How the Race Was Lost… Then Won!

How the Race Was Lost… Then Won!

I always look forward to reading one of Eric’s (or the many other contributors) ‘How the race was…’ articles as they inspire me to keep racing and improving on Zwift. After a recent race of my own, I felt compelled to write in and do my own article on how the race was both lost and won. Here we go!

A Little Background

My name is Ryan Dummer, I’m 27 years old and hail from the town of Port Talbot in South Wales (UK). Whilst I haven’t been cycling that long (around 5 years now) since the start I have sought to improve my riding and training to try to get the most out of myself. I purchased a smart trainer and found Zwift in the process. I have raced the local amateur crit circuit for the last two years and was looking forward to my first season as a cat 2-grade racer – until all the races got cancelled due to coronavirus.

I have used Zwift off and on for 18 months, and one of my favourite features is the ability to race on the platform. Whilst I’m not an inexperienced Zwift racer I am inexperienced at competing in the B category, having only recently moved up after a run of good results and podium positions in the C category. I am a heavier rider at 86kg, so only tend to target the flatter races as I do not go uphill well in real life or on Zwift.

Since joining the ‘B brigade’ I have actively sought out events that keep the categories separate (please Zwift make more events separate as I want to know who it is I am racing against). Because of this, I have a new favourite race map where the categories always seem to race separately – Crit City.

To date I have taken part in 8 races on this map but never have I taken part in one of the shorter 8-lap events, instead preferring to sign up for the longer 16 to 20 lap options. I did however quite fancy really testing my legs in a super explosive (and presumably harder) 8 lap event. So, the challenge was set – 8 laps of the Downtown Dolphin route setting off at 09:46 am.

(I must say that having now raced an equal amount of times on Downtown Dolphin and the Bell Lap I much prefer Downtown Dolphin as the effort seems to be more steady with the one big surge up the cobbled climb each lap whereas Bell lap can be much more on/off over the rollers and doesn’t seem to settle into the same rhythm.)

Lap By Lap

I have always heeded the advice to join the start pens early and aim to be there at least 10 minutes before any event to be in a position at the front of the start grid, so imagine my surprise when even 10 minutes before the scheduled start time I was the 46th rider to join! This would have easily been the most I have seen on a Crit City race if we had started then and by the time the timer hit zero we were up to 158 riders in my B event!

I followed my usual routine in the final 10 seconds of the countdown, ramping my watts up to around 700 as the clock hits 0 to make sure I am near the front when we all leave the pen and the hardest part of any Zwift race begins.

Can I hold on long enough to make the front selection? When I first started Zwift racing this was always an issue for me as my VO2, 5-minute type power is one of my weakest points. However, a winter spent really focusing on improving my 3-5 minute power has helped me to usually able to hold on long enough to make the front selection in Zwift races.

The initial group size made it difficult to track how many riders made the front, but after a first lap average power of 380W and a new best lap time for me of 2:04 we appeared to have ~40 riders in the front group. I tried my best to maintain my position in the top 10 as our group was further whittled down to around 25 after the second lap average of 330w.

The pace didn’t drop after the second lap, with my power for the next 5 laps averaging between 324 and 337 watts. We fell into the predictable rhythm of steady as you cross the finish line up to the base of the cobbled climb before raising the power to ~500W to stay towards the front on the climb, pushing hard on the top before a slight recovery back over the rollers.

The pace felt hard but to my surprise, I didn’t feel totally ‘on the rivet’ and was able to hold between 5-10th position in the group that had been slashed from the initial 158 riders to 14. To my even greater surprise, I managed to close a gap that started to open after the brick climb on lap 4 when the rider in front of me lost the wheel!

However, by lap 6 I felt I needed to use the draft van I had been holding to have a little respite from the relentless pace after we pushed hard to move through a large group of dropped riders on the rollers and across the finish line. I just hoped that the powerup gods would smile on me in the final two laps!

The Finish

Me about to use my draft van after working hard to pass through a large group of dropped riders

Lap 7 passed by fairly uneventfully but I now had a decision to make: do I use my feather powerup and hope for a slightly more useful one such as the Aero Helmet for the final lap? Or do I keep it and use it on the bricks during the final lap? I chose to chance it, activating the feather just before we hung a right onto the bricks on lap 7.

I was filled with a little trepidation as we passed through the finish banner for the final time. Would I get the aero helmet I so desired? “No” was the answer. In fact, I only got an XP bonus! Not that much use in a race!

The much-expected surge in pace I have previously experienced in Crit City races did not fully materialise in the final lap, maybe because of the relentlessly high pace. I was in 9th position of a final group of 11 (a little too far back in hindsight) as we hit the base of the brick climb for the final time. I pushed hard to make sure I was not distanced on the climb and held position until the top. Was I going to get to the sprint in the final group? No. As the road flattened out after the climb the group in front of me pushed ever so slightly harder and the elastic snapped, leaving me riding in a no man’s land for the final 500m with a group of 8 ahead and 2 behind.

I held my position with a solid effort but without needing to sprint as I stayed away from the two chasers without being able to catch those ahead.

The Zwift results placed me in 9th position, 2s ahead of the chasers and 9s back from the winner. But I was mightily happy with my performance as I felt I had really dug as deep as I could go and left nothing in the tank. I finished the race with an average power of 335W, far above anything I have managed before! I was further vindicated when I received the notification saying I had added a full 11 watts to my FTP. I was a happy boy!

And this, I thought, is where the race was lost. Until I took a closer at the results to find that all 8 riders in front of me were well above the category power limits, meaning they were disqualified. Zwift Power raised me to 1st, so the race was in fact won! My first gold cup as a B grade rider… now I was a happy boy!

In fact, many riders behind me were also well above the category limits. As I looked at the results in Companion I discovered that only 10 of the top 50 had an average power within cat limits.

Although I do realise the allowable number can be a bit higher when Zwift Power apply their 95% principle, what I do know is that many were well over 4 w/kg and this told me two things

  1. There were an awful lot of sandbaggers in this race and
  2. I must be quite good at drafting and conserving energy to have held the front group where many riders averaged 4.6-5 w/kg while I stayed within the power limits!

Takeaways

  1. Push yourself: When I was racing in cat C I felt as if I was pushing my limit but knew I kind of fell between two cats and was wary of what cat B had in store for me. However, I have discovered that I could go deeper than I knew and within a few races I am competing at the pointy end of the category above! So my advice to anyone who feels as if they fall between categories is to challenge yourself and race in the one above, as it’s unlocked potential for me I didn’t know I had.
  2. Work on that final lap power: I need to work on improving my ability to go beyond my threshold in the final lap to hang with the very front of the race and stay in contention at the final sprint. All bar one of my B grade races have gone like this, where I haven’t quite been able to push that bit harder in the final km, which means I come in 10 or 20 seconds back from the winner.
  3. Indoor training is a powerful tool: This year I have trained more indoors than ever before and I am fitter than I have ever been! Even though I have done fewer training hours it has been more focused and each session has a purpose. I am seeing the benefit of this.
  4. Aims for the future: My current aim is to try and become a solid ‘upper end’ B racer before progressing into the A’s. I also want to develop a racing team mentality by competing in events with the newly-formed Bike Doctor Zwift race team I have joined.

I hope you enjoy reading my write up as much as I have enjoyed writing it and I’d like to extend my gratitude to Eric and the whole Zwift Insider team who do a great job at bringing us news and content from the exciting world of Zwift. Ride On!

Questions or Comments?

Share below!

About The Author

Ryan Dummer

Ryan hails from Port Talbot in South Wales (UK) and races outdoors in the amateur crit circuit as a cat 2 rider.

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Simon
Simon
11 months ago

Nice read. I agree that they need more races where the cats start at different times (and on crit city on different versions of the course) It’s too easy for a lower cat rider to jump into a higher cat bunch and hide there for half the race.

Russell
Russell
11 months ago

Good article this. I’m in a similar position as you were, somewhere between C and B. Outdoors I have previously done 320W for 20 minutes but I can’t quite seen to find the legs indoors. Your experience suggests that I need to suck it up and give myself a chance to get beaten up in the Bs…

Eric Schlange
Top Member
Eric Schlange (@eschlange)
11 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Dummer

Cooling is a HUGE cause of decreased power indoors. So many riders seem to think they don’t need a fan, or much of one… but I think they’re generally wrong!

https://zwiftinsider.com/how-much-fan/

Phil Parkes
Phil Parkes
11 months ago

Thanks for the article Ryan, really interesting read. Although Zwiftpower (somehow!) has me as a B I have been a little too intimidated to try an actual race on Zwift so far. But the more I read about it, the more I slowly being nudged in the direction of trying it… someday.

Phil Parkes
Phil Parkes
11 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Dummer

No better way than to give it a go, I know! I’ll keep an eye out for a chase race. Cheers man.

MHolden
MHolden (@holdenadventures)
11 months ago
Reply to  Phil Parkes

Yea! I was pretty intimidated for my first few months. Give it a go! There is a learning curve for sure. Good way to challenge yourself and get a great workout!

Daniel Baish
Daniel Baish
11 months ago

Great article Ryan.
Is the only way to tell that the categories are separate, is looking at the start time?

Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson
11 months ago

Nice article! Was pleasantly surprised to be able to relate well, being 83kg and just elevated to B myself – will certainly target this circuit now, it may be that power counts a bit more than w/kg given that the circuit is fairly flat?

Ray
Ray
11 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Dummer

Exactly. So it’s a bit tough saying that a bunch of the guys were sandbaggers. A sub 20min flat race makes it very hard for lighter riders to be anywhere near the front whilst in cat limits. Consider the poor bloke who came 21st on Zwift results – he worked super hard (HR of 194bpm!!) to produce 276w but as he’s only 59kg that meant he did 4.5wkg and got DQ’d. But he came 21st! So why does he get DQd and you don’t? The ZP cat system is a great system, but isn’t always fair. It makes it impossible… Read more »

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
11 months ago
Reply to  Ray

Yep, swings and roundabouts though, those guys smash me onthe hills. But I do agree about the dq issue. They need a points based cat system rather than the current wkg. I think it’s coming eventually.

Ray
Ray
11 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin

ben, when you say those guys smash you on the hills, presumably a light guy doing the same relative effort (eg 4w/kg) doesn’t go any faster than a heavier guy no matter how steep the hill is, right? I think the only time that lower absolute watts will ever go as fast as higher absolute watts at the same w/kg Ois when it’s a pure vertical climb. Agree on the points system.

shane
shane
11 months ago
Reply to  Ray

This is me to a tee. Light weight, small raw FTP, but Cat-B in w/kg. Coupled with a “climbers sprint” I get slaughtered in B. Rolling and ‘all climb’ courses are better than crits; just like real life.
It’s a game after all, so best to stay motivated and choose the play you suit best.

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
11 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Dummer

Definitely a total watts track. I race against A crit, I only do 4.1wkg, but I’m generally the heaviest rider at 80kgs. So I hold my own against 4.5wkg lightweights, and actually have a bigger sprint. I can win if the field isn’t a strong one.

Ray
Ray
11 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin

I guess that’s the point – different courses suit different riders where as the category system (based on simply your best 20min power per kg) is a one-size fits all measure. Lighter riders with relatively high sustained power will be ranked higher than a big bloke with a killer 5min power or 30 second sprint. It’s like saying Froome is a better rider than Cav (for example). Not complaining, just observing. I love the platform and all the fun it brings

Tim
Tim
11 months ago
Reply to  Ray

The category system should really be revised. Until last week I have always been racing in C with my 3-3.1 Wkg. Wednesday I did a C race on road to Sky, outperformed myself and ended up in 4th place (on Zwift) completely destroyed. I really dug deep because third place always was a couple of seconds up the road and finished with 3.5 Wkg. I go to check ZwiftPower to see my final result and I end up being DQd, and even worse I immediately got promoted to cat B according to ZP … Before I never even came close… Read more »

Kev T
Kev T
11 months ago

Great write up, good to see there’s life after C cat races. I also am now up in the top tier of C cat, not managed a win yet but trying, two 2nd places on my last 2 attempts. Good luck making it to A cat, am sure the road will be a winding sweaty one. All the best and ride on👍

Oliver Radermacher
Oliver Radermacher
11 months ago

Great article!!! And congrats for the win! I cannot imagine why so may people are sandbagging, I really want to get a fair and true result from myself and expect other competitors to be the same. I liket to dig deep as well, and this is much easier in a race or in a group ride. Ride on!

Thorsten
Thorsten
11 months ago

5 out of 8 of the so-called sandbaggers in front of you have lower or equal power numbers than you (<= 335w). Why are they sandbaggers and you not?

Thorsten
Thorsten
11 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Dummer

It ist not a “legal” question, but an act of courtesy: I would never call a rider a sandbagger, against whom I competed with equal strength and performance – and won, due to an obviously flawed categorization.

Heavyman
Heavyman
11 months ago

As fellow heavy rider (albeit, much slower), I don’t think you were necessarily more efficient than your competitors. Probably, the reason you won is that you can put out more watts at a lower watts per kilogram (relative to lighter riders). Since the categories are based on watts per kilogram, the heaviest rider, by definition, can put out the most watts without being DQ’d (which is what matters in flat crit races). Of course, this distinct advantage falls away once you get to A category. In any case, I really feel for the lighter riders trying to do crits in… Read more »

Renzo Castro
Renzo Castro (@rgcastro7)
11 months ago

Great write-up, Ryan! I enjoyed reading this.
Congratulations on your excellent performance. I can imagine how stoked you must have been.

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