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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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

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

The Wahoo Kickr Climb?!?!

Have you ever thought to yourself, “you know what, turbo training needs a bit more realism, I wish my bike would change angle according to the virtual gradient on the screen.” Well now thanks to Wahoo you can have your wish granted.

Introducing Wahoo’s latest trainer innovation – the Kickr Climb. Now you can not only have automatic resistance changes, but you can have the front of your bike simulate climbs (and descents) with this new device automatically raising or lowering the height of your front end! We’re talking raising your front end to simulate up to 20% climbs and lowering for “realistic” 10% descents.

Now, I’m all for realistic indoor training, but I’m not sold on whether this would actually add all that much or just be a distraction. I would however LOVE to try one out. It’d be interesting to see how quickly, smoothly and seamlessly it can react to gradient changes in Zwift – through the Watopia rollers it can switch very quickly. Check out this little taster video from Shane Miller:

The release price is £450. Now that’s an awful lot of coin for a device that doesn’t actually change your training all that much. That price is also over and above the cost of a KICKR2 trainer so you’re talking around £1500 for the complete setup. Ouch.

I don’t see a huge benefit in terms of indoor training. Okay, so you can train your climbing muscles a bit better and get used to the changing angles when you hit some real hills. That’s about all I can think of.

Gimmick? Maybe. I bet it’s kinda fun at first though!!

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 Tips eFondo #3 London Pretzel

It’s still very much mid-winter here in Tasmania, with many a frosty start to the day and snow settling about half way down Mount Wellington. So when the third event in the CyclingTips eFondo series rolled around, I decided to jump on again and ride the virtual sportive bandwagon!

This time it was over the shorter “London Pretzel” course. It’s only 55km yet covers all the roads on the Zwift London Map in both directions – so about 32km of rolling road followed by “climbing” Fox Hill and Box Hill before descending back into London for the finish.

I didn’t plan on smashing myself over this one as I’d been slacking in the training department, but as I sat in the virtual holding pen warming up with 300+ other Zwifters, that plan went straight out the window! I dialled up over 400W and launched out the gate in order to make the front group. No matter what the event, the starts are always a smash fest so I knew the drill. Sprint hard out the gate, keep it above threshold and hang on for the first five!

As a bunch formed I tried to hold it at FTP wattage with squirts above to keep my place in the group. The pace finally “settled” and the initial selection saw our 50 strong peloton put a minute or two into the rest very quickly  – we were bowling along at 42+ km/hr average all the way to the foot of the first climb.

As soon as we hit Fox Hill the group shattered as expected. I’d been riding at or above threshold for the best part of an hour so was doing my best to keep pace with the depleted bunch around me. It wasn’t to be my day though and right at the crest of the climb my head was shouting PEDAL HARDER but my legs had other ideas. Tank empty. I was shelled quicker than a boiled egg at breakfast…

Luckily the descent down the other side gave some respite – although the pace was still high as I tried to latch onto any other rider I could. The rest of the ride was spent trying not to lose too much time – a short flat section back through London swapping turns with five other riders and then straight up Box Hill (the less said about that the better) before hammering it down the other side to the finish.

Passing under the banner I was spent – hardly anything left for a final sprint – but somehow I’d managed not to embarrass myself too badly coming in 39th place from 320 starters, six minutes down on first. I’m a fan of these events now, they really do push you hard and the motivation to keep pace with those around you is strong! A great way to keep those legs turning through the winter. #RideOn