TTT on R.G.V – Tips for Zwift Racing League Race #2

TTT on R.G.V – Tips for Zwift Racing League Race #2

For the past few months I have been putting together recce’s for the weekly Thursday Team Time Trial from WTRL. I race in a hungry mid-pack Latte (usually) team for Rowe and King – the Hyenas.

Eric asked me to put together a similar recce for the Zwift Racing League TTT on Tuesday… if you like it, maybe he will ask me to do more!

I know that around half the riders on Tuesday have never done a WTRL Team Time Trial on Zwift before… so I will dedicate a little time to what you should expect. Then, along with a course profile, I’ll give you some tips I have learned over the months to improve team performance. 

If you haven’t seen it yet,  head over to the No Breakaways Youtube Channel. This week they posted a nice introduction to the R.G.V. course, and our very own Eric Schlange posted his ideas for bike choice. I have my own bike recommendations below… but always remember, Eric does the science… I just do opinions 🙂

What’s a Team Time Trial

If you are already a Thursday WTRL TTT aficionado you can probably skip down a bit. For everyone else – you have gathered by now that the Team Time Trial format is different from your everyday rides and races. 

In the TTT your team of 4-6 riders sets off at a pre-ordained time (more on this later) and works together to get around the course in the fastest time possible. Sounds simple… and it is. The trick is in how you get the best performance out of the team. 

What makes a TTT different

Basically it’s teamwork. In a normal race on Zwift you are pretty much on your own. You might get comfort in seeing team jerseys… but frankly that’s about it. In the TTT you are working together, using the stronger members to help the weaker members to ensure that you get at least 4 riders over the line. Some of you out there have ridden together for years, and others have only met through the ZRL, so before we talk about the ride itself, let’s talk about the one thing that will make or break your ride: communication. 

Team comms are a cute affectation in scratch races on Zwift, but in the TTT you need to know who has the legs, who is trailing, can they get back on. You need to be able to motivate your team, give instruction on what speed to aim for, call out features in the terrain… the list is endless. You even need to coordinate when to start the ride (see below)! 

My team, and most of the teams I know, use an application called Discord. It takes some getting used to, but think of it like the Race Radio pro teams use. If you aren’t familiar with Discord take a look. If you aren’t going to use Discord, find another way to chat – whether it’s a group phone call, a Zoom meeting, or typing in a Whatsapp group!

The Start

The key to making the whole thing a success – and this is what the WTRL guys cracked – is starting each team a minute or so apart. That way your band of brothers (or sisters) has plenty of space ahead and behind to do your thing. Each team will have a start-delay (which your team captain will get in the next day or so). That time delay will be anything from 30 seconds to 17 minutes 30 seconds.

So… everyone congregates in the pen per usual… the big clock counts to GO GO GO time… and we all sit there like lemons (Pro Tip: Don’t be the team that sets off early… you will be rightly ridiculed by all and sundry – plus see below on time penalties!). 

Then… when your time delay ends you GO GO GO – because your team’s time starts ticking the second your time delay completes (Pro Tip: make sure someone on the team is responsible for the countdown). 

An insider note – it isn’t the first time to this rodeo for WTRL… they know, to the second, when you leave the pen. Don’t jump the gun or you may face time penalties. 

The Ride

OK… so you’ve got the team out of the gate at approximately your start time… now what. 

An average TTT team in Zwift will benefit from the draft by having a “blob” form behind surging riders on the leading edge – just like you do in a scratch race. This works pretty well and your team of six will be able to move a lot faster than anyone on their own. Make sure your stronger riders are doing the surging, and your weaker riders are resting in the draft. There… a little discipline and you’ve just gained yourself 5 minutes on the lap of R.G.V.

But testing (once again… Eric does the science here!) shows that a single-file paceline formation is significantly more efficient in Zwift than a small blob. My experience shows that if the front of the chain is pulling at 4 w/k, the 6th man will be ‘resting’ at around 2.5 w/k. The trick is to manage your effort… which is why we pull short turns of 20-30 seconds above threshold before falling back and “resting” at/around sweetspot. Done well, your team will move at a pace significantly higher than you could possibly achieve otherwise. My latte team (basically a C team) moves at a consistent 4 w/k on the front. All you have to do is work out what your riders can manage when they are pointy end and the rest is physics.

In a paceline, situational awareness is the most important factor – know who is in front of you and who is behind you. Stay in the draft of the person in front – but be aware if a split is forming behind. When you are on the front you are expected to maintain race-pace (either w/k or kph), and when your turn is done – drift back. As the person ahead of you moves up the line be aware you will need to step up power ½ w/k. Be aware… this won’t work without some form of team communications.

As a team rider your job boils down to the following:

  • Hold the line in front of you. Don’t drop back more than 5M… don’t surge ahead. 
  • While on the front maintain the target speed as long as you can knowing this is a sustained race – 20 seconds is perfect.
  • When your turn is done soft-pedal for a few seconds and allow your avatar to drift back. Pay attention as you drift – coast for too long and you will be spat out the back. 
  • When on the back rest… 
  • As you move up the line listen for the front-rider’s count… when they finish their turn, step up your pace just a little

And thats it. Now you can TTT with the best!

R.G.V. Route Recon

One fast lap… that’s all this is. Nothing like Big Foot Hills. This is basically flat with one small bump up to the aqueduct about halfway around, and then a continuing series of rollers that starts around the 17.5km mark. In a traditional race, these pose zero difficulty… but the dynamic of a TTT is somewhat different. In the TTT success comes from keeping your team together, so anything that has the potential to break the group apart is a problem. Both of these areas have the potential to tear your team apart – particularly if you are new to the TTT format. 

What to ride?

Bike recommendation on this route is pretty straightforward. Aero rules the day. I will be riding my S-Works Venge with the pretty Super-9 disc wheels.

While the Venge with Super-9s are the most aero setup on Zwift, there’s a pretty good setup available at level 23 – the new Canyon Aeroad. On hilly routes, the Aeroad even beats the Tron. Here are my recommendations at different levels:

  • Level 6 Zwift Aero frame and DT Swiss ARC 62 wheels
  • Level 13 Zwift Aero frame and Zipp 808s
  • Level 18 Specialized Venge with Zipp 808s
  • Level 23 Canyon Aeroad 2021 with Zipp 808s
  • Level 33 S-Works Venge with Zipp 808s
  • Level 35 S-Works Venge with Zipp 808/Super 9
  • Level 45 get those 858/Super 9 wheels and pair them with the S-Works Venge

If you have the Tron and are level 23+ it’s a toss up… the Aeroad with the 808 hoops are compelling… but the beauty of the Tron bike is that you can set it and forget it. It’s always a decent choice. 

Route Recon Rides

This is a popular race route. Today through Monday there are 19 different races and rides. If you want to get out to R.G.V. there’s nothing stopping you. Check for yourself on the event listing on zwifthacks.com

France is a beautifully rendered world – my favorite of all of them. That said, on Tuesday you will be going to fast and hard to notice… take a gentle ride over the weekend and take a look.

Beautiful Burgundy country

Race breakdown 

It’s a beautiful ride, almost perfect for a Team Time Trial. I break this route into four sections:

  • Flat for 13.5km
  • Up the Aqueduct hill and down the other side
  • A little more flat
  • Bumpy stuff then a flat sprint to finish

Part 1 – Flat

R.G.V. is the perfect route to cut your teeth on as a newbie TTT team. It starts with a 13km flat to sort yourselves out. Use this time to work out your formation – whether you are blobbing or running a pace line, and to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. My suggestion is set yourselves a target speed for the flat and try and maintain that for the whole 13km.

Mont Saint-Michel in the distance

Part 2 – Aqueduct Hill

Many will tell you this is a 400 meter hill averaging 2.5% starting 13.5km into the ride. It isn’t. What they are telling you is where the Aqueduct KOM starts, and its statistics. Unfortunately the KOM starts halfway up the hill – and ends halfway along the flat. Yah, it’s a bit messed up! 

Climbing up to the aqueduct

Right around 13km you will begin the rise – it is 2.5% on average and goes for 800M. The trick is that the hill undulates a little – starts as a 1% false flat then progresses up to 5% at its peak. The technique here is simple – don’t let your lighter riders race ahead. It’s not that bad and if you’re careful you will barely notice it.

Part 3 – More Flat

After a 500m flat across the Aqueduct itself you’ll drop back down the other side and it will be flat once more until you hit 17.5 km. This is a good time to regroup after the climb/descent and to get yourself back into formation.

Part 4 – Bumpy Stuff

For a TTT, this is the most challenging part of the course. Particularly if you are new to the game. A series of undulations – at first each one is just a meter or two… barely there… but they are just enough to mess with the team’s momentum. You will be exhausted by now so concentrate on staying together. 4km of that sets you up for three small hillocks – each one approximately 10m ascent at around 3%. This whole area winds around and around making it hard to get your bearings. Keep your eyes on the rider in front and stay there!

Through the twisties!

Don’t underestimate these three hillocks. The team will be wiped out by now and these three will split what’s left of you. Just remember you need 4 across the line, and it is the 4th rider’s time that matters. 

From 24km to the start/finish gate is 1.2km of downhill and flat. Finish with a group sprint to show the crowd what you’re made of. 

Wrap up

If you’re new to the TTT format this route is a wonderful starting point. Plenty of flat to practice your skills, and a little bit of technical undulation at the end to see how well you operate as a team. 

If you are experienced at TTTs this is a flat out ride. Start with 6, end with 4. Claim your 20 points!

About The Author

Sherpa Dave

Sherpa Dave discovered cycling at age 49 in the summer of 2017 following a drunken "we should do Ventoux" conversation. On Zwift he races with Rowe & King, while in the real world he lives in Colorado with a wife and two daughters (none of whom will ride with him but all of whom are very understanding).

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Johnathan Freter
Johnathan Freter
6 months ago

Any suggestions on how to warm up if you are one of the teams stuck in the pen for nearly 20 minutes?

Steve
Steve
6 months ago

You can go to the “pair” screen from the zwift menu. This is where you normally connect devices but it allows you to pedal without actually moving. We have had some riders who have been kicked out of zwift using this menu though so be careful. Whoever is counting down make sure they give a good 30 second warning to stop pedalling and wait a few seconds before coming back to the normal screen, err on this side of caution, especially if you are new to this format. Then sit for the last part of the countdown and basically do… Read more »

Dennis Zimmermann
Dennis Zimmermann
6 months ago

Thanks for the advice

Paul Clark
Paul Clark
6 months ago

I use ATV, I went to the garage and started peddling and my avatar started to move. Is there any difference for ATV? I will try the pairing screen in another race 1st to check it out.

Gordon Sloan
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Clark

pairing screen definitely works. Garage probably only works if you go into bike selection. As other garage items you can change on the fly while riding.

benphyr
benphyr
6 months ago
Reply to  Gordon Sloan

Bike selection you have to be stopped (0W) in order to get into bike/wheel selection.
If you have a keyboard you can use the “a” key to get from the start pen to the pairing screen, pedal you eyes out, and hit “Esc” key when you want to get back to the pen. Just make sure your wattage reads 0W for a bit before you go back if you don’t want to start moving!

Michael Flanagan
Michael Flanagan
6 months ago

Highly recommend different jerseys for each rider. Makes it so much easier to stay behind “your guy” in pull order. This relates to your comment about staying in a tight pace line. Not only do you want a tight line, but you want that line to remain in pull order. It is much easier to do this when riders have different jerseys.

Michael Flanagan
Michael Flanagan
6 months ago

Good to have a prescribed pull order. Follow it with preset intervals, ie 30 seconds. Exceptions to this would be for riders who might get dropped if they pull. Heavier riders or riders with less w/kg capacity should not pull into hills or sections requiring higher w/kg, because this will cause them to deadline for too long. Rather lighter / stronger riders should pull into the hill providing rest for others. If you are toast, then call it out and ask to skip your pull. The way zwift draft works, you still help by keeping the pack # of riders… Read more »

Richard Wenger
Richard Wenger (@rwenger)
6 months ago

Great article – very insightful and detailed! Thanks Dave!

Andrew
Andrew
6 months ago

With Individual Time Trial events you can pedal in the pens and you get a countdown in event to your start time andbot accidentally go early, so why can’t that be used for a TTT? Just have all riders in the same Team given the same ITT start gate time?
Seems like it would stop a lot of annoying things about TTT start pen procedure

Andrew
Andrew
6 months ago
Reply to  Sherpa Dave

Ah OK, I just kinda figured there must be a way of giving a gate time to people by name or something so that an entire team could effectively use the iTT approach, but like you say hopefully that’s something they can look to improve for season-2 given how popular ZRL has proven to be within the community

P.S. Cheers for the nice recce article, hope Eric gets you on the case for more with the rest of the upcoming ZRL routes

Steve Fleetwood
Steve Fleetwood
6 months ago

I read that as RGT at first and was very confused

lefthandside
lefthandside
6 months ago

Would welcome some thoughts… In a TTT formation, assuming you can hold a nice single-file line, how are people resting? On the way forwards? On the way backwards? Is it best to drop back to second wheel initially, slot in behind the new leader, then slowly towards the back? That seems to be the best way of avoiding creating a gap to the lead rider. Other alternative is to or to try to drop straight back to the back – but it seems like that’s hard to do

lefthandside
lefthandside
6 months ago
Reply to  Sherpa Dave

I’ve just seen the very good TTT tips post also on Zwiftinsider – https://zwiftinsider.com/ttt-secrets-matt-gardiner/ – big shout out to the site and to Matt for sharing some insights. Our teams have noticed that we’re being beaten by teams with very similar average powers – now it’s time for us to refine our technique to see how we can get the time down

Geert Deseure
Geert Deseure
2 months ago

Dear Dave, unfortunately we had a rider that due to a calibration of his power meter made a jump start this evening during the Mighty Metropolitan TTT.
What can we expect as a result for the team? You wrote about time penaltys “see below”, but I am unable to find more info about the topic or how WTRL is going to deal with it. By the way, our ride did nicely wait for us just over the start line to join us as we started.

Geert Deseure
Geert Deseure
2 months ago
Reply to  Sherpa Dave

Dear Dave, yes we kept unpunished as you said, he stopped indeed. He was punished with a sleepless night and a lot of guilty feelings towards the team. Great judgement from WTRL, our team rode the TTT of their life, so the recognition in the results has become an extra bonus as a relief for the team. Thank you for your swift reply!

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