How the Race Was Lost: Getting Innsbrucked (ZRL Race 3)

How the Race Was Lost: Getting Innsbrucked (ZRL Race 3)

Race 3 of Zwift Racing League Season 2 took place yesterday, finishing atop the Innsbruck KOM – the longest climb in Zwift Racing League history.

With a ~25 minute climb at the end, I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere near a podium finish. And I didn’t fancy my chances of earning intermediate sprint points, with the Leg Snapper standing guard like some sort of tarmac sentry just before the sprint.

Heck, I even volunteered to sit the week out, if my team could find a rider better suited to the route. But alas, no such rider was found: I would have to do what I could to grab points for my team.

Pre-Race Strategy

My team (the DIRT Hellhounds) had been chatting on Discord in the days leading up to the race, and we never really settled on a cohesive strategy because that was impossible to do. Instead, we discussed how the race would probably unfold, and we each set goals for how we would approach the race given our strengths.

For me, an “overmuscled cyclist” who sprints better than he climbs, it looked like this:

  • Attack the first Leg Snapper with max effort if needed, to stay in touch with the front group
  • If I make it over with the front, hit the sprint and try to get some intermediate points
  • Try to stay in touch with the front for the three laps of Innsbrucking, so I can put time into those behind and have a better chance of a higher final placing atop the KOM

The Warmup

Zwift Racing League‘s Tuesday events are my priority races each week, so I do my best to be fresh for race day. That meant a day off on Sunday, and an easy Monday. But Monday’s ride had me worried – I didn’t feel strong at all, and my heart rate didn’t want to get out of zone 2. This usually happens if I’m getting sick, or need recovery… or both!

So I didn’t push it on Monday, but made sure I ate and slept well. Then I executed my usual pre-race warmup routine on Tuesday, which included my three favorite race-day products:

  1. Caffeine gum – three pieces (300mg), 1 hour before the race.
  2. PR lotion on my legs about 45 minutes before the race. More bicarb=less burning.
  3. The Nopinz Subzero kit, with two sets of freezer packs. One for the start, and one for the final climb!

I got on around 40 minutes before the race began, and spun with Cara Cadence for my warmup. I happily sensed that the legs felt good, and my heart rate was responsive. Soon enough it was time to hit the start pens. Let’s race!

The Start

We figured the start wouldn’t be too crazy, because everyone knew the Leg Snapper is where the fireworks would happen. And that was exactly right: I averaged ~300W for the first three minutes to easily stay in the front group.

A big group at the start of lap 1

During the lead-in to the first Leg Snapper I was just conserving as much as possible, because I knew the first Snapper would be a max effort for me as the strongest riders pushed hard to make a selection so they could reduce the competition for the sprint intermediate. (My 1-minute power is a big weakness when it comes to short climbs in competitive fields – 6.5w/kg doesn’t keep you in the mix very long against guys who can do 8w/kg or more!)

As we hit the brown bricks leading into the Leg Snapper I worked my way to the front of the group so I’d be able to slip backward a bit on the climb if necessary while still staying in touch with the pack. I used my feather powerup as the road pitched up, so I could keep my entry momentum for just a bit longer. And I stayed seated for this climb, trying to keep my heart rate low and power consistent.

And I hung in there! Over the top things were a bit strung out, but it came back together on the descent. I was in the mix for the sprint!

I had no powerup for the sprint, though… and I was far from recovered after a maximal 1-minute effort up the Leg Snapper. When riders began sprinting I went for it… but got left in the dust, crossing the sprint banner in 25th place. But two of my teammates (Tucker and Pruett) finished 1st and 2nd – extra points, baby!

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

As I predicted in my route recon post, the chase group caught our front group as we made our way around the Innsbruckring loop. The front group had no incentive to keep pushing, because they knew the group would split up the Leg Snapper yet again. But the chase group had incentive, because they wanted to stay close to the front group and hopefully pass some of them on the final climb.

Laps 2 and 3 were similar to 1, just a bit easier. Each time a group of 30 or so split off on the Leg Snapper. I never had the legs to contest the sprint. After the third sprint I found myself even further behind the front group than I’d been on laps 1 and 2, so I waited for a few other riders to catch, and we easily caught up to the front group just before the final KOM began.

Going all in for the finish

The Final Climb

The Innsbruck KOM finish had given me nightmares for a week. I had hoped I would start the climb in the front group, thanks to any splits coming together. That all went according to plan. But how would the climb shake out? This was by far the longest climb we’d taken on in ZRL, and I had no idea how strong the competition would be.

But I knew it wouldn’t be pretty. And it wasn’t.

I started the climb in 39th place, the front group quickly riding away at a pace I knew I’d never sustain. Then I just tried to hold steady wattage – but my steady wattage wasn’t enough to keep me ahead of those chasing from behind. I finished in 50th place after putting in a max effort in the final kilometer to pass a few riders.

It felt good to gain a couple spots in the end… but losing 11 spots hurt more.

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

Watch my race video:

Team Result

It looks like we took third overall, behind first place KIRCHMAIR B Bees and second place Foudre Bourgogne. That keeps us in second place on our division.

Foudre brought in a ringer for this race: one Camille Udny, a lady weighing in at 44kg and thus able to average 4.7wkg for this race while still being a B, since she’s nowhere near the 250W limit. Smart move by Foudre, and a commanding win by Camille who blew all the dudes out of the water, winning by 13 seconds!

Our top finisher was Scott Olsen in 5th. The sprint bonus points from Tucker and Pruett helped hugely, amounting to 40% of our total of 170 points. Me? I added a paltry 13 points to the team total.

Takeaways

My result is nothing to crow about, but it feels good to set some PRs if nothing else:

  • 1-minute power PB on the first Leg Snapper: 537W
  • Leg Snapper PR: 50 seconds/550W
  • Innsbruckring PR: 11:22 (previous best was 12:02)
  • Innsbruck KOM PR: 23:37 (previous best was 26:34)

Given 20/20 hindsight, I would have grabbed more points for my team if I’d eased up on the Leg Snapper and sat in with the chase group through each sprint, content to reel in the front group each lap. This would have resulted in me arriving at the base of the KOM in the exact same place as I did in this race, but with fresher legs. (My guess is I could have finished perhaps 10 places higher with those hypothetically fresher legs.)

But that’s a big gamble to take! Some of the earlier races in the day had seen the groups coming back together – others had not. So I think the smartest approach would have been to handle the first lap just like I did – but ease up on the second and third laps, since I could be reasonably sure everything would come back together, and I knew I didn’t have the sprint legs to earn any extra points from the front group.

Next time!

Your Thoughts

Did you race in ZRL race 3? How did it work out for you and your team? Comment 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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Bogologo
Bogologo
8 months ago

Was a great race, however, the Tron bike decision/recommendation was not the right one. Pace eased off extremely after the sprint until legsnapper again. Hence a lighter bike for the KOM and the legsnapper would have been favorable.

Loirador
Loirador
8 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

But maybe losed much energy on the flat, i think tron was the good choice

Casey
Casey
8 months ago
Reply to  Loirador

I would be curious of a test up this specific climb. There are better “climbing” bikes then the tron but there is a breakover point on aero vs. weight based on climbing speed. I’m guess an aero vs light bike are not that different on this climb because it is a bit of a faster/less steep climb then the tested Alp climb.

Mufcfan6
Mufcfan6
8 months ago

Great post Eric and similar experience here. I ended up ditching my trusty tron and going Aeroad 2021 and DT 1100’s. I’m 88kg with not a great 1min, I’m suited for ITT, so goal was to do my time trial pull watts on the leg snappers so as not to go too deep and save myself for the kom. I ended up going way too hard on the leg snappers as I was getting passed so easily. In a group around 50th at the base of the kom and they rode away from me, as I was shattered and low… Read more »

Graham Morrison
Graham Morrison
8 months ago
Reply to  Mufcfan6

On the bright side I had the same tactic as you, and I did manage to ride within myself on the leg snapper, but I started the climb so far back I only managed 59th… so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it 😄

M4rk0
M4rk0
8 months ago

Sounds like you described my exact race to the T. Humbling day for sure.

Kurt Angus
Kurt Angus
8 months ago

lol, your division seems a little weighted in favour of DIRT lol. 12 DIRT riders

Kurt Angus
Kurt Angus
8 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

hahaha, it’s all good. Just enjoying the racing. Nice to have a league that working well for the most part.

Brian Reimer
Brian Reimer (@brian-reimer)
8 months ago

The numbers show you did a great job on a course your not suited for. With the bonus points being so important you have to take a chance. I decided to also go for it on Lap 1, I screwed up the super tuck, but recovered enough to get bonus points for 5th FAL and 8th FTS which was worth the spots I lost on the KOM by being less fresh. Not to mention gave me an opportunity as a midpack C to contribute to the team.

Rhys Evans
Rhys Evans
8 months ago

My first ride for KRT C mixed team (Love Guns), no expectations of greatness and fully prepared to finish last, so went into iTT mode to try and close the gap. I found myself in a very lonely last place (79th) for most of the race, watching the time gaps increase. I was very happy not to have been lapped by the lead group before they hit the bottom of the KOM so that was one achievement. Got to the bottom of the KOM 3:26 behind the 78th place rider. Working on a strategy of keeping my W/kg higher than… Read more »

Rick Barbera
Rick Barbera
8 months ago
Reply to  Rhys Evans

Teammate with a different perspective. As 100kg rider and 3.0 hour power I knew KOM was out of the question. Positioned myself well going into each LS and made it up and over the first time with top 5 riders. We got caught by a larger group as we hit the sprint. Hung on for a 3 points. Next two laps played it smarter knowing the same would happen. Make it over with the bigger second group. Picked up 5 points each lap. Went into the kom in 11th. Goal was 2.8 on the climb but was SPENT. Got passed… Read more »

Loirador
Loirador
8 months ago

I was racing for foudre yesturday and finished 4th in the race Our strategy was simple, one guy for the sprint (flavien who still managed to finish 10th overall), 4 riders for the finish and one team mate. We wanted to stay cool in the leg snaper to not lose so much energy so i was always starting the climb in front and easely going to the back to finish in the 2nd group. Our team mate was planned to push at this time to get us back in the front at each lap and it worked well. I just… Read more »

Jacob Braaten
Jacob Braaten
8 months ago

This might have been my favorite race out of 91 races on zwift. As a 60kg B with an engine tuned to longer climbing my only fear was getting over the leg snapper with the front. I managed that better than anticipated and climbed about as well I can to go 20:08 on the climb and finish 4th overall. I got dropped twice on the flat bits where I lost focus on the wheel ahead although I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to sprint past anybody at the end. I agonized all week about bike choice… Read more »

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
8 months ago

Tron vs Canyon/DT vs Canyon/Enve3.4 on this route would be a very interesting test.
Would love to know how much climbing needs to be on a course for Tron to be a disadvantage..

Jim Harris
Jim Harris
8 months ago

Thanks for sharing what it takes to compete in a race at that level.

Temps 09
Temps 09 (@quatre24)
8 months ago

Used the canyon aeroad 2021. As I do not have the tron yet, working on it. Went with DT Swiss 62 wheels but thinking back should have gone with the enve 3.4. Was also thinking of the cannondale evo with 3.4 that I used TdZ stage 2 standard route on the climb but went with canyon due better aero for town laps.

Barry Herschy
Barry Herschy
8 months ago
Reply to  Temps 09

I used the Aeroad too with ENVE 7.8. Worked well and I picked up a 3rd and 4th FAL in laps 1 and 2. Missed the cut on lap 3 so rolled through in 21st place. Caught the lead group just before the KOM and managed to finish 12th. New PRs all over the course including 20min, 5 min and 15 sec power output on ZP. A testing course but more looking forward to Harrogate next week which more suits my style of riding. Great work Eric, love reading your race stories and the articles on ZRL. The ZRL is… Read more »

Anthony Casto
Anthony Casto
8 months ago

Question pertaining to bike choice: Like you, sprinting is my strength. Knowing my weight (106kg) and FTP (268 in the last 90 days) would mean I had NOTHING for the KOM, I choose the Venge S with the disc wheel (Level 35). It seemed to work. I finished 10th in FTS with no drafting help, but I DID have an aero boost. I believe if I had used the Tron or a climbing frame/wheel set, I wouldn’t have snagged that final point position for FTS on the sprint. Yes, I slogged up the KOM with the heavy wheel set, but… Read more »

Stefan Versick
Stefan Versick
8 months ago

This was clearly a course for sprinters (at least in my race). We are all heavyweight and therefore only decent climbers. With our sprint points alone (+1 point per rider for finishing) we would have finished 2nd as a team only 3 points behind the climber team. Overall we finished around 100 riderpoints ahead of the second team.

Graham Morrison
Graham Morrison
8 months ago

I couldn’t hold the group over the leg snapper… my 1 minute power is woeful and I am only barely an A based on FTP anyway (4.05), so I can get rolled in a sprint or 1 minute effort by most B riders. My goal was just to do what I could to get to the climb – as above my 20 min power is my best characteristic so my aim was just to try to get out a 20 minute power PB up the climb and see how that went for me. I can’t do a good 1 minute… Read more »

Darren Rhodes
Darren Rhodes (@darrenrhodesbsc)
8 months ago

We raced on Tuesday in EMEA E1 and were part of the Atom Racing Team, who all had the Zwift Steering Update issues (Eric recently covered my workaround video on Fri 29 Jan). We were all suffering from invisible cloak, lack of power, gears not connecting etc.

Our best rider pulled a blinder round the 3 laps. Stuck well in contention on the leg snapper and sprints (no primes though) and stuck to the front KOM riders, we enjoy the ZRL and hope to do well in our new class Espresso after only serving one season as Frappe in 2020.

Easedowntheroad
Easedowntheroad
8 months ago

Love your write-ups Eric, always great reading. I was wondering, do you know if the individual point scores from each race are published anywhere? I know Zwifpower has the Prime results, but I haven’t seen a list of overall point scoring for each rider for the overall race – only the final teams results on the WTRL website. Now that Prime scoring goes 10 deep, it can change tactics considerably, but it’s hard to assess those tactics if you never actually see the results!

Easedowntheroad
Easedowntheroad
8 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Cheers. I imagine it’d be a pretty huge job given the huge number of racers and points to be tallied! Now they just need to schedule a flat course with lots of sprint intermediates – like an old fashioned track points race – to really change up the tactics.

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