated properly, finishing the cables to the brakes and mechs was a breeze. The Planet X is old school so externally cabled – it may not be as pretty but it made my life much easier. To finish the job I went with my favourite bar tape, Lizard Skins 3.2mm DSP wrapped to just past the hoods. Classy.

The black colour of the bike and the bars don’t quite match, mildly annoying!

My first test ride was only a short 35km local loop just to dial in my position, index the gearing and get my head around SRAM DoubleTap shifting. Not sure I’m a huge fan of it yet, I guess it doesn’t help I’ve been rocking Ultegra Di2 for a bit! I’ll pass judgement and do a comparison to Shimano 105 further down the track. It still needs a little more fine tuning to get the shifts spot on.

The bike on the other hand is dead set awesome! :-)

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!

The secret to getting stronger on the bike!

Here it is folks – the secret that all pro cycling teams and the fastest guys on your club ride have been hiding from you for decades. The reason they’re decimating you on every hill climb and leaving you in their dust on every town sign sprint. They know it, they use it, they repeat it, they live by it.

So here it is. Your secret to speed. Your recipe to rip it up. Your key to crushing it. Listen up and pay attention. The ultimate way to get faster, beat your mates and become a stronger cyclist is to…

PEDAL HARDER!

Or to expand on that concept slightly:

Pedal harder. Eat well. Rest. Recover. Then pedal even harder next time! :-)

But of course, don’t forget to #enjoytheride

Froome Dog’s TT Weapon

Chris Froome’s TdF TT bike – complete with 3D PRINTED BARS! :-) So I’m not normally much of a Pinarello fan, but this thing is so full of tech and cycling awesomeness it just blows me away. Check out the 58/46 chainrings! Barring any incidents between now and then, you’d be hard pressed to bet against Froome winning the Stage 20 time trial.