With so many events on Zwift, it’s very rare that I find myself doing the same event more than once. But there are a few exceptions, and the ZWC Hill Climb Battle on Mondays is one of those.
The reason why this has quickly become one of my favourite races is because it is different to a lot of what is on Zwift. The route is a custom one and usually consists of a 15.6km ascent up the front of the Epic KOM or the shorter, but steeper reverse side, at 12.1km. The race time can be anywhere between 28-35 minutes, with both routes finishing at the Radio tower.
The beauty of this race is that the intensity is high from start to finish. It is relentless, as you are consistently working up the climb, with little or no opportunity to rest in a group.
Being a short race in distance and time means it is a perfect workout for those who want an intense session and are time-constrained. This race, coupled with a 10-minute warm-up and a 5-minute warm down means you can have a complete workout in 45-50 minutes, making it the perfect lunchtime ride.
As has become my Monday routine, I lined up at the start for the ZWC Hill Climb battle, with today’s route being the ascent of the Epic KOM from the front. Feeling relatively fresh, I was hoping for a top 10 finish. As customary with all Zwift races, the start was frantic, despite my earlier messages in the start pen pleading for a calm start. As all the different category riders merged into one blob, the pace quickened.
The Dreaded Dropout
We meandered our way through Watopia to the base of the climb, but then I noticed my avatar’s legs had stopped moving and the bunch starting to swarm me. A quick glance to my power data and I could see dashes where my power should have been displayed. We have all experienced this: the dreaded connection dropout! We just hope that when we do experience it, it’s in a social ride and not the crux of a race. Unfortunately, mine was at a crucial point, just before the very base of the climb, just before the dotted blue line on the road to indicate the start of the climb. I watched as my avatar coasted to a stop.
I jumped off the bike and hobbled over to the tablet that was connected to the TV. I dived into the pairing screen where “No signal” was displayed. Panicking, I unplugged the trainer and plugged it back in and watched as the pairing screen reconnected the device.
Back on the bike, I was now down in 60th position of 91 riders. All composure gone, I pushed on the pedals with all my might to get my avatar rolling. I crossed the blue line of the start of the climb at 650 watts. I soared up the first part of the climb, pushing 5.3 watts, zipping past the individual riders and small groups that had formed.
The early part of the climb was simply a blur, my nervous energy meant that I was pushing way too hard and knew I would pay for it later. But I couldn’t slow down.
I was conscious that as I approached the castle, my watts per kilo had dropped from 5 to 3.5. This was the first sign that the adrenalin had now worn off and I needed to settle into a rhythm. I selected an easier gear and started finding that.
I started to make my way up the climb, steadily passing several small groups, using them as a springboard to chase down the next rider or group. It was during the underpass that I started to feel the first bit of fatigue and took my first brief rest as the road descended over the bridge. The rest was short-lived as I hammered on the pedals and pulled up the little incline. I caught more riders and pushed to the KOM banner. I crested in 20 mins and 10 seconds, my second ever fastest time and now in 15th position. However, with still the Radio tower climb to go, there was no time or energy to celebrate that minor victory!
To The Radio Tower
The Radio tower section is hard, but factor in what felt like a 20-minute sprint for me, and I was in trouble. I tried to push up the climb, but it was too steep and I was too tired to chase the riders ahead of me and the one rider that I was level with now just edged away. I could do nothing, and I realised a top 10 finish was out of the question. So I settled for 15th and kept a tempo to ensure I didn’t get passed.
The last 400 meters were torture and the meters ticked by so slowly. The finish line crawled into sight. I collapsed over the handlebars in 33.41, in 15th position. I was cooked.
Wrapping It Up
Not my most composed race, but the anxiety and desperate chase at the start of the climb led to a new 5-minute power personal best in ZwiftPower. The lesson learned is in the event of a technical issue, pace yourself back into the race and don’t overdo it (like I did) as you will pay later.
As former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas said, “Mountains are where the biggest races are won and lost.” Today, I wasn’t sure if I had won or lost, but one thing I did know and that is I would be back next week and as G states, “Enjoy, and suffer, and enjoy a bit more. My mountains are your mountains. Let’s climb.”
Editor’s note: watch for part two of Tim’s Hill Climb Battle to be published soon!