How the Race Was Lost: Poor Timing on Richmond Reverse (ZRL)

How the Race Was Lost: Poor Timing on Richmond Reverse (ZRL)

Last Tuesday was the first race of Zwift Racing League Season 2, and I knew it would be a doozy. There was a mixture of ZRL hype (over 10,000 riders participating), intimidating “knowns” (the Richmond UCI Reverse route begins with 3 climbs), and confusing unknowns (we had new riders in our league, while some of the top riders had been moved to higher teams).

And there were some new motivating factors:

  • A new finishing points scheme that awards points to almost every rider in the field, forcing everyone to fight until the end
  • New “fastest across the line” intermediates where you could earn points for being the fastest through a segment regardless of your position in the overall race

On top of this, the DIRT Hellhounds team I rode with in Season 1 had been reshuffled a bit, so I didn’t know all of my teammates well.

This race was sure to be educational, on many levels.

The Warmup

Since ZRL is my priority race each week, I tried to do everything I could to be ready heading into Tuesday. That meant adequate fueling and no hard efforts on Monday, a good night’s sleep, a solid warmup routine using my three favorite race-day products:

  1. Caffeine gum – three pieces instead of the usual two, 1 hour before the race. That’s 300mg of go-go juice coursing through my veins!
  2. PR lotion on my legs about 45 minutes before the race. More bicarb=less burning.
  3. The Nopinz Subzero kit, because I figured a fresh set of freezer packs heading into that final lap would feel oh so good.

I hopped onto Tempus Fugit with Cara Cadence, spun for several minutes, then joined the pens as soon as I was prompted so I could get a spot near the start of the line. Then I rejoined Cara for another 25 minutes, taking the time to ramp my heart rate up and get a couple quick sprints in. Let’s race!

The Start: Climbs

Everyone knew the first few minutes of this race would be decisive, as it begins with a short descent then heads straight into the 23rd Street KOM. This climb was awarding intermediate points, and we would reach the top about 2 1/2 minutes after the race began.

I knew the climb would be hard – I just wasn’t sure how hard. We race the B’s in EMEA E2 Division 1, which means it’s the strongest B teams in EMEA. Last year we ended up with something like 15 A riders in our group by the end of the season, and I didn’t stand a chance on climbs of any significance. But I hoped that those riders moving on meant I could hold on, at least up shorter climbs like Richmond.

As we neared the 23rd St climb I moved toward the front of the group, hoping it would let me slide back a bit during the climb while staying in touch. Everyone else had the same idea, though, and I began the climb around 33rd out of 99 riders. I gave it all I had, especially up the final steep ramp, crossing the KOM banner in 35th after hitting a heartrate of 186bpm (my max is 189!).

The pack was strung out. This was the move.

After grabbing a quick supertuck down the 23rd St cobbles, we arrived at the short, steep climb toward Libby. This is a tough effort, peaking at 22% incline. If you don’t hit it hard, you’ll lose momentum and the others riders will fly past you! So I went all in again, trying desperately to hold the wheels as I crossed the KOM banner in 44th.

Getting gapped on the Libby KOM

I was in a pack of ~10 riders now, with around 35 riders up the road. I settled in for a quick recovery before the Main St climb, and when we hit that climb I just tried to sit near the front, in the wheels. The effort was solid, but doable – with the big guns already off the front, our group was holding a more sustainable pace.

The Flats

Working together on the flats

Now we were on the flat back half of the route, and I was curious what would happen. Could we pull back some of the riders ahead? We were only 25 seconds behind the front of the race, and our group was decently-sized, with several DIRT team members. (We actually have two DIRT teams in this division, so there are 12 DIRT riders in every race!)

Up ahead I could see there was even spacing between the front group, a chase group, and my group. Behind us it was just carnage – these were the three groups containing the strongest climbers and sprinters.

I had already decided to contest the “fastest across the line” Monument Avenue intermediate, but I didn’t have a helpful powerup this first time around. I gave it a go anyway, but only managed a pathetic 19th place in the overall timings. With extra points only going to the top 10 riders, that meant I had just burned a match to no effect.

We didn’t seem to be catching the groups ahead, but that didn’t surprise me. In most Zwift races, once things break up into decently-sized packs, it rarely comes back together.

Lap 2

As a bigger rider (82kg), the flat section was the easy portion of this race. I suspect that was the case for most of my group, since we were slowly getting closer to what had become a single front pack about 22s up the road. A few riders even used their aero powerups to move to the front and put in solid pulls to help us draw closer, even though I doubt any of us thought we had a serious chance of catching the front.

Over the hills for the second lap the pace wasn’t as frenetic, but it was far from easy. That same wasn’t true for the front pack – I could see it blow apart up the 23rd St climb, then it broke into two groups at the bottom of the Libby descent. There was a serious slugfest going on up the road, and this was great news for my group – the more broken up the riders ahead, the better chance of us working together to catch them!

As we turned left to begin the final climb of the day, the large middle group was only 3-4 seconds ahead. I didn’t push to catch them, figuring we would reel them in before the finish line. But they pushed hard up that climb, catching the small breakaway group ahead and gaining a few seconds on us.

There was only the front group and my group, heading into the flat section. This was going to be interesting!

The front group, just a few seconds ahead

As we hit the flats, the front pack was just 13 seconds ahead. There were ~18 riders in the front group, and ~20 in my chase group. Could we catch the front group, or would they stay away? It would come down to who was willing to push hard and work together.

I had saved an aero powerup for my second sprint attempt, but I made a rookie mistake, starting my effort from near the front of my group. I thought more riders would be sprinting, but what actually happened is I sprinted by myself, in the wind, and achieved an even slower time than my first attempt. The draft matters, especially at high sprint speeds! Another wasted match.

The Finish

The rider list showed 17s between myself and the group ahead. That’s a sizeable gap with only 3km to go, so I didn’t even consider going to the front to help bring them back. Instead, I tried to recover a bit so I could have a strong final sprint and finish in the front of my chase group.

As we hit the final loooong straightaway, I could see the front group was only 7s ahead. Other riders from my group saw it too. There was blood in the water! We kept pushing, and closed to within ~3 seconds of the front pack. That’s when all hell broke loose: “A. Patzold (SOW)” activated his aero powerup and flew away from our pack with a massive sprint. As I was thinking, “How did he jump so hard?” more riders in my group activated powerups and began to sprint, trying to catch that front group before the finish line arrived.

We were 400m from the line, and I knew it was easy to go too early here, so I held on a bit longer, activating my aero powerup at 300m and going all in. I crossed the line in 32nd place, while some riders from my group managed to catch the front riders before crossing the line.

See my activity on Zwift >
See my activity on Strava >
See race results on ZwiftPower >

Watch my race video

Takeaways

After the race I was kicking myself over a few key mistakes:

  1. I shouldn’t have attempted the fastest across the line sprint in the first lap without a helpful powerup
  2. I should have positioned myself better for the fastest across the line sprint on the second lap
  3. I should have gone earlier in the final sprint

But I’m not one to dwell on mistakes. “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” My lesson today is that timing and pack positioning are so key for fast sprint times and top finishes.

This race showed that there are still some really strong riders in our division, which means I’m clearly outclassed, especially on the climbs. My ZwiftPower category is based on a power calculation of 3.68w/kg, and the top 4 finishers in this race were 3.92, 3.94, 3.92, and 3.98. So it’s not gonna be a cakewalk in season 2. But I’ll go all in anyway, because I know there will always be points on the table for me to grab!

A Fun Route

This was only my second race on Richmond’s UCI Reverse, and I’ve gotta say, this is a really fun race course. Based on Facebook posts I’m seeing, many riders agreed! I would even say I prefer it over the forward version, because on the reverse the race breaks up early, then things get exciting on the flats as groups try to catch each other. In contrast, the forward route stays together for the first (flat) half, then breaks up over the climbs, basically handing the race to the strong climbers.

On Richmond UCI Reverse, it’s anyone’s race. And that makes it fun.

Here’s a cool Strava flyby from David Stoyle, who raced in this event for the Bath CC Camden squad. The black line is my group (which David was also in). Purple and Orange lead group and blue one of the groups we caught midway through the flat section of the first lap:

This clearly shows how the first and third climbs of each lap enlarged the gaps between our groups. It also shows how close we got to that front group just before the final climb, and how it came back together steadily in the final stretch.

Team Result

It looks like my team came in third in terms of points for this first race, which is a result we’re happy with. (Final results still pending from WTRL).

KIRCHMAIR e-Cycling got first place by a landslide, with their two strongest riders taking a pile of intermediate points and finishing 3rd and 4th. This is the team to beat in our division.

What About You?

Did you race on Tuesday? How did your race play out? 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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Ryan
Ryan
1 month ago

Great recap! I raced in the America’s East C-4 Race and we had a similar experience. There was a small lead group that was able to gap everyone on the two first climbs, a larger, but still fairly small, strong chase group that stayed about 10 seconds behind the leaders for the entire race and then several other chase groups that coalesced and fragmented again at various points behind. I didn’t do too well, I started in the second group after the first climbs, but after the long climb up Governor’s I was dropped and drifted into no-mans land. I… Read more »

Pedro Errecart
Pedro Errecart
1 month ago

You boys were too conservative. How come nobody tried to bridge when the gap was 3-4 secs before last climb? Good recap. Cheers

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago
Reply to  Pedro Errecart

Trying to bridge from a chase group to a climbers’ group right before the base of a climb is usually going to be a bad move. You burn some matches to make the bridge, and then you’re just going to get dropped on the climb anyway. If you could climb with the guys in the lead group, then you wouldn’t be in the chase group. I think Eric’s group had the right approach — stay together on the climb, and try to reel them in on the upper deck, which almost worked. They might have made the catch if it… Read more »

Pedro Errecart
Pedro Errecart
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Technically you’re right. But THAT climb is so draftable. Not the place where selections mostly take place in this course. And no bonus points in this climb. And if you happen to get dropped, you still had the chance to jump into your previous group. Still think it would have been worth the gamble. Cheers

MaxKrause
MaxKrause
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I disagree. NOT closing the gap to a climbers group is a bad move! You allow the climbers to build up the gap again while you do not profit from their draft. Plus the motivational moment of the pack: All riders in front group would think: Shit, we are caught, this can happen again. While the second group thinks: Yes, we are close, lets dig out the last bit. As it was now: Front group gained again while second pack was sitting in a bit with swarm thinking “we are not gonna catch them”…. What I mean is psychology: Sometimes… Read more »

Steve R
Steve R
1 month ago

To be fair, even if you’d have got the drafting right on your second sprint attempt, I’m not sure it would have been enough to score points. I took part in one race and DS’d two others for our teams on Tuesday and in all of them, the top 10 fastest times for the climb and the sprint were from Lap 1 – groups were bigger, legs were fresher, which meant times were faster.

Jeremy Hopwood
1 month ago

I raced both APAC and America’s West In B Grade (seems like there is 4 or 5 of us doing this) APAC I was feeling strong but made the momentum mistake on reverse KOM the self s time around and got gapped wit four others from the front 16. was a bad mistake but at least learned for the next day as legs were feeling good. So in the end we had a small group sprint – as we had 17 to 21 in our group the only aim for that sprint was to not come 21st (16-20 = same… Read more »

Graham
Graham
1 month ago

Great writeup as always. It was my first ever A race, having been bumped slightly over by the Everything Bagel race last season, a performance I’ve not been able to repeat and which is sitting annoyingly in my ZP averages, stopping me from dropping back to a B – seems like a perverse decision from WTRL to allow our B team to be promoted (came 2nd in the league) but also force our 3 best riders to leave it, but I’ve made my peace with that now. At the rate the league is improving I guess they will have a… Read more »

Enwezor
Enwezor
1 month ago

Great write up of your race Eric. Brought back a lot of memories from our B cat race in EMEA w 2 div 4. i watched the premier division race to try and work out the course and thought that the 2 climbs would be pivotal to your race so I went all in on both climbs not holding anything back and found myself in the front pack. i think I was lucky because if the pack had gone any faster I would have been dropped. The front pack slowed down and that suited me fine with the chase pack… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

I’m a B, but rode in A as two of our team members went up to A and we wanted to keep riding together, and I’m not far from A (I hope). A was tough, but wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting. Dropped off the back of a middle group, and eventually got into a group of 4 around 80th or so. We managed to catch a few stragglers and then I broke away with another person in group but he beat me in the sprint. Is definitely a massive improvement having points all the way to 85th… Read more »

Logan
Logan
1 month ago

Raced with my arm in cast on Tuesday as I have broken my wrist, bloody hell it hurt in APAC B. Haha

9irisstreet
9irisstreet (@9irisstreet)
1 month ago
Reply to  Logan

Yes, it was a leg burner in our APAC race for sure Andy.

AJC
AJC
1 month ago

Well done…..noticed that you crossed the line in 44:51 mins but they had you at 45:09 in the results. This happens in a lot of races with the finish time. Any idea ? As an ex runner this drives me crazy. I have seen the same trend in a lot of results…

Mark Murawski
Mark Murawski
1 month ago
Reply to  AJC

Zwift’s timer doesn’t start until you get on the course. So the time from your pen to the course is not there. But Zwiftpower includes that. I think that explains the difference.

AJC
AJC
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Murawski

Thanks Mark….will have to check it out with a separate stopwatch….makes no sense then trying to get under a certain time at the finish line only to have them add time on to the results at the end. Thoughts ? 20 seconds is a long time. Race should start at 0 and finish at the line IMO. Thanks again

Mark Murawski
Mark Murawski
1 month ago
Reply to  AJC

I agree. Trying to break like 35min in the TTT to then see your final time at 35:15.

Sean S Phillips
Sean S Phillips
1 month ago

Wait, how did you get into the pens and then go back to ride in Watopia while waiting? How does that work?

M4rk0
M4rk0
1 month ago

Once you get into the pens for a race, your spot is saved. You are free to stay and warm up in the pen or completely exit. When you come back, you will be in your saved spot.

Label Ads
Label Ads
1 month ago
Reply to  M4rk0

Do not save if you exit the pen. That will stop you from rejoining.

Mark Murawski
Mark Murawski
1 month ago

Good article again as always, Eric. I race for the DIRTy Ducks in AmEast B1. We had a great race. 3 of us made the final group of 15. We all finished top 10. Lots of prime points. And some airtime on the ZCL coverage!
https://youtu.be/AaKzwRfnjZU?t=3841

Erin
Erin
1 month ago

Thanks for the great play by play and lessons learned! I raced in the Americas East div 1 cat C womens and although I agree it’s a nice course in reverse, it sure felt weird since I have raced it the other way around so many times. In my division we definitely felt the absence of some super strong riders from last season who always made up the front group (and have since been upgraded to B). My team had some solid results both by placing three in the top ten across the lines and also placing some fastest ten.… Read more »

MaxKrause
MaxKrause
1 month ago

Hi Eric.
In mye eyes you made a mistake not to “jump the gap” when you were 3sec close to the front pack! After the Libby Hill descent your group was definitely faster and with a strong concerted push, you all would have had the chance to stick with the front group.

Sometimes joining groups also slows down the pace in front pack. So you missed your chance there to “reset” the race.

James Smallridge
James Smallridge
1 month ago

Eric – just noticed on your vid that you coast your trainer to achieve supertuck which has a c2-3 second lag. On my trainer (Wattbike) if I pedal backwards 1.5 revs the watts drop to zero pretty instantly and aerotuck occurs without lag. Hope this works for you and buys you a bit more of a slingshot when you need it in your racing….

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk)
1 month ago

ahh gotta practice that longer sprint finish, sending it at just under max power with ~500m to go can work out on zwift, as long as you get a clean breakaway then get fired up enough by seeing chasers closing in to finish strong..!

sylvan
sylvan
1 month ago

Caffeine gum and PR lotion? This sounds very shady. Back in my day all we had was subcutaneous amphetamine rocket balls and pot belge before races and before going to the bar. This modern stuff sounds super sketch 😬.

sylvan
sylvan
1 month ago
Reply to  sylvan

Was a good race though. I really like Richmond as a Zwift race venue – either direction. Looking forward to Innsbruck too. Finishing on a legit KOM will be cool – it happens IRL, might as well have odd one in ZRL too.

Rick Wenger
Rick Wenger (@rwenger)
1 month ago

Hey Eric – didn’t WTRL randomize the divisions? I know in Americas East we won the second division and stayed there and the team that won the 1st division is now in the 3rd. I thought they randomized it and then they would put the top 1-2 teams from each division in the playoffs.

Mark Murawski
Mark Murawski
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Wenger

In the B1 division most teams are the same with some new riders here and there. But it has 10 less teams than season 1. So teams from B2 didn’t move up. The #1 team in B1 is gone as I think most became A’s.

Yea
Yea
1 month ago

kirchmair takes the team sandbag award

sa spyratoss
sa spyratoss
1 month ago
Reply to  Yea

Not this again..

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