Lockdown Cycling Pt 2

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - WTRL TTT on Zwift
Seamons CC in action – WTRL Team Time Trial on Zwift

First off I hope this finds you safe and well wherever you are. On March 20th I wrote this blog post as the immediate races I’d planned were cancelled and I suspected that what was happening at the time might escalate. It came as no surprise (to those that had been following what was happening in mainland Europe anyway) when the UK formally went into lockdown on Monday 23rd March.

I wrote again at the end of April, the height of lockdown really, about what I’d been up to. Despite being allowed outdoors for an hour or so exercise I’d stuck to the turbo and riding indoors. Then, in the middle of May, some restrictions were lifted, we were allowed unlimited exercise outdoors and so I rode outside (on my own, as usual) for the first time in what had been 9 weeks, which felt pretty good!

Since then the season’s races have been postponed several times, with current guidance, as I write, that open TTs can start from the 18th July. That is not the case with the Manchester (J code) district, who are not promoting either open or club events until the end of August. There are a few races in September that haven’t yet been cancelled, including the re-arranged VTTA National 15, so I think we will wait and see – although when the cancellation to the end of August happened I gave up any semblance of structured training. I do have a sneaking suspicion that I may just sack the season off and not race again this year. Time will tell.

In the meantime I have been Zwift racing, Zwift TT-ing and Zwift TTT-ing with club mates, which has been great fun. As I’ve written before, Zwift races are really hard. I prefer the longer ones but the basic tactics for any race seem to be

  1. Start hard – usually a VO2Max effort (130% + FTP) for 1 to 2 minutes
  2. Continue at or just below threshold (90%+ FTP)
  3. Any hill or rise accelerate back up to VO2Max
  4. At end, can you sprint?
    1. Yes – sprint at end
    2. No – try to clip off about 1 to 2km before the end at VO2Max

In my case, somewhere between 3. and 4. above and I usually get dropped from the first group, which is actually an improvement because when I first started it was immediately after 1. That said, they are a great workout and good fun if you want to push your limits.

WTRL Team Time Trial

The team time trials are run voluntarily by a group called WTRL and involve an element of teamwork to try to stay together as a team of up to 9 riders, with your time being taken when the 4th rider crosses the line. They are typically around 40 to 55 minutes of effort and attract literally hundreds of teams from around the world. The teams are grouped into classes based on rider capabilities and it’s a really impressive setup and great fun riding as a team. We use Discord for team voice communication which is simultaneously hilarious and disturbing given everyone is usually on their aerobic limit. In theory, the better you stay together, ideally in a long line, the faster you go due to the draft involved and the ability to recover between efforts. This is more successful some times more than others, usually where a hill is involved. You can see from the video above we’re often in a “clump” rather than a line which is less efficient, but we’ve done pretty well and seem to be improving.

Anyway, please stay safe wherever you are and I hope to see many of you out on the road or at races in the future.

Lockdown Cycling

Ade's Road Cycling Blog Zwift Cycling
Zwift cycling through Central Park

April 2020 is the first month since the start of 2009 where I haven’t ridden my bike outdoors. At the start of the lockdown I took the personal decision not to ride outdoors. I make no judgement of people who do, but I realised that if I were to ride outside the temptation to ride ever longer distances would be too much and that is not within the spirit of the somewhat vague rules we find ourselves with. Equally, I have elderly and unwell dependents and however low the risk, it is a choice I felt I needed to make.

Instead I have ridden 859 miles indoors on Zwift. The TT season will not start until July at the earliest so I’ve dropped the structured training and I just ride the courses. I’ve also done some Zwift races and some Zwift TTs. The races are absolutely nuts. The start is a massive all-out sprint and then you settle back into riding somewhere above threshold. There is no respite until you go pop. 4.5W/kg basically isn’t enough. Still, it’s good fun, especially the longer races, and you do find out in the results that you’ve been racing pros (Warren Barguil notably in one race up the Alpe d’Zwift). The TTs are equally hard but you know what you’re getting – ride as hard as you can from start to finish. There are two courses – a flat 10.9 mile course and a replica of the San Luca climb in Bologna used in various races including the Giro d’Italia. Newbury Velo cycling club have set up regular Wednesday night and Saturday morning TTs, and the VTTA have started a series competition based on the Saturday races. I even managed to place first one morning, which was satisfying.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

I make no apologies for mentioning this in my cycling blog. Last Friday we lost our Labrador Barney, aged 11. It’s devastating, heartbreaking and I miss him every day. Normally getting out into the countryside on my bike would be a big part of mentally processing things like this. Riding indoors on a turbo, however good the setup, is just not the same.

Roll on being let outside (properly) again.