Since taking on Zwift’s 12-week Build Me Up training plan I haven’t had time to race, so I was excited when I figured out a way to justify getting a little Crit City racing in on my birthday, which just happened to fall during a Build Me Up rest week.
The race was only 8 laps (~20 minutes) long, so I figured I could do it during the rest week without breaking too many rules. Plus, it was my birthday, and I wanted to do something fun!
In the end, I earned a very solid result… but perhaps the more interesting story is how the winner pulled off a remarkable victory.
Birthday Ride Plan
Since I was turning 44 years old, I planned to ride at least 44 miles. I also needed to knock out a 1-hour Build Me Up workout because even though this was a rest week, there are two workouts that I needed to do. (Build Me Up actually has three assigned, but the third is “Pedaling Drills”, which isn’t what I’d call a “required” workout.)
So I decided I’d do a long warmup with Coco, a Crit City race (~20 minutes), then do my 1-hour workout.
I prepped for it all by chewing two pieces of caffeine gum and applying PR lotion to the legs before I got on the bike. This was followed by one tasty Blueberry Crunch Clif bar while warming up to make sure I had some glycogen flowing.
56 B’s jumped off the start line in Crit City, and I was excited to be racing again! It felt like a fresh experience thanks to not racing for the past 4 weeks. Plus we had the recent release of Pack Dynamics 4, freshly rebalanced powerups, and Zwift’s Category Enforcement boundaries becoming the new standard for races… so there have been a lot of changes in the past few months!
The pace wasn’t bad, but I executed the first brick climb poorly, starting near the rear of the group then having to chase back on once it flattened out. On subsequent laps I’d find that starting near the front and keeping the power high up the climb made things much smoother and easier overall.
Getting Into a Groove
As the race developed, we got into the ol’ Crit City groove. Push a bit on the false flats, go bonkers up the brick climb, then take it easy on the rollercoaster descent and through the lap banner.
Riders would attack occasionally, but nothing ever stuck.
The race was handing out three powerups: Ghost, Draft Boost, and Feather. Here’s how I used them:
- Ghost: Throw it away by using it mid-pack. (Once I went to the front of the group then activated it to see if anyone would chase. They didn’t.)
- Draft Boost: activate near the top of the brick climb, to take the edge off at the point where I’m most tired.
- Feather: activate at the bottom of the brick climb. Now that it’s 30s long it lasts through the bricks and across some flat pavement that follows.
I got a Ghost on the second-to-last lap banner, so I burned that and hoped for a good powerup the last time through the banner. The Zwift gods were smiling upon me (it was my birthday after all) – I got a Draft Boost!
Near the start of the last lap a rider named R. Höller attacked hard, bridging up to another rider a couple seconds ahead. I let them go, figuring their attack was too early and we’d get them back.
We all went hard up the bricks – this is just “table stakes” for your last lap on Downtown Dolphin. If you don’t go hard up the bricks, you’ll get gapped and won’t be in the mix for the final sprint.
As we topped the bricks I glanced at the minimap and rider list and saw a dot for a rider several seconds ahead. I also glimpsed their name in the rider list, but I wasn’t sure if they were getting lapped or were somehow off the front.
My brain couldn’t handle the distance math, and it didn’t make sense that they’d be off the front, because I had only seen two riders ahead, and we’d caught them both!
As we started down the rollercoaster descent I activated my Draft Boost – now that it lasts for 40 seconds I figured I had plenty of time. Then when I saw riders began to ramp up the power I did the same, to sit in their wheels and maintain a good position.
Not far from the hairpin it was time to go all in, so that’s what I did. Seated and hammering to the line, I felt like I was pushing good power as I passed several riders and did my best to hold the watts all the way to the finish.
Crossing the line I could see I would be 2nd or 3rd, since there was 1 rider just a bit ahead of us. The results popped up – 3rd place! I’ll take it.
As it turns out, the rider I glimpsed up the road at the top of the bricks on the last lap was one Maarten van Rhijn, a top-ranked B who had masterfully and powerfully attacked the pack. He would go on to win by 0.983s.
How did he do it? Looking at his Strava activity, he attacked hard heading through the final lap banner. He also activated a ghost powerup as he attacked, so we didn’t see him go off the front of the group.
15 seconds later he appeared momentarily on my minimap, but then he activated his second ghost powerup (which he’d been given as he passed through the banner seconds before), disappearing again and continuing to put time into the group as he held 550W+. A double ghost attack!
He held steady and impressively high power for the remainder of the final lap, averaging 524W (6.6w/kg) for the final 70 seconds of the race to stay off the front and take the win. Chapeau, sir.
Watch the Race
I think I raced this well, except where I completely missed Maarten van Rhijn. I didn’t look at the rider list ahead of time, so he wasn’t even on my radar. (I did have my eye on the one strong racer I recognized in the list, Andrew Peakman [Vision] who finished just behind me in 4th.)
But even if I’d been marking Maarten, I wouldn’t have noticed his attack, since he was invisible while doing it. The fact that he got a second ghost at the banner was just pure luck, but he leveraged that perfectly by using it right away and working hard to push his gap out. I would venture to say the vast majority of riders didn’t even know Maarten was off the front.
In the end I was happy with my result. It was my first race in 4 weeks, and I got a strong points results on ZwiftPower (118.05), boosting my rank from 168.81 to 155.5. (Learn how ZwiftPower ranking points work here.)
Have you ever seen such a masterful ghost attack? Or perhaps you’ve done one yourself? With the new ghost being 50% longer, I think we’ll see more like this! Share your thoughts below…