How the Race Was Lost: Everything Bagel Blowup (ZRL)

How the Race Was Lost: Everything Bagel Blowup (ZRL)

I’ve never had such a clear race plan as I did going into this week’s Zwift Racing League event. After putting together the course recon several days earlier, I knew everything hinged on getting over the first climb in touch with the front ~30 riders. And everyone else knew this, too. So I knew the flat lead-in would be fast, and the 5-minute effort up the first climb would be an all-out brawl.

Here’s how it unfolded for me.

The Warmup

As usual, I chewed a two pieces of caffeine gum and rubbed PR lotion on the legs, giving my body a bit of an edge since I knew today’s effort would be a maximal one.

Then I joined C. Cadence and her posse for a warmup on Tempus Fugit. Her pace is generally perfect for a race warmup for me – I can get me legs spun up to speed sitting in the group, then ride off the front for my 30-60 second warmup efforts, getting my heart rate up to 160bpm a few times before the real work begins.

Things weren’t looking good for me. As I put in the hard, short warmup efforts, I could tell the legs weren’t feeling great. Apparently I hadn’t quite recovered adequately from a decently climby outdoor ride on Saturday.

As soon as the notice popped up to join the event, I clicked so I could get a place close to the front in the start pens. I was looking for every advantage I could get! Then I exited the game and rejoined Coco for several more miles before it was time to head to the start pens for real.

The Start (and End?)

The clock hit zero, and we jumped out onto the roads of Central Park. The pace was high (no Zwift race starts easy!) but not crazy. Not yet.

As we neared the start of the first climb I moved to the front – a time-honored trick used by cyclists on climbs! Starting near the front lets you slowly drift back through the bunch, finishing the climb still in touch with the pack but near the back, having put in less effort than those who maintained their position.

Starting the climb near the front. A classic cyclist’s trick.

But I didn’t drift back slowly. Instead, the pack swarmed around me, and I went from 10th to 60th in 15 seconds. I stood up and hammered on the flat section partway up, but by the time we passed the actual KOM start line (2 minutes into the climb) I was in 83rd place. Brutal!

I put in another final dig on the steepest section just before the KOM banner, moving up to 70th place. There was a 4s gap to a line of riders just up the road, but I didn’t have anything left to chase them down! Then Zwift added insult to injury, giving me a feather powerup at the top of the climb.

And that was it: the race start was 7-1/2 minutes at 360W (a new personal best for me) and I was dropped from the front. The actual climb section lasted 5 minutes, and I averaged 371W for that portion.

Over the top in 70th, out of gas, with the chase group just seconds away.

A group of riders caught me from behind, including my teammate Alex – but none of us had the legs to push hard enough to catch the group up the road. The gap went out to 7 seconds, then 10. Soon enough the groups ahead coalesced into two packs, with mine being the third.

Trying to chase down the chasers.

The Middle

This is where I lost the mental battle. But maybe that’s not the best way to say it.

I had already resigned myself to the fact that I had very little chance of making it over the top with the front group. So I made my decision ahead of time: with only the front 30 riders earning extra points, I had decided that I’d give my legs a break and not push hard if I didn’t make it over the first KOM in a good position.

And that’s where I was. We weren’t catching the group ahead, so I just sat in the wheels. And when we hit the second little climb the group accelerated, and I just dropped off the back. Why not? I’d earn the same one point for my team no matter where I finished, and this way I could have fresh legs to race on Thursday.

In a typical Zwift scratch race, I keep pushing to the end, fighting for places. But ZRL’s points structure makes it hard to turn myself inside out in order to finish 60th, when I’ll get the same points as 90th place. That’s not a criticism of ZRL (although some have implored ZRL to extend the extra points down to 60th place or so). Rather, it’s just an explanation of what motivates (and demotivates) me as a racer. It may be the same for you – or not.

The (Actual) End

I came over the top of the last KOM in 96th place out of 128. In the final kilometers after that climb I pushed the pace just a bit, working to catch riders up the road. We ended up with a group of 4, sprinting for 91-94th place (ha)! I almost took 91st, but got pipped by B Lambert of TT1 at the line.

See ride on Zwift.com >
See ride on Strava >
See race results on ZwiftPower >

Watch my race video:

Team Result

Only one member of my team (DIRTy Beasts Hellhounds) finished in the points – Scott Olsen finished 24th (well done, sir!).

The rest of us earned just the single finishing point. That gave us a 16th-place finish for this race – our worst showing yet in this inaugural Zwift Racing League season. This drops us down to 11th place overall (out of 22 teams). But we plan to claw back a few places in next week’s TTT!

Takeaways

No big news here – this race was the perfect illustration of how my w/kg in the 1-5 minute range is my biggest weakness as a rider. I’ve got the punch to keep speed up on steep climbs of a minute or two, but anything over that and I really struggle, especially against a strong field like we’re seeing each week in ZRL.

Could I have raced this any better, perhaps staying in touch with that second group up the road? Maybe. Maybe if my legs were just a bit fresher, maybe if I’d pushed harder at key points on the climbs, maybe if I had a feather powerup, I could have clawed back those crucial 4 seconds and gotten over the top on the wheel of that second pack.

But even if I managed that, I wouldn’t have made it over the second KOM in the top 30. Looking at finish times and groups, best-case scenario has me finishing around 40th place. Close, but no cigar!

Your Thoughts

Did you race Everything Bagel on Tuesday? How did it go for you? Share below!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Barry Herschy
Barry Herschy
12 days ago

I managed 3rd In my C race but it was brutal. My legs were shaking when I finished.

Marco
Marco
12 days ago
Reply to  Barry Herschy

same here. 3rd in C race. first and second are B-Cat riders 🤔

Chris
Chris
12 days ago

This is almost word for word how I would have described my race, missed the front group, sat in a small bunch, pushed a bit at the end to grab 95th

Ned Newlin
Ned Newlin
12 days ago

I had the same strategy in the C classification race. If I made the first group over the top, then I would try and stay with them. When I went from 9th to 69th over the climb, I shut it down and ride easy to the finish for the 1 point. That is a very tough course!

Håvard Thomassen
Håvard Thomassen
12 days ago

So I got beat by a rider not even trying. Now I feel “good” about my 93rd position. 😀
Hoped to keep your chasing trio at bay, but the gap was too small, the remaining distance too long. I opened up the sprint maybe just a tad too early (I’m no sprinter anyway) and it was just a few meters too far. I think I had the “lead” with 15m to go, but then you two pipped me at the line.

Craig
Craig
12 days ago

Raced two laps of Mighty Metro (which seems similar) and my goal was to absolutely thrash my legs to hold on to the front group over the KOM climbs, figuring I could recover on the descents. It was cool how selective the NY climbs are, forcing the blob to split.

Chris
Chris
12 days ago

I got dropped on the lead-in to the second climb. I’m a big guy, too, so I followed your strategy: Try to keep the climbers close on the climb. I was close enough to the front group, and near enough to a couple of clusters of riders that formed on the downhill. Those two clusters became a larger chase group, and we caught the front group back in Central Park. Then in the lead up to the second KOM, I blew up, fell 10 seconds behind, then 15 seconds. Never caught back up. 46th place at the end. I think… Read more »

Dave Hicks
Dave Hicks (@drhmm1)
12 days ago

D race much the same came out of the pen at a reasonable pace. dropped to 47/49. Hit the 1st climb and passed 14 riders by the top’ That’s where I stayed the rest of the race. finished 32nd, just out of the points. Brutal is an apt description!

Jon Kamrath
Jon Kamrath
12 days ago

In my B race, I was with the lead group at the bottom on the first KOM climb, but lost my bearings on the twisting course and sprinted for the prime too early and actually managed to get dropped! 🤦‍♂️ I resigned myself to the chase group between the KOM climbs, sat in the back recovering because I still had two teammates ahead in the lead group, thinking I’d never see them again. Then I amazed myself when I just unleashed everything I had to build up momentum onto the start of the last KOM climb. By the 1st flatter… Read more »

John Murray
John Murray
12 days ago

I’m captain of the TT1 Banting team and I’m barely a B so I usually munch on cookies in the team car and yell at the team while they suffer. 😀 We didn’t manage anyone in the top 30 in that race. I believe only one of our riders made the front group after the first climb, but couldn’t hold that group on the way to the second KOM. Ben is really strong, but had some tech issues at the beginning of the race. The division we’re in is extremely competitive with many/most of the top riders being newly upgraded… Read more »

B. Key [DIRT]
B. Key [DIRT]
12 days ago

I have similar weaknesses and have been working on my MAP last 3 weeks (very painful) after getting dropped hard @bigfoothills, on the 1st hill in fact (not as much painful but crushing weight of defeat). I knew the Bagel was going to be the 1st big test but I fared muuuch better at NY, VO2max training pays off dividends, surprisingly quick too ! Highly recommended.

Logan
Logan
12 days ago

Similar to you Eric, I started the climb in 15th wheel, but just got ejected out the back door and ended up finishing 72nd in the end.

Team mate came 5th though which is excellent.

Charlie St A
Charlie St A
12 days ago

C Cat. Out with the lead group. got to the bottom of the first hill, dropped my chain. Game over 🙂

Jim
Jim
12 days ago

Suggestions for raising one’s 5 min output? I made it to 3rd place before the climb but I’m 50 and my HR was 190 at the time. Fell back and finished in the high 80’s. Thanks

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
12 days ago
Reply to  Jim

volcano circuit, 1 lap hard, 1 lap rest, rinse & repeat until cooked 🙂

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
11 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Tabata’s, once a week.

Andrew
Andrew
12 days ago

I had the same plan as you, having watched the pro races the night aded and having done a recce race. So as my Cat-D opponents and I started I knew I had to aim for one of the front 2 groups over the KOM to stand a chance of top-30 despite climbs not being my strongest suit, so I pushed to stay with the front group. I manage to stay with them initially but on the 2nd half of the KOM the pace was just too brutal andI slipped back. I managed to go with the second group of… Read more »

Dave Atkinson
12 days ago

My race was exactly the same as yours, maybe one or two groups in front. I wanted to stay on the first climb but I knew early on it just wasn’t going to happen. Still a point’s a point, eh? 🙂

Jim P.
Jim P.
12 days ago

I was in your race and got bounced at the start, then did my usual ITT to the end. The Zwift race starts kill me.

John Grenfell
John Grenfell
11 days ago

What a tough race. I managed to stick with the second group after the big climb, almost managed to get back onto the front pack on the last big climb but didn’t have the legs. Then, a missed timed lead out for my teammate in the final few k’s, should have waited a little longer … roll on the TTT https://youtu.be/uS8RV4Xf-Ik?t=3139

Drew
Drew
11 days ago

What’s this about joining the start pen, then back out for more warmup miles? Is there a trick to reserving a spot at the start of the pen, without having to spin the virtual trainer staring at the start banner counting down?

Christoph
Christoph
11 days ago
Reply to  Drew

Yep, was wondering about this as well – does your spot get reserved even when you leave the pen? That’s a life changer.

Colin Peerman
Colin Peerman
11 days ago
Reply to  Christoph
Christoph
Christoph
10 days ago
Reply to  Colin Peerman

How did I not know this before. So much time wasted in the pens. Thank you very much!

Owen
Owen
11 days ago

I had an awful everything bagel, I prepped well for it, ate a few hours before, decent warm up and got an early place in the pen to start near the front then when the flag dropped I stayed with the main group until the base of the climb, went from 20th to 100th in no time then just struggled to keep pace for the rest of the race. I lost it mentally when I crossed the first KOM and exactly as you said, what’s the point destroying my legs for the same point I get if I cruise it… Read more »

Graham
Graham
10 days ago

Great writeup again – not a completely different experience for us (in EMEA W Bs). Knew the first climb would be critical, so absolutely killed myself to stay on over the top (like you I have very poor short power). The first selection was 20 riders and we had 3 in it, plus one guy took 4th on the KOM – great success. The other two are both pretty punchy so I tried to execute on the plan we agreed before the race – I work hard on the front to make sure nobody chasing could get back on, and… Read more »

Dan Connelly
6 days ago

Thanks for this report! The weakened feather power-up increases W/kg by 10-11% for 15 seconds, and thus will only close a 1.5 second gap, assuming you’d be able to hold the gap without the power-up. So it wouldn’t have helped much with 4 seconds, although maybe a reduced 2.5 second gap would have inspired a further effort. But it seems as if you wisely decided to live to fight another day.

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