I am going to start from the end: all the members of my team broke their ADZ record by huge margins during this TTT event (3 minutes for me). As a team, we finished 4th in Frappe overall and 3rd in the Platinum League. Great result.
We made sure that collectively and individually there was nothing left to achieve in 2021, so we could make peace with quite a difficult year.
I have a natural tendency to use superlatives and exaggerated adjectives in normal situations. The upside of painting things with a glowing description is that it helps ordinary things look great. The downside is that when something really superlative occurs, I am left without options to describe it.
Climbing ADZ for the First Time
For any Zwifter, the first time you cross the line indicating the beginning of the ADZ climb and the countdown of the 21 turns appears on your screen, it is one of the most daunting experiences in the game. The most optimistic of us think “I am not going to make it”, while the most dramatic say “I am going to die in the attempt.” More than likely, at least the first time, by the end of the climb any physical resemblance with a human being will be a pure coincidence. At best you may qualify for a deteriorated Zombie, or a mummified version of a very old type of Homo neanderthalensis.
The reality is that one way or the other the vast majority of us make it, and swear to never do it again. But then we do it again. And sometimes, again and again. At least in my case, ADZ is addictive. I’ve climbed it more than 40 times, and I know it by heart: the gradients, the turns, where to push or not, where it hurts, and when to recover.
On 30th December, surrounded by my teammates, I felt I was discovering ADZ for the first time. It felt totally different, like we were conquering something together. Our plan was to deploy the Coalition flag on top of ADZ in less than 48 minutes and I felt I was a blend of Armstrong (I mean Neil Armstrong, not Lance), an Avenger (I will take it personally if someone suggests I am Antman), and Super Mario (the Kart version for Super Nintendo console in which you could throw banana peels).
Despite the fact that nothing went as planned, I think we all felt we were in a bubble.
The Climb: IRL Inflation Applies to W/KG
While we agreed we would start at 4 w/kg and see how everybody felt, Brian thought that the inflation we are experiencing IRL also applies to w/kg and quickly decided that 4 = 5. Andy tried for six milliseconds to have him decelerate, but quickly understood it was a lost cause.
Nobody complained. It was a collective “F**k it. Let’s do this. What’s meant to happen will happen. If we die we die. Tell my family I do this for them and I love them.”
(This is the moment in my posts when I usually refer to a song popping in my head, which in this case was “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith, which is too embarrassing to disclose, so I will not).
We did not sustain 5 w/kg until turn 14, but we were on average way above the 4 and somewhere between 4.3 and 4.4. Since the results of TTT depend on the time of the 4th rider crossing the line and the first signs of fatigue appeared in some teammates, a decision had to be made.
In a no draft world like ADZ, normally you race against each other. Here we were racing FOR each other. We needed to remain in groups. On turn 11 we decided the best option was to split with a group of five leading.
In Brian I had found my ADZ twin and partner, we stuck to each other as if our lives depended on it. I could not produce a single watt more for sure, but slowing down would have also broken my body into a thousand pieces, and I assume I am not very good at reassembling bodies. I tried once to reassemble a bike and it did not go particularly well, therefore a body…
As we approached the top of the climb, the only thing maintaining our pedaling was the faith our teammates had in us. We may fail ourselves, but we couldn’t fail them.
Andy’s Permanent Feather PowerUp
Two kilometers to the top, Andy was still able to move many times back and forth between two groups separated by 30 seconds as if it was normal. Jokes aside, I am seriously convinced Andy swallowed a feather powerup when he was a child which has a lifelong permanent effect. There is no other possible explanation… is that cheating? Should I report him to ZADA?
Before the race, we all tried to guess what time we could achieve on ADZ. But as each of us crossed the line we could not believe our times. We were all announcing ADZ personal records in full minutes. 2, 3, 5-minute cuts… it was a collective PR slaughter! It was a victory of the team against other teams, but also of each of us against ourselves.
Overcoming difficulties together and achieving great results is for me the essence of what a team is. I starve for these moments. They create incredibly strong links. I will never forget the 30th December 2021.