The 7 Deadly Wins challenge is my personal mission to collect a gold trophy in every Zwift Classic, no matter how many tries it takes. You can follow the highs and lows on my Youtube channel, Zwiftaholics.
A bittersweet upgrade last week meant a major challenge lay ahead to maintain the winning streak. But it was not the challenge I had imagined. No, the challenge was not so much beating the A Graders, as finding any to race against.
Despite my apprehensions about coming up against A+ monsters who would rip my legs off up the Leg Snapper, I committed to starting my quest early in the week when fields are larger.
First Attempt: A Lonely Affair
I signed up for my usual Monday 9:10pm slot, put the kids to bed, and jumped in for a quick warm-up in the pen. Alone. Eventually I would find two companions. One, in his firstever race on Zwift, appeared to have misunderstood what he was getting himself into. He pottered along for a while at a constant 1.9 W/kg and then quit.
The other was Zwiftaholics’ #1 fan, Rob Bane (I need to get him a hoodie or something). He was considering his usual B grade race but decided things looked a little thin in my pen and came to join me. Rob has a strong track record and a good kick, so even though he may not have yet received the official upgrade to A he’s certainly on the threshold and no easy beat.
We had some fun with our first powerups; I fired off a ghost and sprinted away, only for Rob to pop his aero and counterattack immediately. We came together again after a couple of high-intensity minutes, then disaster struck. Rob had taken ill and couldn’t finish the race. I was left to my own devices and decided to finish for the sake of a recon of the new finish line.
It was, technically, a win, even if I was so slow that I would not have made the D podium. This is definitely not what I had pictured when starting this challenge. I had to give it a proper go, but as the week wore on I was despairingly sending Eric screenshots of the signup numbers on ZwiftPower, which showed a column of mostly zeroes. The rare reasonably-sized fields required unreasonable wake-up times (4:10am racing, anyone?)
I’m quickly learning that A racing is a vastly different affair, one where you need to be much more selective and look for the events that consistently attract strong fields. The sheer volume of Zwift Classics time slots overwhelms this category.
Second Attempt: To Chase Or Not to Chase?
Eventually I jumped into a race at short notice because it had managed to cobble together a field of 8. That would have to do. I held onto the front of the race over the first snapper, and let one rider go up the road on the long straight back towards the usual start/finish banner. When a second rider bridged, I had a choice to try and follow (with an aero PU for help) or trust in the group. I chose to sit, legs already feeling the effort. That was where the race was lost.
Our little group had lost its two best engines, and as much as I tried to spark a chase there was no enthusiasm for it. We watched the gap go out and prepared our tilt for the final podium spot. In the end I would put in a new Leg Snapper PR and haul in an early move to take third place. It was a respectable result, with our front two firmly in the A+ category, and in the end it was the last tilt I could make at the course.
Another little gold cup graces my ZwiftPower trophy cabinet, but not a particularly shiny one. Was this to be the story arc of this challenge? A series of pulsating, hard-fought wins in New York, Watopia, and France that gave way to an increasingly uninspiring and tokenistic set of ‘successes’ as the Classics wear on?
With only a mass start time trial left, and me left to choose between a competitive A field (unwinnable) or a patchy one (unsatisfying), it all seemed like a fizzle of a finish was inevitable.
And then an angel appeared, in the form of James Bailey.
When All Hope Seemed Lost…
James announced on Facebook that category enforcement was getting some tweaks to better align it with ZwiftPower. I found a Classics race to sign up for and sure enough, there it was. The little green circle was back. I could race as a B once more.
Thus the challenge will end where it all began, back with the Bs. The course doesn’t particularly suit me, but the arbitrary categorisation lines are once again in my favour. See you on the hill.